Olivia Parker, Careers Development Officer, tells newly qualified solicitors (NQs) and admitted trainees why they should apply for the current position of Council member for New Lawyers and join the Law Society's decision-making body.

Council is our overall decision-making body at the Law Society and there is currently a position open exclusively for a newly-qualified solicitor or admitted trainee. Most seats are held by geographical constituents, but there are also other co-opted positions for non-solicitor or special interest groups. One seat is reserved for a member to represent the interests of new lawyers.

‘New lawyers’ is a phrase we use a lot but for the avoidance of doubt, it refers to those at the junior end of their professional careers and encompasses law students, trainees and NQs with up to five years’ PQE.  The results from the annual members survey released last week show that our members are committed to nurturing the future of the Scottish legal profession and that new lawyers really are a special interest group. When we asked how much value should be placed on our work providing support for trainees, newly qualified solicitors and those interested in a career in the law, 55% of our members identified our work in this area as high priority and 40% as medium priority.

What will the Council Rep for New Lawyers do?

It’s important that the Council Rep undertakes the same duties that any other member would, including approving the Law Society’s strategy, annual plan and budgets, debating policy matters and electing new Office Bearers each year. In her recent blog Ayla Skene, our previous Council Rep for new lawyers, talks about some of the strategic matters she’s had the opportunity to be involved in over the past year. It’s clear that this position offers a very rare opportunity to be part of some big decisions that can impact the whole profession. Usually, it’s not easy to get involved in this type of work until far later in your career (an issue I explored in my recent blog encouraging business leaders to nurture the development of their more junior workforce). So, from a professional perspective it’s a great role for any aspiring leader to undertake.

We expect the Council rep for new lawyers to be proactive and contribute to discussions that really impact on new lawyer stakeholders. To be most effective this doesn’t just mean putting forward your own views, but going out to gather feedback and opinions of your peers. If trainee salaries are on the agenda for example, do you know how they impact international students, those working at big firms and small firms reliant on legal aid? We need someone who can go out and have those conversations, then be the voice of all new lawyers at Council meetings.

We also want new lawyers to be aware of the work of Council so you should also relay discussions, decisions and issues back to them. We already have strong networks that exist between students, trainees and NQs via the Law Society’s outreach team, so whether it’s by using these channels and working with us, or using your own networks, you will have a platform to be able to tell your stakeholders about the valuable work Council does.

It’s also a great way to get more insight into the breadth of the Scottish legal profession. It’s only natural that people are very in-tune with the environment they work in. Those in rural firms will be very familiar with issues that affect the high street and what it’s like to practise outwith the central belt, those in big firms face a different set of challenges relating to commercial and corporate practice and those in-house will be acutely aware of the needs of their own organisation. The make-up of Council ensures all these groups are recognised and all segments of the profession have an opportunity to speak. It’s a unique way to ensure you have a handle on issues much wider than just those immediately affecting you.

Who are we looking for?

We need someone who can act as a point-person on behalf of their fellow new lawyers, who can use and grow existing networks. The most important skill in the role is communication, being able to interact with new lawyers in various environments and able to confidently feed into Council. Proactivity is also essential. If successful, you would be supported by the Outreach team but we would want ideas and action to come from you. We can help you shape and implement initiatives to get them off the ground and are always on hand to talk things through.

Interested in finding out more?

Find out more about the role by reading Ayla’s blog and our Council vacancies page. Here, you can also find out about the nominations and elections process. Nominations are currently open and close on 25 April 2018. If you have any specific questions about any aspects of the position, please get in touch with me.

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