Dame Elish Angiolini QC, who became the first solicitor, and the first woman, to be appointed Solicitor General for Scotland, and then Lord Advocate, was awarded honorary membership of the Law Society of Scotland at its annual general meeting yesterday evening.

Honorary membership has been awarded to just 15 individuals in the Society's 70-year history, including two women: former MP and MEP Winnie Ewing, and pioneering solicitor Ethel Houston. The most recent recipient was Adrian Ward MBE in May 2017 for his work on incapacity and mental health and disability law.

Earlier this year the Society invited nominations for honorary membership for outstanding service for the public good by a Scottish solicitor as part of its 70th anniversary commemorations. It will hold a second ceremony to award honorary membership at a special general meeting in September.

Dame Elish was enrolled as a Scottish solicitor in 1985 and spent her practising career in the Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service, rising to become regional procurator fiscal for Grampian, Highland & Islands before she was appointed Solicitor General in 2001. She became Lord Advocate in October 2006 and held the office until 2011.

She has since chaired the Commission on Women Offenders, and carried out a number of major inquiries and investigations, including a review into the investigation and prosecution of rape in London by the Metropolitan Police Service and the Crown Prosecution Service; the National Cremation Investigation; and the independent review of deaths and serious incidents in police custody for the Home Office. She was appointed Principal of St Hugh’s College, Oxford in 2012, and Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford in 2017. She is currently undertaking a review into the handling of complaints against the police in Scotland.

Presenting the award, Alison Atack, President of the Law Society of Scotland, said: "I am delighted to award Dame Elish honorary membership of the Law Society of Scotland in our 70th anniversary year. She has had a remarkable career, making history as the first solicitor and the first woman to be appointed both Solicitor General and Lord Advocate, Scotland’s most senior law officer. She is truly deserving of this award in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the legal profession and her work to modernise our prosecution system and improve protections for vulnerable witnesses.

"Elish is widely admired for her energy, commitment and passion for her chosen profession and has worked tirelessly for the wider public good in each of her roles. She has been an inspiration for many throughout her career and it is a privilege to make this award."

Dame Elish responded: "I am very grateful to the Law Society for this wonderful honour. The Law Society and solicitors throughout Scotland were hugely supportive during my time in office as Solicitor General and as Lord Advocate and I am very grateful still for that warmth."

  • The AGM also heard presentations from the President and from chief executive Lorna Jack on the Society's work in the past year, and from members of the senior leadership team on the Roberton review and the Society's response. It went on to discuss possible changes to the practice rules including restrictions on solicitors' client accounts being used for client banking transactions, with some members expressing concerns that the drafting of the rules might catch ordinary and legitimate transactions. The Society's Regulatory Committee will give further consideration to the proposals.