Executive Director of Regulation, Philip Yelland, is to retire after 30 years at the Law Society.
Philip, who retires at the end of May, joined the Society from private practice in 1990 as a complaints investigator and took over the leadership of that team a year later. In 2007 his remit expanded to take responsibility for other regulatory areas including Inspections and Interventions. In 2008 he was appointed Senior Director of Standards prior to becoming Executive Director of Regulation, following a restructure at the Law Society, in 2016. He also took responsibility for the Society’s evolving role in anti-money laundering.
On joining the Society at its Drumsheugh Gardens offices, there were just three people working in the complaints team, while the then complaints committee had a majority of solicitors, with two lay people of the 15 committee members.
During the past three decades he has witnessed major changes to the organisation, and has guided the Society through significant regulatory reform, including two new parliamentary Acts, the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act in 2007 and the Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010.
The 2010 Act brought about the creation of a new Regulatory Committee at the Society. The committee, which is independent of the Society’s governing Council, is led by a non-solicitor and has a 50/50 split between solicitor and non-solicitor members. Its first convener in June 2011 was former headteacher Carole Ford, followed by senior lecturer Craig Cathcart in 2019. Regulatory changes have also seen increasing focus on financial compliance and anti-money laundering work, leading to the creation of an AML team focused on this aspect of work four years ago.
Looking back at his time with the Society, Philip commented:
“It has been an enormous privilege to work at the Law Society. It has certainly been demanding and at times very challenging, but it has also been extremely rewarding.
“I've been very fortunate to work alongside a great team of highly professional, dedicated individuals, led by our Chief Executive Lorna Jack, who want to ensure that we set and maintain high professional standards for solicitors so that members of the public can every confidence that they will receive a high quality service – and on those rare occasions that something goes wrong, can also be sure there are proper protections in place.
“There certainly has been enormous change over the years since I joined the Society 30 years ago. The profession is bigger than ever, there are many more big commercial and international firms and one notable change is that there are many more women – something that we see on all of our committees as well as in the profession itself. The Society’s Council has changed enormously too both in terms of the introduction of non-solicitors, who have had an increasingly important role to play in our work, and the gender balance is significantly better than it was in 1990.
“Since its formation in 2011, the Regulatory Committee, through the dedication and hard work of its members, has brought improvements to the way that we work, and I am sure its role will continue to have growing importance in the regulation of the profession. A recent highlight for me professionally, was being able to bring the International Conference of Legal Regulators to Edinburgh last year – an event which demonstrated the recognition for the Society’s regulatory work by other jurisdictions.
“And while I am retiring, I will be watching what happens to the Legal Services Review with interest.
"At the moment, the most important thing for the Society is to focus on supporting its members through the current Covid-19 crisis, but it will return to the fore. While I don't think the current regulatory model is broken, it does need to be improved, especially around simplifying and speeding up complaint processes. Any new regulatory model must deal with consumer complaints better, but it is also vital that conduct matters are properly identified and dealt with appropriately to provide assurance both to the profession and to the public.
"The Scottish solicitor profession is highly respected and trusted by members of the public and I have every confidence that my successor, Rachel Wood, will work to ensure that's something that won't change in the future."
You can read more about Philip in the May Journal which comes out online on Monday 18 May.