As this blog goes live, there are less than 24 hours until voting for the general election opens. Or perhaps you are reading this after the results have been announced - in either case, what follows might provide some light relief from the pre-election speculation or post-election dissection, which is no doubt dominating the news.
Here at the Society we have been through a round of elections ourselves, the results of which include three re-elected members and eight brand new Council representatives joining the ranks of our principal governing body.
If you’re not familiar with the workings of the Council, our 39 members fall into a few categories. Our ex-officio members sit on the Council by virtue of their status as office bearers (President, Vice President and Past President).
We have our elected constituency members speaking on behalf of solicitors in sheriff districts across Scotland and beyond – we have one Council member representing the interests of ‘Scottish’ solicitors working in England and Wales.
We have up to eight ‘co-opted’ members who are all solicitors but from a variety of different backgrounds. They also have slightly different roles to play and win their seats through different processes - you can read more detail on this in the footnote below*.
Finally, our lay members are (as their title suggests) not solicitors and earn their seats by way of an open recruitment process incorporating application, interview and selection.
This year, we were delighted with the number of solicitors who took time out of their busy lives to stand for the Council. We had a total of 21 candidates vying for just 11 seats, a really positive indication of engagement levels.
And that’s not to say that all those who stood agree with everything the Society says and does, but what it does mean is that those who stand want to be involved. They want to influence the decision-making process. And what’s more… they believe that they can.
And while the Council is clearly not everyone’s preferred way of getting involved, there are numerous other ways in which you can use your skills, qualities and experience to influence and contribute to the way in which your profession grows and evolves.
The Society's committees, for example, carry out valuable work looking at a range of issues to do with improving legal practice, the law and protecting the public interest. The committee system covers an incredible variety of subjects and issues and their relative success is dependent on their members. So, for example, if rural affairs is your thing, if you’re an intellectual property expert or you’re passionate about access to justice, there’s a committee for you.
In fact, there are currently 23 vacancies across 16 committees - some requiring solicitors, some non-solicitors. The opportunities for networking and professional development are extensive and there really is something for everyone. If you’ve got a passion for the profession, come and share it with us.
And while we’re on the subject of getting involved, it really would be a case of ‘the wood for the trees’, not to mention the range of mentoring opportunities available. Mentoring allows you to give something back on a one-to-one basis. And like joining a committee or the Council, there’s something in it for you too.
We provide all the training you’ll need to become a mentor and it’s a great skill to have, another string to your proverbial bow, not to mention the satisfaction you’ll derive from directly influencing the life of someone who will benefit in spades from what you have to offer.
You can mentor through our Trainee CPD scheme or through the Lawscot Foundation, our charity established to support academically talented law students throughout the course of their legal educations. In our first year, we received 51 applications for just eight bursaries, an indication of the need for support, financial and otherwise, from these aspiring solicitors, some of whom may be the first in their families to attend university. Your input can make a real difference.
So as you flick back to your preferred news source and the general election coverage, it’s pretty clear that we couldn’t all be parliamentarians, neither would we want to, but we can still get involved in the parliamentary process, we’ve all got a vote. We can all make a difference!
*Our co-opted in-house, solicitor advocate and international members, for example, are elected representatives for their ‘constituents’. We also have members who are not so much in the business of ‘representation’ but ‘liaison’ between the Society and their particular sectors (academia, financial services, government and COPFS). These seats are by appointment rather than election. And our representative for new lawyers is recruited by a nomination, application and selection process.