Alannah McGinley was a member of the Law Society’s Insurance Committee from March 2017-December 2020. Alannah is now Law Clerk to the Inner House of the Court of Session.
I qualified as a solicitor in September 2016. Following qualification I practised solely in defending professional negligence claims. In particular, I acted for the insurers of solicitors insured under the Master Policy of Professional Indemnity Insurance. I had attended a presentation not long after qualifying, and one of the speakers talked about building ‘a basket of skills’ over and above one’s day to day work as a solicitor. This in mind, I began looking for ways to start filling my own basket. I was interested in committee membership and I began considering which I would be best suited to.
I did my research
The Insurance Committee seemed like the natural choice for my existing interests, it being responsible for negotiating the commercial terms of the professional indemnity insurance arrangements for solicitors in private practice and with putting in place an annual risk management programme for the profession. The application process was simple and prior to joining I met with the secretary of the committee, David Cullen, for a chat about the work of the committee and what my role would entail. Speaking with David confirmed that the committee would be a positive experience for me.
It raised my profile
As a committee member, I was given some fantastic opportunities to build upon my existing skills and to raise my profile within the profession. I presented at the Law Society of Scotland's Risk Management seminars and Master Policy Roadshows. I was part of the judging panel for the Innovation Cup Competition encouraging innovation in the profession. I had the opportunity to sit on the selection panel for the appointment of the provider of premium funding to the profession. It is not difficult to see how these experiences provided valuable development opportunities. In terms of time commitment, the Insurance Committee meets once a month for around two hours. Ad hoc meetings are occasionally convened to discuss urgent matters.
It widened my perspective
Being on the committee also provided me with perspective. I was used to approaching things from a certain mindset, but this allowed me to witness the challenges of securing professional indemnity insurance for the profession in an increasingly hardening market and it also opened my eyes to the wider industry in which solicitors operate and the difficulties the profession faces.
It was friendly and convivial
For those who might be nervous about whether they will ‘fit in’, I may be biased but the Insurance Committee very much has a convivial atmosphere which was particularly welcome for me, joining as a newly qualified solicitor. I am sure the other committees will offer the same warm welcome to any new members. On that note, I built great working relationships with my peers on the committee and our Christmas lunch was always an occasion to look forward to.
I am conscious that not everyone’s interests will lie in the Insurance Committee, but there really is a committee for everyone, ranging from those focusing on specific areas of practice, such as property and criminal law, to policy committees like the education and training and access to justice committees, as well as regulatory committees such as admissions and rights of audience.
Would I join a committee again?
Absolutely! I would wholeheartedly encourage any solicitors with an interest in any of the committees to apply, or to even have an informal discussion with the secretary of the committee to see if it would be a good fit.
I would also add that the Law Society offers a variety of other ways for solicitors to develop their skills in a new setting; for example, becoming a mentor or volunteering as a judge in the Donald Dewar Debating tournament, both of which provide not only worthwhile chances for personal development but to contribute something back to younger and incoming members of the profession.
So did I start filling my basket? I think I most certainly did, and you should too!