The diversity of solicitors practising in Scotland is rightly a matter of regular and positive comment. From sole practitioners to big firm partners, in-house lawyers to solicitors in the prosecution service, the differences between their day-to-day responsibilities can be greater than the similarities.
I was reminded of that diversity during meetings with Scottish lawyers working in France, and with the appointment last week of Stuart Allan as the new Scottish Parliamentary Standards Commissioner. Vastly different occupations but with an important common bond – the brand of the Scottish solicitor.
Stuart Allan qualified as a solicitor in 1973 and has spent his career in public service – as an adviser, parliamentary returning officer and Scotland’s first chief investigating officer to the Standards Commission. As Standards Commissioner, he will investigate complaints against MSPs. In Paris for the Law Society of Northern Ireland’s annual conference, I took the opportunity to meet up with our local members. One of those, Lynne Dalrymple, started out practising family law at a high street firm in Peterhead before moving to Aberdeen and then France to work in-house in the oil industry.
Lynne, who when we met had just concluded a contract for a major shipping deal, talked passionately about one issue in particular – the value of the badge of Scottish solicitor. She told me that she had worked incredibly hard to be admitted to the Scottish solicitors’ profession, with its deserved reputation for high standards, and had no intention of leaving, whatever was on offer from the Paris Bar. Even her international colleagues, she explained, looked on the Scottish brand with some envy.
And there is a lesson in her comments for the Society too, which has members based throughout the world – almost 500 outside Scotland choose to retain their practising certificates, all carrying out very different types of work. In the end, we must strive to remain relevant to all those we serve, whether investigating complaints against MSPs or negotiating contracts for a global energy company. As a next step, we will further develop the connections between solicitors at home and abroad – for a whole range of valuable professional and commercial reasons.Lorna Jack is Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland