The Law Society of Scotland has issued the manifestos of the three candidates for election as Vice President of the Society for the year from end May 2011 to end May 2012. Voting is open to Council members and takes place from 3 to 15 December 2010.
As most of you will know I am not a great fan of mission statements. I have always thought they should be the exclusive preserve of NASA!
I have now been a Council member for 14 years. Over that period I have sat on many committees and working groups, including the then President's Committee, which was the precursor of the current management board. I have also convened the Criminal Law Committee.
For the last five years I have been responsible for leading for the Society on legal aid issues, firstly as convener of the Legal Aid Solicitors Committee and latterly as the convener of the criminal and civil legal aid negotiating teams. This role has required me to work on behalf of the profession in attempting to ensure proper consideration of legal aid and access to justice issues. I have been able to develop good working relationships with many of the other partners involved in these discussions, especially the Government – the Cabinet Secretary for Justice as well as his officials – the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, the Scottish Legal Aid Board and others. These relationships allowed me to play a key part in amending the legal aid aspects of the summary justice reforms. The changes I suggested
were accepted and allowed reasonable payments to the profession in most cases, while also supporting the principle of the reforms.
Despite the considerable demands of this role I have maintained a keen interest in all the other major issues which have affected the profession during my time on Council.
If I have the privilege of being elected then by the time I assume office, alternative business providers may be among us. I appreciate that there were concerns expressed during the ABS debate, as well as more recently. These concerns were legitimate and must be kept in mind under the new regulatory framework. At the same time the new model must allow firms the opportunity to consider new ways of organising themselves.
In addition we may be nearing a conclusion on modernising our constitution. I am in no doubt that this is necessary, but care has to be taken to proceed in a way that does not alienate the wider profession from Council. There has recently been a suggestion that the Presidential election should be by universal franchise. Personally I am not sure if that is the best approach, but those of you who have been on Council for some time will know that I have long advocated taking a serious look at whether it would be possible to extend the franchise in some way. This would require proper consideration, and I would suggest setting up a working group convened by a Past President to look at this specific issue.
I have been privileged to work on behalf of the Society and the profession in the vital area of legal aid. You will be aware of the dedication I have shown to this work. If elected I promise that I will show the same commitment to all of the onerous duties involved in representing the Society and profession as a whole.Oliver Adair is sole principal of a firm in Larkhall.
I am standing for election to the office of Vice President of the Law Society of Scotland Council. Apart from any general personal qualities I may claim, the current times involve the threatened divergence of major wings of the profession. We will stick together, or fight each other to destruction. Powerful and competing intentions have emerged, with that ever-
growing debate over the profession’s ability to both police itself and represent members through the unitary body of the Society.
I believe that it is possible and preferable to do both as one Society. Whoever will be Vice President/President needs to be able to deal with both and all considerations and still be a credible representative of and for all parts of the profession. Our current constitutional reorganisation process simply adds to the height of the stakes for us all at this coming time.
In other words it is likely to get even rougher, and office bearers will need to be able to carry the Council, the Society and the profession. I will stand up for the Society and for Council when argument is required, but will use diplomacy and co-operation when that is available. I will support the President fully and obviously.
That’s the overarching mission. My own practical experience on Council and in the profession is substantial, and I engage in every task thoroughly. I also have a passion for enhancing the image of solicitors and promoting our place at the heart of civic, social and cultural Scotland.
My career involved initially many years doing civil and criminal legal aid work. I am passionate about both the access to justice aspect of legal aid, and the welfare of our own legal aid practitioners. Likewise I am deeply involved in most aspects of private client work and am well versed in commercial work, so I seek to be able to support and promote all aspects of private practice from sole practice all the way up to the large corporate firm. Running my firm has afforded me substantial experience in administration and business development. In my BBC, STV and newspaper work, I have been an in-house lawyer, and for sure I maintain full appreciation and support for the substantial proportion of members
who work entirely in that way.
Colleagues will be aware that I have also had a long involvement in the media. I specialised in legal advice phone-ins and magazine shows for many years. Still keeping my hand in, I write a weekly newspaper advice column, a blog, and make appearances on TV and radio. I especially believe that those skills of communication and broadcasting are key to the work of the office bearers and I would enthusiastically represent the Society as required on any platform or programme.
On a final note – availability. I am ready and fully available to devote all the time and effort that is necessary to the onerous role of Vice President from the start. I am senior partner of a busy high street practice and have devolved most client work to trusted and capable colleagues as a matter of course. In the event of election, this will allow me all the time needed for official work and engagements from the start.Austin Lafferty is sole principal of a firm in Glasgow.
I am putting myself forward for this election as I believe that I have the experience, gained during my period on Council, to be able to help to lead the Society in a very crucial period of its development.
The road to the many changes now coming to a head started back in 2007. I consider that I will be able to assist the President and our executive officers to deliver the programme of change that we have embarked upon. Next year will
see a new constitution, new practice rules and our commencement as regulators of ABS legal providers. While all this is important it is also very important, in my view, that we do not lose sight of one of our principal functions – to represent our members.
I would hope to be able to ensure that we continue to develop the assistance that we can provide for our members at
all levels, whether they be part of our “big firms”, or acting as sole practitioners, whether they be our young new members or those involved in an in-house capacity. Our profile with the profession in recent years has not been at its best and this something we need to put resources into so that we can have better communication and dialogue with them, and work to bringing our membership together.
We also need to continually look critically at our own performance as a Society so that we do not rest on our laurels and arrange a system of regular reviews. We need to keep looking ahead and planning for the future shape of our profession by having a forward plan in place which has been properly debated and consulted upon with the profession. We also need keep our hand on the tiller of finance to ensure that we are economically sustainable.
We have a duty to our professional colleagues who place us on the Council to uphold and enhance the reputation of the “solicitor” brand so that our members benefit from it. It is of the utmost importance that we get it right next year when we become a new regulator, as well as ensuring that we carry out our current regulation function in a transparent manner which is clear to our members.
These are the issues which I believe to be of the utmost immediate importance to our Society and in which I believe I can assist and help to guide the Society to reach its determined goals through election as Vice President.David Newton is a consultant to a partnership with five offices in and around Glasgow.