I am currently marking a modest little anniversary in that it is exactly 10 years since I started working on the Journal (though I didn't officially become editor until the following May). And what a lot of changes that decade has seen both for the Journal and for the profession it serves.
In August 2003, although the magazine had just undergone one of its periodic makeovers, there was as yet no website and, given the time lag between copy deadlines and publication, it was quite a handicap knowing that news and other items received would not be in readers' hands for anything up to six weeks.
The Society took the plunge into online publication the following year, and since then life seems to have gone at an ever quickening pace. The online daily news, the monthly go-live date for the magazine and the searchable archive, were supplemented in version 2 of the site by the online forum, blogs, videos, and the ability for users to post comments to whatever they read. Most recently, the additional "online exclusive" content generated since the 2011 magazine relaunch has resulted in total output reaching its highest ever level. We can now publish content on subjects of interest to a relatively small number of practitioners, without prejudicing the features that the majority like to read.
The speed with which information is shared has been further enhanced by the arrival of Twitter, which I find invaluable both as a means of being alerted to news and as a way to broadcast the arrival of new content on the website. It surprises me that many lawyers still appear not to appreciate its potential in this respect.
Rapid dissemination of information has become the more important given the seismic, and at times intensely controversial, changes that have affected the solicitors' profession in the past 10 years.
Back in 2003, Sir David Clementi was just in the process of taking the soundings that would inform his report on the future regulation of the profession in England & Wales - the report that led first to the Legal Services Act 2007, and then, inevitably as many saw it, to pressure for something similar for Scotland. Although the Journal had been highlighting from the outset the likely nature of the coming changes, it was only at a late stage, in the first months of 2010, that opposition was fully mobilised. The bitter debate that ensued provided probably the severest test in its now 58 years of the Journal's ability to provide a neutral platform where all points of view could be aired. How we fared is for others to judge, but I do believe the integrity of the magazine remained, and remains, intact.
There has been much besides. A quick résumé might cover, roughly chronologically, the new licensing regime (my first feature was an interview with Sheriff Principal Nicholson on his newly published report), the abolition of the feudal system, the lengthy controversy over home reports, the creation of the Supreme Court and its associated constitutional changes, the birth of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, the Bonomy, McInnes, Bowen and Gill reviews (and Taylor, whose report is still awaited), devolution and now independence issues, the perpetual battles over legal aid, and the whole saga from Cadder to Carloway to Criminal Justice Bill. Throw in a massive financial crash and economic crisis that brought many firms to their knees and led to the previously unheard-of spectacle of lawyers being made redundant, and the new landscape of mergers, and you have a pretty extraordinary decade even without the many other legal developments that have made headlines along the way.
The Law Society of Scotland too has changed. A non-lawyer chief executive, an increased public profile, a reformed Council, and a greater willingness to underpin the Journal's editorial independence have all been changes for the better. There have been many controversies between the Society and the profession or sections of it; that is nothing new and it is not likely to change any time soon. But having had the chance to observe the Society and its operations at close quarters over the years, I see a lot of work on behalf of the profession, by a lot of dedicated people, that goes largely unnoticed and unappreciated, but which would certainly be missed if it were no longer carried out.
Not all change means improvement. But change is inevitable, and there is going to be no let-up in the way it keeps coming at us. However long a time I have left at the Journal, it will be my mission to try and keep pace with it and to help you, the readers, do likewise.
My final word must be a sincere thankyou to all who have contributed over the years, especially those busy practitioners who give up precious fee-earning time to share their wisdom and experience with others. That to me is evidence of a continuing collegiality and team-spiritedness within the Scottish solicitors' profession, however diverse and specialised it has become. Long may it continue.