Our Head of International, Katie Hay, sets out the value of trade missions and other resources to grow your business internationally.
In Scotland, we pride ourselves on punching above our weight when it comes to making our mark on the rest of the world. Last year the Society asked all Scottish law firms who fell within scope of the 2017 Money Laundering Regulations to return the first annual AML certificate, which highlighted some interesting statistics about our international reach as a profession. From the headlines, we can rest assured of our profession’s contribution to the country’s international influence: from Iceland to India, China to the Cayman Islands, Law Society of Scotland members do business all across the globe, with 62% of our firms reporting having non-UK clients on their books.
But we should not stop there. With its recent publication Scotland: A Trading Nation, the Scottish Government is gearing up to make a substantial investment in trade and grow the country’s export performance; and as the UK finds itself on the verge of negotiating new deals with trading partners across the globe, we have a collective responsibility to ensure that Scotland’s voice is heard in this process.
The legal profession is ideally placed to support these trade initiatives. We are not only a significant economic generator in our own right but we are critical to the success of Scotland’s other key sectors.
If you are unsure how to exploit the international opportunities available to you, or if you are looking to expand your international business, there are a number of resources available to help you. Both the UK and Scottish governments through their trade and investment arms (the Department for International Trade and Scottish Development International respectively) routinely organise or support trade missions, either specifically for legal professionals or, more broadly, for representatives from sectors where the legal profession plays a key role.
In April 2019, Davidson Chalmers Stewart partner Laura Tainsh was one of 18 legal professionals (and the only Scottish representative) who participated in a trade mission to Lagos, Nigeria organised by Ministry of Justice under its Legal Services are GREAT banner. Nigeria has the largest economy and legal sector in sub-Saharan Africa and trade with the UK (valued at £4.2 million in 2017) is set to double by 2030, making it a location with substantial business opportunities for the profession.
The aim of the mission was to give UK legal professionals the opportunity to access a network of international businesses and local law firms, providing the opportunity to acquire new clients and explore potential business leads. The mission was not limited to any one sector – Laura is an environmental law specialist (accredited by the Society) and was interested in developing opportunities in the areas of renewable energy and waste management as well as forging relationships with the other delegates from England as potential referrers of work. Other delegates covered sectors from international arbitration to corporate start-ups and fintech.
Laura already had significant personal experience of Lagos but had not yet taken advantage of her connection to Nigeria to generate any business opportunities. Going there as part of a delegation provided access to people and opportunities in the business arena that she feels she would not otherwise have had, and she has also made valuable connections with many of the other delegates.
We are keen to ensure that our members benefit from opportunities like this, which is why we are planning our own programme of trade missions overseas, beginning with South Africa in the spring of next year. By tailoring the mission and its objectives to Scottish solicitors and their specific interests, we believe we can put together a programme that will help to expand our members’ client base overseas, and to mark Scotland’s place on the global map of legal expertise.
You can read more about Laura’s experience on the Legal Services are GREAT website. If you are interested in learning more about the Society’s international work, including our planned trade mission to Cape Town and Johannesburg in 2020, please contact Katie Hay or Fraser Hudghton.