Amanda Millar, President of the Law Society of Scotland 2020-21, explains how she found the confidence to be herself and carve a unique path in law and life.
I grew up under the expectation that I would do well at school, go to university and have a career in a profession, and so I did.
At the time that I finished my Diploma in Professional Legal Practice, the economy was struggling and there was a shortage of traineeships. I took the opportunity to be a tutor while I was still a student and, after finishing university, I became a lecturer and tutor in law. I realised that a long-term career in education wasn’t for me, so I kept looking for a traineeship and was ultimately successful a couple of years after leaving university.
As a trainee, I got the opportunity to work in many areas of law, including family, criminal and civil litigation. I am fascinated by the challenges many people face who don’t know where to turn. I became the first solicitor in the country accredited as a specialist in both mental health law and in incapacity and mental disability law. I have represented the interests of many vulnerable people, who have been unable to represent themselves for a wide range of reasons. I am also a keen advocate for the legal profession and society as a whole.
What was your motivation for becoming a solicitor?
It really was as simple as I got good grades and was better with words than equations! My stepfather and best friend at school had chosen the accountancy path and I knew that wasn’t the route for me, so I chose to study law instead.
What challenges did you encounter?
My first challenge at the start of my expected career as a solicitor was getting a traineeship. The next was getting off the path that those around me, when I was growing up, expected me to take in life generally and finding the path that allowed me to express and be my whole self.
How did you overcome these?
When it came to getting my traineeship, it was about persistence. Then it was about becoming confident in my ability to do my job and be myself. Getting to the point where I had my family of people who saw me and my work for their own value was tough, but worth it. In terms of the work I do, I am professional, clear, open-minded and curious enough to keep learning.
I accept, understand and often revel in the differences that the variety of human nature brings.
That also means the challenges will keep coming and I aim to meet them by speaking up, aiming for clarity and by being myself.
Did you have a role model and, if you did, who was it?
No, as a young lesbian, I didn’t see a visible role model who embodied my own experiences or ambitions, which is why I think it’s so important to be part of this campaign and to show that diversity does exist in the law. The legal profession is for everybody and should clearly reflect the society that it represents.
Have you any advice for anyone considering a career in law?
If you’re thinking about a legal career, the most important things you can do are speak to people, read and learn. It’s a career that can offer great variety and opportunity.
Also - remember, TV drama doesn’t always reflect real life, but if it makes you interested in the law, great! There are so many opportunities out there, so be curious and follow what is important to you. That may change as you grow and learn and that’s ok.