Liam McCabe, Executive Director of Finance at Stirling University, was a lay member of our governing Council from January 2013 until November 2019. Liam also served as the convener to our Audit Committee during that time.
My time as a lay member of the Law Society of Scotland’s Council was a rich experience for me, and one that I look back on with great fondness.
As the preeminent national legal body, the Society has input to the formulation and practical application of the law in Scotland. The Society is looked upon and, in many cases, required to comment on contemporary legal issues, many of which affect day to day life for a great many people. All this important and highly relevant work ultimately is considered by the Council as the Society’s governing body. Lay members with their non-legal experiences and backgrounds bring an ‘external’ perspective and different insights to the discussion. I found as a lay member that challenging, or at least questioning, the received legal wisdom on an issue was well received by the more legally oriented members.
Being a Council member is intellectually stimulating and requires a degree of mental agility. For example, in a Council meeting the agenda can range from constitutional matters to technical issues regarding the regulation of the legal profession, through to moral and social issues such as assisted suicide. While lay members are not expected to become legal experts, they often can, individually and collectively, help to shape and round out policy in a helpful way. Discussions at Council can be passionate, and I found the genuine commitment to core principles such as adherence the rule of law without fear or favour, to be humbling.
At the same time as having it national role the Society, at its core, is a membership based organisation. With my background as an accountant and as Audit Committee convener, I was able to help ensure that members’ interests were safeguarded and that the Society’s executive management was held to account. This should not be underestimated as it helps build the confidence of the members that the Society is being well managed.
Finally, my employer, the University of Stirling, gave me some personal development time to undertake my duties as a Council member - primarily time for attendance at meetings. This I considered to be way more beneficial at my age and stage career wise than any executive management course and that was the view of my employer. I would like to think that with all experience I gained this was mutually beneficial.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the Society’s Council, and I would highly recommend it to anyone considering applying.