Sharon Wares, a solicitor with The Highland Council and member of the Society's in-house lawyers committee, tells us why she is a proud member of the Faculty of Solicitors of the Highlands
I remember when I was a teenager in Edinburgh, we had a terribly hard winter one year. However, one of the best things happened as a result: our radio station, Radio Forth, started to broadcast local information such as school closures, road closures and information which really made you feel part of the community. The popularity of the station rose and it is this same strong community ‘looked after’ feeling that I have for my local faculty, the Faculty of Solicitors of the Highlands, and the work it does.
There is a wide variety of kinds of in-house lawyer across the area: some work for financial institutions, football and rugby clubs, car dealerships, utility companies, oil companies, government (local and national) and government agencies and on and on. There is a variety also amongst solicitors working in private practice firms and the local faculty is open to all.
As an in-house lawyer in local government, I did feel uncertain about what I could contribute at one faculty board meeting I attended because, naturally, there was much discussion about business on the high street. However, there is so much commonality and so many mutual areas of interest, that everyone can contribute: for example, the recent changes in data protection legislation concern all, combined with the fact that in-house lawyers work for many types of business.
The Faculty of Solicitors of the Highlands, like many faculties, is more than simply a local network. It has created its own standard missives which have recently been updated. During all the property law changes, the faculty not only arranged relevant CPD but also was a regular conduit of information from the Law Society.
The Law Society also has a role to play in supporting the local faculty network: Organising Presidential tours, providing CPD in the area and it regularly arranges free remote access seminars to benefit faculty members.
My faculty also sends out minutes of meetings about the Inverness Sheriff and JP court advisory committee and these are of interest. Council solicitors appear at the civil courts on a regular basis so keeping up to date is vital.
There are areas which you might not think hold any interest for the in-house solicitor, such as wills or trusts, however the Council can be left legacies, so we need to ensure we stay current.
Local faculties are not just for legal matters and updates. It’s about collegiality. We suffered a terrible loss in April last year when our much respected and beloved Legal Manager Lesley Howie died at only 53 years age. Lesley was a person who no matter the immense weight of the work which she carried, always had time for others. She was always helpful, always kind, always patient and her death was a great loss to us and the wider legal community that had dealings with her. The Society's president at the time, Graham Matthews, was visiting the faculty in Inverness and kindly broke the news to many members who would not have been aware of her passing. It meant a great deal to us because we are a community and a loss of a solicitor like Lesley is a loss to all.
It’s important for us that our faculty continues to thrive. It’s entering a new phase now, with many of the stalwarts retiring, and continues to be a centre for the local legal community which we should all support. I hope that this year the faculty will make Inverness the home of another Scottish Legal Walk for the Access to Justice Foundation amongst its many activities – I’ll certainly be ready to get my walking boots on to support a fantastic cause along with my fellow faculty members.
If you are keen to learn more about your local faculty, contact our Head of High Street Engagement Katie McKenna