After two years sitting on the Council of the Law Society of Scotland as the representative for new lawyers, I am passing the mantle over to some fresh blood as I am sneaking off abroad. Applications for the position are now open and I would absolutely encourage those of you giving it consideration to apply. Sitting on the Council has genuinely been a privilege and a pleasure, and I think I have gained a lot from the experience personally and professionally. I've set out some thoughts below on my experience.
The Council is the Society's overall decision-making body. It has responsibility for the fulfilment of various statutory obligations (such as the overall governance regime of the Society), it approves the Society's strategy, annual business plan and budget as well as deciding and discussing various matters of strategic importance. This means that as a new lawyer rep, you can get involved in some pretty meaty decisions from day one. I've been involved in discussing a host of matters such as when trainees should be allowed to start appearing in court, views on promoting quotas for women on boards, changes to the Society's governance regime and entity regulation (i.e. a movement away from just regulating individual solicitors towards more comprehensive regulation of incorporated practices and LLPs).
The topics for discussion have been genuinely interesting and the work involved has been intellectually challenging. A lot of our decisions have revolved around policy, so debating issues that sit outside of my area of legal expertise has definitely taken me out of my comfort zone as a young(ish) professional. In addition to sitting on the Council, members usually sit on around two or three committees or working groups. There will most likely be committees in relation to your area of law, or an area that you have a keen interest in, so this is a great opportunity to network and build knowledge.
The Council has around 39 members elected from geographical constituencies across the country, up to nine co-opted members and nine non-solicitor members. I don't think you could really ask for a nicer group to work with. The Council is quite a mix of people, from different practice areas, professions (taking into account non-solicitors) from urban and rural parts of Scotland, and abroad. With such a wide variety of folk, there can often be quite conflicting views and lots of heated debate. However, everyone is always respectful and welcoming of all input, and I was always made to feel that my contribution was valued. I therefore think the experience can be great for confidence building. Law Society staff are also very supportive and proactive in providing assistance when you need it.
The highlight of my experience would have to be our strategy day at the start of 2017. We had a number of speakers and experts (some from other jurisdictions in Europe and further afield) share thoughts on how the profession is likely to evolve over the next few decades, particularly in light of technological advances. I was pretty amazed at some of the tech that has already been developed globally in our sector, and the impact that it is likely to have on what our jobs will look like in twenty years.
Sitting on the Council does make demands on your time - There is a lot of background reading to do, but you are given plenty of notice to work your way through it. I think that the investment of time and energy is absolutely worthwhile, both personally in relation to your development but also in order to ensure that new entrants to the law have a voice in terms of how we steer our profession.
I hope that those of you considering standing will be persuaded of the benefits of getting involved in the work of the Society, and for those of you standing, I wish you the very best of luck.