The Society's Special General Meeting opened today with a description of the division in the solicitors' profession that is deeper even than that between the prosecution and defence. A division into which one is born and bred, the origins of which are lost in the mists of time.

Given the SGM agenda, it might have been reasonable to assume this divide related to the financial activities and transparency of the Society.

In fact, I was simply giving some context to the 52-year career of the distinguished criminal defence solicitor Joe Beltrami, who was being presented with honorary life membership of the Society. And who was a central figure in the intense west of Scotland rivalry between Beltrami, Dunn & Co and Ross Harper & Murphy.

Let's be clear: following Joe's presentation, hugely important business was discussed. Those matters included the Society's budget for 2009-10, which includes a £100 reduction in the practising certificate; the financial transparency of previous plans to relocate from Drumsheugh Gardens; payments to office bearers, committee conveners and Council members; progress on the education and training review; and the EU Services Directive.

But in the event, the formal meeting lasted almost exactly two hours, brief by recent standards. And while there was some robust debate, hand votes on two motions and one poll vote, the contributions from the floor did not quite reflect the Beltrami/Ross Harper divide.

During Joe's presentation, I also referred to the brief truce that broke out every December – not unlike the trenches in the First World War – when he attended the Harpers' Christmas party: evidence that solicitors can get together when the situation requires. With next year's budget set and plan of priorities approved, perhaps 2009-10 will be a year when we pull together to get through the recession and build on our reputation for excellence with common purpose.

Ian Smart is President of the Law Society of Scotland