Establishing our value at home and abroad

I write this having taken office as President of the Law Society of Scotland all of three weeks ago. While this means I am still getting to grips with the role, I have had the benefit of a year as Vice President to meet many of our members and gain an understanding of the issues they are facing, and to establish the key areas of work I would like to take forward. These include modernising regulation to ensure continuing high professional standards and robust consumer protections, further reform around legal aid, the use of technology within the legal sector to enhance services, and career and development opportunities for solicitors and future solicitors from all backgrounds.

I have also had the good fortune over the past year to observe my predecessor, Alison Atack, carry out the role of President with warmth, grace and good humour. I am determined to build on the advances she has made in these areas of work, while continuing to provide a strong voice for our members and the clients they serve with such dedication.

At home, one of the main challenges we are facing is the threat to Law Society in its current form. The Scottish Government has just published its initial response to the Review of Legal Services Regulation Report and plans to consult further with various stakeholders (you can read our statement on the government’s response here). The main proposal for a single regulator would be the most significant change for the profession in 40 years and we want to hear from members, colleagues and stakeholders, whether or not you share our concerns about the risks that this would pose to professional standards and client service. Hearing the views and experiences of others will help us to have a constructive dialogue about our vision of the appropriate regulatory model for an excellent, 21st century legal profession, and the important role we believe we should continue to play in upholding the high standards expected of a Scottish solicitor.

Beyond our borders, the main challenge we face is in establishing our relationship with the rest of the world as part of a United Kingdom outside the European Union. In Scotland, we pride ourselves on punching above our weight when it comes to making our mark on the world. Last year the Society asked all Scottish law firms who fell within scope of the 2017 Money Laundering Regulations to return the first annual AML certificate, which highlighted some interesting statistics about our international reach as a profession. From Iceland to India, China to the Cayman Islands, Law Society of Scotland members do business all across the globe, with 62% of those firms reporting having non-UK clients on their books.

As the UK finds itself on the verge of negotiating new deals with trading partners across the globe, we have a collective responsibility to ensure that Scotland’s voice is heard in this process. With its recent publication Scotland: A Trading Nation, the Scottish Government is gearing up to make a substantial investment in trade and grow the country’s export performance. Scottish solicitors are ideally placed to support these trade initiatives. We are not only a significant economic generator in our own right, we are also critical to the success of Scotland’s other key sectors.

Whether at home or abroad, the invaluable contribution that Scottish solicitors make to all facets of society will be my inspiration for the year ahead, and I feel greatly honoured to have been given the opportunity to represent such a diverse range of interests as their President.

Bibliography - John Mulholland is a criminal law consultant at Falkirk-based Marshall Wilson Law Group and joined the Law Society of Scotland council in 2012, representing constituents in Alloa, Falkirk, Linlithgow and Stirling.John is Chair of the Law Society’s Board and sits on the Appeals and Reviews sub-committee. He is the former convener of both the Nominations committee and the Finance committee and is the former Treasurer.