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Society blog

21 Feb 18

Scottish Legal International comes to fruition

Joint initiative aims to promote Scottish profession internationally

30 Aug 17

A paralegal's tale

Janet Rieu-Clarke, the Law Society’s accredited paralegal, explains the path that led her to new role at the Society and the rationale behind the new accredited paralegal status.

30 Aug 17

A call to vote from John Scott

John Scott QC urges his fellow solicitor advocates to vote for their dedicated representative

29 Aug 17

No globalisation without representation...

Katie Hay discusses the globalisation of the legal market and urges Scottish solicitors working internationally, to get involved

24 Jul 17

Bringing the world to "world-class"

Sarah Sutton, digital communications executive at the Law Society of Scotland, talks about her bright idea to ensure international representation on the Society’s Council

26 Jun 17

The Debate - backstage, front of house and top tips

In this mini-series of blogs, three key players in the Donald Dewar Memorial Debating Tournament share their individual perspectives of the event.

19 Jun 17

Got a passion for the profession?

Could one of the 23 current vacancies for 16 different committees be just right for you?

28 Apr 17

Professional Practice - advising the advisers

Scottish solicitors help their clients through some of the most momentous occasions of their lives, personal or professional, good or bad. But where do solicitors turn for support? Prof Prac, that's where.

1 Nov 16

How getting involved in debating can change your life

Head of education Rob Marrs explains how getting involved in debating, whether as competitor or judge, can be incredibly rewarding. And more importantly, he explains how to win a debate.

14 Oct 16

Career development and volunteering at the Law Society of Scotland

If you want to enhance your career, develop your skills or just give back to your profession, there are lots of different personal and professional development opportunities at the Society

Editors Blog

Under siege

9 Oct 18

After the extra money announced for prosecutors and then the police, something has to be done now for the defence sector

Warnings over the future of the criminal defence sector of the profession are not new. It is at least 15 years (a little before my time in post) since the Journal first flagged up the threat posed by the increasing age profile of defence solicitors, and the lack of new blood coming in.

Perhaps the political reaction then, if there was one at all, was, “It isn’t going to happen any time soon.” Now, in 2018, it surely is. As John Scott QC observes in our lead interview, many colleagues are still the ones he knew when starting out 30 years ago, now in their 60s or 70s. Worse, he and his peers feel unable even to advise those hoping to enter the profession to consider defence work. That from people who have dedicated their working lives to enabling justice to be seen to be done in the criminal courts.

Should that come as a surprise? Financially, defence lawyers have been squeezed for years and most can only operate by keeping overheads to an absolute minimum. The legal aid review passed the ticking parcel of what to do about rates back to the Government, which has yet to respond. Our employment survey, on p 16 of this issue, reveals that 90% have either had no increase in earnings, or in many cases taken a cut, in the past year, and even those of many years’ experience may be towards the foot of the earnings league. And as we also reported last month, they are the solicitors most at risk of violence, from clients or others, with many experiencing repeated incidents over the years.

Should policymakers need further evidence of where this may lead, they need look no further than England & Wales, where the Law Society predicts, with a “heatmap” in support, that due to the increasing age profile, in five to 10 years’ time many regions could have too few defence lawyers.

It should not need to be pointed out, though perhaps it does, that the decline in numbers, and career appeal, will not be easily or quickly reversed, given the time needed to qualify and gain experience. Surely it would also be more expensive to have public sector employees fill the gap?

In the past month or so we have had the announcement of a £3.6 million budget increase for the prosecution service to help it cope with its caseload, and a 6.5% pay rise for
the police. Neither of these are grudged, but is it not now screamingly obvious that something has to be done also for the third limb of the justice system, and fast?


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Blog archive

3 Dec 18

A turbulent Christmas

Depressing divisions and a lack of clear thinking dominate the Brexit scene. But (stop press) there is something positive in the official reaction to the legal aid review

7 Nov 18

Put to the test

The Society's position as regulator will come under renewed scrutiny following the Roberton report, but the report itself should equally be subjected to proper scrutiny

9 Oct 18

Under siege

After the extra money announced for prosecutors and then the police, something has to be done now for the defence sector

10 Sep 18

Programme for action?

How much can we expect to happen through the Scottish Government's Programme for Government?

6 Aug 18

No deal, no say?

The arguments for a second EU referendum apply with greater force in a "no deal" scenario

9 Jul 18

System under threat

Items in this month's issue illustrate increasing threats to the rule of law and the integrity of the legal system

11 Jun 18

Speaking out

The benefit sanctions system has drawn some unusually sharp comments from the Society, but the need for such strictures is likely to increase

8 May 18

After Windrush

The treatment of those of Caribbean origin shows a need for the law to be rebalanced

9 Apr 18

Mind the gap

Do the Gender Pay Gap Regulations provide enough useful information to justify their approach?

12 Mar 18

Case to be made

If the independent legal aid review could not find evidence to support a general rise in fees, what should the response be?