Does "confidential" always mean what it says? The Society's Council found itself having to debate this question among others in the wake of this week's arguments over its draft media protocol, and the leaking thereof.

Yes, was the short answer given, despite a contention that labelling the draft in that way went beyond standing policy on confidentiality of Council papers and removed the opportunity for public debate ahead of Council considering the matter.

Feelings were running high, but there was no doubting the prevailing view that it was bad form, to put it no higher, for anyone to decide unilaterally that the marking on the paper could be disregarded.

As for the policy itself, recognition of the need for Council to act as a team won the day, along with the role of the communications team in flagging up any potential conflicts with others working for the Society/its members before anything is issued in the name of a Society committee - a statement always liable to be perceived as speaking for the Society as a whole.

Given the difficulties caused for the Society in negotiations following the Access to Justice Committee release on the Scottish Legal Aid Board, it is difficult to fault the majority approach - provided a few points are recognised.

One is that Council members should be free to speak as individuals or in other capacities. That much was conceded without question.

Another is the need to reconcile the majority approach with the interests of good and open governance. After the events of the past year the Society finds itself under more scrutiny than ever before, from its own members and from outside, and Council is likely to have to go the extra mile in future to be seen to be responding to members' concerns. It is clearly neither practical nor desirable to put every motion to come before Council out to a members' survey first - and it should be said that there have been quite a number of member consultations in the recent past or now in progress - but if there are matters on which Council wishes to reach a view before they enter the public domain, it will have to be ready to show willing to rethink particular points if necessary.

It was said for example that one clause in the media protocol was so widely drawn as to amount to a gagging order. The debate, being dominated by the points of principle, never really explored the point (as might have happened without the other distractions), but it is the sort of thing that should be capable of being revisited if public scrutiny suggests that that would be desirable.

The Society is facing the biggest changes since its foundation, and many have already voiced their opposition to the wider reforms to the profession which set the context for many of these changes. Even if those battles are behind us, there remains a difficult course to steer in order to preserve and foster members' confidence. The week's events show the need for a sensitive collective hand on the tiller.