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I am now quite a few weeks into my presidency. I have to say that my fears ( and those of others) of being a complete eedjit have been partially allayed – though I necessarily can’t speak for the others. So far I don’t appear to have made a complete mess of anything, and I have been really busy with lots of positive work – sometimes dealing with negative issues and worries – and there has been general goodwill towards what I am trying to do, even from some of the folk who might be expected to be unimpressed with anything that the Society exercises itself about.
No laurels upon which to rest, but always 150 plates spinning on sticks to keep up. Relentless. I find that non-Society friends and colleagues ask various questions, of which the two top ones are: how do you manage to keep your practice going while you’re presiding; and don’t you have to go to loads of dinners?
The former – I have found that heading to Stranraer for a faculty meeting then Edinburgh for a judicial installation then Edinburgh again next day for a meeting with the Judicial Appointments Board and then Edinburgh again the following day to host a ceremony to welcome 69 new solicitors (guest speech by Frank Johnstone of McClure Naismith, one of my dearest and oldest friends – superb in both entertaining and motivating) is actually no more and no less like the days I was doing regular broadcasting. From the mid 1980’s to the mid 2000’s I was every week and sometimes every day working in TV and radio studios – often Inverness or London – and this is just like that. If I am out of the office, excellent colleagues will take point and look after the urgents. I will log in (the IT is so much better than in the early broadcasting days). Indeed I am doing this blog from my week’s holiday (sadly my only real break this year) in Spain, having checked in a few times through the day to emails and remote server to my office case management system.
And the dinners – I follow the example of one of our greatest Brits, Her Majesty the Queen. When you’re out at a sit-down do, don’t have the bread roll, don’t have the dessert and drink only water. Though unlike Auntie Liz, I always drive. That way you can’t be tempted (and you can make a sharp exit instead of waiting for the taxi that someone has forgotten to book). In fact there are not so many dinners – they seem to come in a September – December season and a smattering in the first quarter of the year. More likely is caffeine poisoning from all the daytime receptions and conference/seminar/meeting/reception duties.
What you need first and foremost is stamina. Last week before the hols each day I was up at 5 am, into the office and then out at 6.45, taxi to Queen St and 7.15 train to Haymarket. An hour at the desk in Drumsheugh and then off to the Court of Session, the Signet Library or one of a number of other venues to assist or preside as required. Eventually back to Giffnock mid or late afternoon, and catch up until early evening, quick swim and home for tea before the next day relentlessly approached. Believe me I am not complaining, it is a privilege to have the opporchancity to represent you all, but it is fitness and backbone you need before any legal or administrative expertise.
Speaking of those latter qualities, I am spoiled. Whereas in Lafferty chambers I am kind of chief cook and bottle washer – assisted in a flat back four by able colleagues, at the Law Society of Scotland I have a full staff of experts on which to call for assistance support and guidance. If I may preach for a moment, anyone who doubts the ability of the Society and its staff to represent and/or regulate should just be in the building for two days. The talents and devotion to the cause(s) are astounding, and you would just be off your head to change it.
So that’s a kind of logistical progress report. One political point: In my recent exchange with Walter Semple, he sought to limit the duty of the Law Society to representing the solicitor profession. I now remind him that the solicitor profession is not just firms in the high street and office blocks, it is solicitors in local government, banks, corporate bodies, retail giants, the fiscal service and yes, ABS companies.
I will keep in touch.
Image Credit: Richmond Real Estate