It was perhaps a sign of the times that extra spaces were made available for the High Street Conference “due to popular demand”. Yet, if the popularity of the event for medium-sized firms facing financial challenges provided evidence of the effects of the economic downturn, it also showed the determination of the profession to pull through. And proved the Society’s commitment to help in any way possible.
Those present heard both worrying statistics and valuable advice from the speakers. For instance, the 41% reduction in domestic conveyancing transactions between July and September compared with the same period last year confirmed what many have known for some time. On the other hand, delegates were given sound practical tips on issues such as dealing with banks, tax revenues and workload. Perhaps more importantly, they were also able to share personal experiences and advice.
The same could be said for the Sole Practitioner Conference a week before, which also had an excellent turnout and great feedback. I even noticed that one Glasgow solicitor attended both events, evidence of particular dedication. Both conferences at the end of last month (November) were hugely successful and my hope is we will continue to run similar events on an ongoing basis.
I am left feeling confident that high street firms are broadly robust and will continue to serve their clients well. Some will have to diversify, others pull in their wings a bit. But the well-run practices will survive the current financial difficulties. With forward thinking and the support of colleagues, they will prosper and grow. As one delegate to the High Street Conference said in feedback: “At a time when we were all expecting bad news, this gave me a positive view of the future.”Ian Smart is Vice President of the Law Society of Scotland