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Winter wondering

13 December 10

President's message: with the early onset of winter bringing a challenging year to a close, will 2011 bring better fortunes?

by Jamie Millar

The snow blanketing most of the country courtesy of icy Siberian winds is a timely reminder, if any were needed, that the festive season is almost upon us. And with Christmas card scenes at every turn, it seems a fitting opportunity to wish the members of the Law Society of Scotland, the hard-working staff in Drumsheugh Gardens and our stakeholders who receive the Journal the compliments of the season.

Of course, the wintry conditions bring difficulties too, and those of us struggling to and from work will be looking forward to an improvement in the weather. The same could be said for the profession, which has faced a number of challenges during 2010 and resiliently awaits a sustained upturn in the economy.

Meanwhile, the Society’s work on behalf of members continues. In the past month, we have issued our response to the Gill review and made further representations to Lloyds Banking Group over its extremely disappointing decision to restrict its conveyancing panel in Scotland.

In other conveyancing issues, we will be looking in detail at the Supreme Court decision in the repossession case involving the Royal Bank of Scotland. Our preliminary view on current sale transactions that have not yet settled is that buyers’ solicitors should be firm about declining to settle the transaction until selling creditors can produce evidence of having followed correct procedures.

Our work continues in relation to another Supreme Court ruling, along with the emergency legislation that followed the Cadder case, as we are now preparing for the Carloway review. Considerable effort will also be devoted to responding to the Scotland Bill, which has just been introduced at Westminster.

Also during the past month, the Society held six roadshows – in Edinburgh, Dundee, Dumfries, Inverness, Aberdeen and Glasgow – where members took the opportunity to hear about the work of the Society and, more importantly, to engage with the office bearers, the executive and Council members to express views on a range of subjects from the panel cuts to accounts rules and the Cadder decision.

The review of the Society’s constitution and standing orders was also raised by a number of those attending. A survey of solicitors has produced some interesting results on issues such as the size and composition of the Council, all of which will be taken into account during the process of redrafting the documents in time for the January Council meeting. The Society is a members’ organisation and must reflect the views of its members. It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to meet so many of you at the roadshows and to find out what you are thinking.

As 2010 comes to a close, can we look forward to a more successful and prosperous 2011? As a profession, we have emerged stronger from periods of recession before. I can still remember as a recently qualified solicitor the joys of the three-day week in 1974. My bedside reading at the moment is a book about the 70s called When the Lights Went Out, and while the recession was deep then, the country entered a period of rapid growth later in the decade. Things will improve if we take a positive view of the future and all play our part in the economic recovery. Laws continue to be made and there is still work for lawyers. Some sectors may have been hit harder than others, but everyone should be prepared to take advantage of the upturn when it arrives.

Midway through my presidency, I am optimistic about the progress we will continue to make in 2011. And I know that the other office bearers, as well as those nominated for next year’s vice presidency – Oliver Adair, Austin Lafferty and David Newton – share a positive view of the future.

Happy Christmas and best wishes for the coming year – who knows, with five wins out of their last six matches, Scotland may just be a long shot for the Rugby World Cup in 2011, to emulate the success of their lawyer counterparts who won the Lawyers Rugby World Cup in 2009 and will next year defend their title in Italy.

President Jamie Millar

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