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Hi everyone. First blog since taking office.
I have hesitated and held off because I am acutely aware that anything I say or write always carries, for better or worse, the imprimatur of one of the senior Office Bearers of the Law Society of Scotland - I am no longer a private citizen but am a full-time representative of this body. Whereas before in the last 30 years if I had gone off the rails I would have been in the tabloids as Shamed Top Lawyer (everyone is a 'Top Lawyer' to the tabloids), now it would be 'Law Chief Shames Profession'.
So be it. I have found the position stimulating, challenging, hard work, and responsible. And a sea change in my professional life. There are 10,800 solicitors in Scotland, and I am the VP for all of them – crofting solicitor in Oban, licensing lawyer in Dundee, fiscal in Perth, PDSO solicitor in Glasgow, Edinburgh megafirm commercial property associate, senior partner on Paisley High Street, criminal lawyer in Victoria Road- 57 varieties of legal professional, all in my bailiwick.
So how to proceed? I have views, opinions, wishes and attitudes – I am no cipher (or some of the less objective epithets given me by certain colleagues, drunk or sober). I am ready to debate and argue as before, and will be prepared to be judged by my peers, but it is only fair that I do that in real life, in meetings and conferences and phone calls, not in unilateral blogs. One of the great things about the Firm is that the editor lets me say and write what I like – right enough I am unlikely to say anything outrageous or unlawful, but the freedom is much appreciated – and that was fine while I was a humble (?) footsoldier on the council of the Law Society of Scotland and a high street general practitioner. Being an actual, er, General brings new responsibilities and limitations . I don’t complain but I do understand.
So what has it been like so far, a month or two into the job? Lots of meetings, many new tasks inside Drumsheugh Gardens and elsewhere – first job was an evening meeting with the local faculty in Arbroath. Then Kilmarnock, and events in Dunkeld, Dunblane, and loads of things in Edinburgh. I am a frequent flyer on the Glasgow/Haymarket train. But fundamentally the job is about people. I have met so many men women and youngsters whom I would not have come across if not for my official duties. And that is what has been the best. You’ll all know the law is about real people, and one benefit of the job is that we get involved in real lives and resolving real problems. Talking to folk who have questions, views, complaints and agendas is a rich seam for the work of a VP.
The Law Society of Scotland is a body that is central to the life of lawyers and non-lawyers. So much great work is done behind the scenes, and I am getting to see and appreciate that more even than when I joined the council. My mission is and will be to help translate that work into a clear and fair perception – for a change turning the substance into style instead of the other way about.
I am acutely aware of the problems. Legal aid, police station cover, in-house lawyers issues, constitutional change still not tied down, the reality of ABS birth, reorganization of training routes to practice. And more, lots more. I am shaping up to chair my first council meeting – with a slew of new non-solicitor members (whom I helped to select) – scary or what?
All I can say is that I am now in it up to the oxters. Perhaps it is too early for me to judge the job, or for the constituents to judge me. But one thing I can say is that I don’t agree with Confuscius. I ONLY want to live in interesting times