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Speaking of change

12 February 07

President's message: the forthcoming Annual Conference and AGM of the Society both provide opportunities to keep abreast of the many changes facing the profession

by Ruthven Gemmell

The countdown to the Society’s Annual Conference is well under way. As President, I welcome the opportunity to meet so many members of the profession at a single event. The 2007 conference focuses on conveyancing, trusts, employment law and family law and, like so much else in the legal profession, these areas of law have undergone or are about to see considerable change. The wide-ranging sessions on offer will help to update practitioners on these subjects, and allow them to gain CPD hours in the process. For those still unaware, it takes place at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre on 2 March. I would urge anyone who wants to attend and has yet to sign up to do so.

A week later (9 March), the Society stages its Annual General Meeting at the Royal Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. This will include comment on the Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act and also consider the Legal Services Bill which is currently in the House of Lords before progressing to the House of Commons.

Next steps

The Legal Profession and Legal Aid (Scotland) Act 2007 received Royal Assent on 19 January and a meeting took place the following week with the Deputy Justice Minister and her civil servants to discuss the implementation process. A number of initiatives are planned to explain the provisions of the Act and this process to the profession.

We are taking an active interest in the progress of the Legal Services Bill as, although it relates principally to England and Wales, the proposed alternative business structures may have cross-border effects for all firms. The Society is keen to ensure that attention is paid to the Scottish legal system and that research is carried out into the impact of the new structures. Although not currently addressed by the Scottish Parliament, it would be unwise not to recognise the impact of externally financed and non-lawyer owned firms entering the Scottish market place or competing with Scottish firms.

Education and training too

The Society’s extensive consultation on education and training is due to be debated at the AGM. The consultation closes in mid-February, as this edition of the Journal is published. However, it is worthwhile reflecting on what has been an instructive project. There has been a good level of response from a wide range of members of the profession and others. The input has been well informed and the time contributors have taken to share their views is much appreciated. An analysis of the responses will follow.

Another successful initiative is the Donald Dewar Memorial Debating Tournament which, yet again, has attracted a large number of schools from across the country. This year the competition commemorates the 300th anniversary of the union of the parliaments of Scotland and England, with motions and venues to reflect that theme. Earlier this month 62 teams competed in the stage 2 heats, with only 16 winners going through to the regional finals, which start in March. Last year’s teams set exceptionally high standards but the quality of debate so far suggests that we can expect another keenly contested tournament. Good luck to all those involved.

Calling London

I was very pleased to be asked to attend one of the largest organised Burns Suppers in the United Kingdom, by the Society of Scottish Lawyers in London.

London has, outwith Edinburgh and Glasgow, the largest concentration of Scottish solicitors, and a growing number of Scottish firms actively work in London or have offices there. As their numbers increase, so the Society will be looking to see how best to communicate with this group.