Lynsey Walker, Partner and Solicitor Advocate at Addleshaw Goddard LLP and head of the Finance Litigation Team in Scotland, shares what it was like to be the Law Society of Scotland's co-opted Board member with less than 10 years PQE between 2017 and 2021, how it helped her and why she would recommend the experience to all.
I was coming up for seven years qualified when a colleague within my firm suggested that I consider applying to the Law Society of Scotland for a co-opted Board position it had made available to solicitors with five to ten years PQE.
Whilst I was not a Board or Council member when the decision was made to create this position, I understood later that the intention behind it was to broaden the demographic of Board members and to ensure the views of those at the more junior end of the profession were being represented and considered in the Society's decision making.
From my perspective, I am always mindful of the fact that, having spent my career to date at the same firm (originally HBJ and now Addleshaw Goddard LLP post-merger), there was a vast amount about the legal profession in Scotland of which I did not have any direct experience. I was interested in effectively taking an opportunity that might allow me to "look up" from my desk at the wider issues facing solicitors in Scotland.
I had also heard on numerous occasions of the benefits that can be gained from holding Board positions and enhancing your experience of corporate governance matters. Whilst that is helpful advice, it is not always immediately apparent how to find these opportunities. As such, when one presented itself, it seemed like it would be worth exploring.
The experience certainly lived up to what I had originally aimed to get out of it, and more.
I have thoroughly enjoyed and gained a great deal from my time sitting on the Board. I found it significantly beneficial for someone at my stage in their career to become more involved in the work of the Society and the wider issues facing the profession. I hope that this benefit has been one that goes both ways – both on a personal level for me, but also in terms of a benefit to the Society of having a Board position of this nature available going forward.
For most of my time on the Board, I was the only member who was not also a member of the Society's Council. Whilst this was initially a bit daunting, I quickly realised that there was often a benefit of having someone at Board without this additional role.
In particular, I felt that it allowed me to have an objective perspective on certain issues that might already have been discussed in detail at either Council or Committee level. At times, I found it helpful that my views had not had the option of being coloured by any of these discussions.
Overall, I found the experience a fantastic opportunity to gain experience of thinking in a different way – focusing not only on your own opinion or advice in relation to a particular matter, but also on the decision making processes that had been followed, the Society's accountability for these, and of course the resulting impact on its members.
Being at the forefront of significant issues and decisions facing the profession was also a genuine privilege. For me, sitting on the Board throughout the Independent Review of Legal Services Regulation and during the publication of Esther Roberton's Report in October 2018 was an invaluable and thoroughly interesting experience.
I would recommend anyone who is interested in gaining Board experience, particularly within the profession you already have a vested interest in, to consider applying if the opportunity ever arises.
It might feel like you are putting yourself out of your comfort zone, but I have heard it said many times that if an opportunity becomes available, the best thing you can do is to say yes, then learn how to do it later!
This was certainly true in relation to my experience with the Society, but I now feel sure that it will not be my last experience of being involved with the organisation.