Planning my first trip outside Scotland on Society business involved familiarising myself on the current economic downturn in other jurisdictions, regulatory structures outside Scotland – and Met Office warnings of snowstorms from Siberia. Thankfully, my trip to Belfast for the twice-yearly meeting of the UK and Irish law societies passed without major incident. However, President Richard Henderson and Vice President Ian Smart were not so lucky. After several hours in departures at Edinburgh Airport, they eventually gave up all hope of catching a flight to Northern Ireland.
Our colleagues from the Law Society of England & Wales suffered their own difficulties, with some unable to overcome the snowy conditions. Fortunately, those travelling within Ireland had fewer problems and were all able to attend, contributing to a valuable event.
It was clear that all four jurisdictions are suffering similar market difficulties – giving us the opportunity to explore those effective common responses which seem to be helping our respective members. Everyone present was committed to doing all they can for solicitors, with some shared approaches to offering support services and maintaining a dialogue with the banks. Other measures adopted by our colleagues are worth considering in Scotland, such as providing careers advice for those facing or experiencing redundancy and staging human resources roadshows on employment law issues.
We will continue to do everything possible to help firms, individual solicitors and trainees suffering in the tough trading environment. The information we gathered from the other jurisdictions has been fed into our business and professional support plans.
The Belfast meeting considered other cross-border matters, including the forthcoming reform of legal services. A distinctly Scottish approach has been promised for reform of our own marketplace, but there will also be issues of common concern with our colleagues in England & Wales. We are also mindful of the fact that some of our own members have a presence on both sides of the border. The Society will work with the Solicitors Regulation Authority and any others stepping forward to regulate ABSs, to ensure, as far as possible, harmonisation of future regulatory regimes. The issue is on the agenda for a meeting with the SRA in early March.
Finally, a huge thanks to all the Society staff who helped us regain our Investors in People status. Continual business improvement and associated efficiencies are of benefit to the Society’s members.Lorna Jack is Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland