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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

Society Blog

Professional Practice - advising the advisers

28 Apr 17

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.

Fiona Robb, Director of Professional Practice at the Law Society of Scotland, talks us through the member services provided by the Prof Prac team.

What is your role at the Law Society of Scotland?

As Director of Professional Practice, I manage a team of three senior solicitors and we are about to be joined by a registered paralegal. The team sits within the Member Services directorate and offers free and confidential advice and information to our members. We have all been in private practice, so we understand the pressures. It is not our role to offer advice on points of law, but we can advise on rules, guidance and ethical matters. The diversity and complexity of our conversations is often challenging, but we have a strong sense of team spirit and no two days are the same.

Tell us a bit about your career so far and what inspired you to join the Society?

I studied in law in Aberdeen and did my diploma in Edinburgh before becoming a personal injury and professional negligence litigator for Anderson Strathern and then Dundas & Wilson (now CMS).

Having built up a solid body of experience in private practice, I became aware of a gap in my development which would be bridged by a broader understanding of the legal framework, our regulatory body and essentially, what goes on behind the scenes.

I also discovered the Society’s progressive approach as employers, and as a working parent the flexible working opportunities were enough to confirm my next career move.

I first joined the Society as a complaints investigator in 2003 and moved into Professional Practice a couple of years later. I was excited to be appointed Director in 2016.

Have your perceptions of the Law Society changed since you started?

I think my perceptions have changed, but mostly in line with how the Society has changed. The way in which we support our members has undergone a fairly dramatic transformation in recent years. We are the profession’s regulatory body and that informs much of what we do as an organisation, but we are much more customer focused and member led in terms of the services we offer and provide. The changes have definitely been for the better.

What do you see as the main challenges currently facing the profession?

Some legal aid rates have been frozen for 25 years, which means that in real terms Scottish solicitors are struggling to make a viable business case to offer their clients much needed legal aid. The implications are alarming for the profession, the public and access to justice.

Solicitors have embraced technical and digital ways of working, but the challenge for our members is to stay one step ahead of cybercrime to outmanoeuvre the fraudsters.

Talking to solicitors, it is clear that none of us are comfortable with the current period of political uncertainty.  As a profession, we have proven to be fairly adaptable to change, but it is the ambiguity which makes planning for change difficult. No doubt many will approach this challenge as an opportunity and choose to survive and thrive. Interesting times!

How does your team support Scottish solicitors?

The team has a diverse range of skills and experience.  With 10 years in private practice under her belt, Gillian is the most recent addition to our team and has fitted in seamlessly. Gillian specialises in conveyancing and work under the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000. Russell worked in commercial litigation and employment law for over 20 years and has spent time as a staff partner and a money laundering reporting officer. Matthew is our international expert and his background includes cross-border and in-house experience. He also worked on our Policy team for several years before joining Professional Practice.

While our specialisms are a mixed bag, we share a drive to support the Scottish legal community whether they are working as paralegals, in private practice or in-house.

Are you and your team working on anything new in terms of member services?

We are constantly looking at new and better ways to support our members, but one specific product we are working on is a structured dispute resolution service. We will set up a Society panel of approved solicitor arbitrators and without going into too much detail, the net result of this new slicker process will be an improved user experience and additional revenue for our members. Alternative dispute resolution is a growth area and we want to assist members who obtain specialist accreditation seeing a return on their investment. Watch this space.

What would you say to someone starting out in a career in law?

I am really proud of being a Scottish solicitor – and you should be too. We have an important role to play in Scottish families, communities, commerce and public bodies. Remember you can steer your career in the direction suited to your talents and interests. There is a vast range of career opportunities open to Scottish solicitors and your PC is held in high regard outwith Scotland too – our members based in London alone account for nearly 4% of our total population. Be proud. The world is your oyster.

Finally, what keeps you occupied outside of work?

Where do I start? I am a lotus posing yoga lover, a Cava, Shiraz and Sauvignon slurper, and a fair weather skier, mum of two and golf widow endlessly endeavouring to pack it all in. Does anyone else notice the days getting shorter?

You can find out more about the Professional Practice team and the service they provide on the Law Society of Scotland website.

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Blog archive

7 Oct 19

High noon

The welcome decision of the UK Supreme Court in the prorogation case shows the need for a court free from political influence

9 Sep 19

Courts and politics

Courts should be able to intervene if an abuse of power threatens the balance between executive and legislature

12 Aug 19

Constitutional meltdown?

The fundamentals of our constitution should not be put at risk simply in order to achieve Brexit by the scheduled date

8 Jul 19

70, and counting

The Society is in good shape as it turns 70, though uncertainty lies ahead

12 Jun 19

Uncovering the unacceptable

Our self-styled ethical profession has a problem of bullying and harassment. Can it be treated as a question of fitness to practise?

15 May 19

Make wellbeing a thing

Staff wellbeing in legal firms has to become a matter of culture, with supporting mechanisms in place

8 Apr 19

Law for people

The dignity of the law has come before the dignity of those caught up in its processes. What might happen if that were reversed?

12 Mar 19

Shape your future

Despite the uncertainty, it would benefit legal firms to think proactively about how to react to Brexit

11 Feb 19

Flexible is possible

As this month's lead feature illustrates, large and small firms alike can operate flexible working practices, and there appear to be few issues with clients when they do

14 Jan 19

Seeking the positive

A bit of flexibility and imagination can achieve things this year, whether for a business in the face of Brexit or for employees to improve their work-life balance, and wellbeing