Reaching 11,000 Scottish solicitors for the very first time this year was just one of the many landmark occasions brought to us by 2014.
Despite the difficulties experienced by many during the downturn, it seems progress is starting to be made as the economy recovers. Perhaps an early indication of the improving health of the profession, it’s a great way to start the new year.
Another significant statistic was reached as increasing numbers of women enter the profession, with a total of 49% of Scottish solicitors now women and 51% men. The news followed our equality and diversity standards consultation in July, and work continues on improving our equality and diversity strategy to maintain the improvement made this year.
As more young people join the profession we’ve seen success through the Society’s mentoring scheme. Following a successful pilot in 2013, the scheme was launched again this year, matching mentors and mentees, helping them share knowledge and expertise, give advice and gain fresh perspectives.
2014 also saw the successful launch of our new Street Law programme, which aims to inform young people about the law and the impact it has on their everyday lives, from examining real life murder trials, to looking at how the law can protect the environment, or using social media. The Society worked with five schools in Glasgow during the autumn of 2014 and we’ll launch projects with West Lothian and Aberdeen in early 2015. It’s a first for Scotland and it’s gone down really well with the pupils and their teachers, as you can see in our video.
The 2013-14 Donald Dewar Debating Tournament saw an exciting final in the Scottish Parliament in June, and this year’s tournament has already got off to a great start with 22 schools entering for the first time. We always need judges, so if you’re interested in debating at all, check out the details on the Society website.
Another figure for the record books was the distribution of the first 1,000 smartcards. This new benefit for members is set to replace paper practising certificates as PC renewal moves completely online in 2015. The cards provide a secure digital signature and offer real-time confirmation of solicitor credentials, helping reassure the public they are consulting a trusted legal adviser, and the rollout will continue throughout 2015.
We’re running out of space to cover everything that happened this year, but naturally, Scotland’s independence referendum dominated the headlines. We were keen to be involved in such an important debate on our country and its citizens’ future, and published two discussion papers based on our discussions with solicitors and others in the legal sector. The papers helped to inform the debate and raised questions on issues that we felt remained uncertain, and our annual conference in October was dedicated to the implications of the result.
Having already submitted our evidence to the Smith Commission, the Society stands ready to help the development of Scotland’s constitutional future.
As we enter 2015 we can also look forward to further debate on Scotland’s legal aid system, progress with entity regulation and the Commonwealth Law Conference in April. It’s set to be another exciting year – keep an eye on our news section to keep track!Sarah Sutton is a communications executive at the Law Society of Scotland, working in the Communications, Marketing & Public Affairs team