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Wood's words of wisdom

1 July 04

Report of Sheriff Lindsay Wood's address to newly qualified solicitors

“I think it is an exceptional time to be qualifying as a solicitor”, said Sheriff Lindsay Wood, addressing 55 newly qualified solicitors at the June Admission Ceremony. Sheriff Wood, who qualified in 1979, pointed to the opportunities nowadays in England, Europe and beyond, or to qualify as solicitor advocate, the openness in judicial appointments, and the advance of women in the profession.

Integrity, confidence, professionalism and the ability to learn from mistakes are the qualities the sheriff commended to his audience. Integrity, because people trust in you. Confidence is important “but it must be pitched at the right level”. Lack of confidence or overconfidence will be easily detected by a client or indeed the court. “In order to be confident, you need to know the facts, you need to know the law and you may even require to take advice yourself from a colleague or from counsel. You should be assured with your advice and do not back down simply because your client does not like what you are saying.” Professionalism is something to look for in those around you and emulate.

“I can’t emphasis enough how important it is that you show respect for all those you come in contact with”, he added. “From the cleaners downwards, treat everyone the same and in your dealings with other solicitors, I suggest you will get more pleasure and achieve more if you are a conciliatory, helpful person rather than one who is difficult and pigheaded.”

“If you think you have learned a lot to get to the stage you are at today, that is nothing to what you are going to learn in the years to come”, he commented, recommending his listeners develop a specialism. “I can assure you that it is enjoyable having a deep knowledge and interest in a subject and the benefit is consequent that when you are advising or representing clients, you do so with greater confidence and authority. Try it.”

Sheriff Wood praised the Society’s work for its members. “It is all very easy when the Government brings in changes we might not like to blame the Law Society for this. But the fact of the matter is that they are always batting for the profession.  I have the highest regard for the current Chief Executive and his staff and all the solicitors who give of their time as Council Members. If you get the opportunity or invitation to do anything for the Law Society, treat it as a privilege and do it.”

And in a speech liberally sprinkled with humorous asides (for which see also the Hearsay column), he recounted how “Just last week, one of our ‘city centre workers’ in Glasgow, believing that she might be on a sticky wicket, said to me in the finest district court terms, ‘Your Honour, can you no’ be lenient and passionate’. Tempting as it was, I couldn’t find it in me to oblige.”