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Like tears in the rain

17 May 10

President's message: a huge number of people deserve thanks for helping make my Presidential year a memorable experience

by Ian Smart

I toyed with a quotation on which to found my last President’s column.

I’ve always had a theory that some films are perfect, in the sense that, given the chance of a remake, the viewer would not add or subtract a single scene. No matter how familiar you are with them, once glimpsed, they suck you in, inevitably keeping you in place until the final reel.

There is no ideology to this. ET stands beside The Godfather; The Quiet Man alongside Roman Holiday; Pretty Woman with Casablanca; Toy Story and Toy Story 2 eternally failing to resolve the question of whether the sequel ever surpasses the original. The quotation in the title also belongs, I believe, to a perfect film (notwithstanding the, later, director’s cut); I have left a prize (in the editor’s hands) to be given to the first member to identify it.

I wish I could make a similar claim of perfection for my year as President, to which there will be no personal sequel. It has been a great experience to serve as your President. I know that’s what I’m expected to say, but it is nonetheless true. I may not have seen “attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion” (that’s a hint to the quiz question), but I did attend the opening of the new Supreme Court; I witnessed Lord Gill announce the conclusions of his magisterial review; on my one foreign trip I was received by the President of Austria in the very room where the Congress of Vienna took place; and I was pulled up, by name, by the Lord President himself for smoking in Parliament Square on the occasion of the opening of the legal year.

None of these occurrences are within the normal life experience of a legal aid lawyer from Cumbernauld, so, in drawing up a vote of thanks, I must start by thanking you, the membership, for affording me that opportunity.

But there are so many other people to thank: the sheriffs, sheriff clerks, fiscals and above all my colleagues at the bar at Airdrie Sheriff Court for their indulgence of my non-availability for large parts of the year, and their assistance, not least in regard to my own clients, in covering for my absence. Sheriff courts are the workhorses of our criminal and civil justice systems, but they only work properly where all their constituent parts appreciate that the recognition of distinct functions does not prevent working together for the greater good. No court works better than Airdrie in that regard.

Then there are my own, long suffering, staff: Lisa O and Lisa N, Angie, Janis, Diane and Joyce. Whether it is in Saltire Court, Edinburgh or Annan House, Cumbernauld, any legal firm is only as good as the people who work for it. I am exceptionally fortunate in that regard.

Thanks also to the members of the Council of the Law Society of Scotland. There is no space to identify individuals, but whether it is in negotiating with external agencies on everything from legal aid to conveyancing panels; supervising regulation, from complaints to accounts rules; working through the grinding detail of routes to qualification or insurance requirements; or sitting through worthy committee meetings to aid the cause of law reform, your Council, and indeed a myriad of non-Council committee members, lawyers or not, labour long and hard for the greater good of the profession. They deserve more recognition.

But finally, there is one group of people with whom it has been a particular privilege to work for the last 12 months. I make no apology for listing them by name. I suspect you might recognise no more than a few names there, but they are the staff of the Law Society of Scotland. Presidents will come and go, but long after I’m back at the coal face, concerned with little more than passing my next accounts inspection and otherwise hoping to hear as little as possible from Drumsheugh Gardens, they, or their successors, will be working away on all our behalfs. They don’t just deserve my thanks. They deserve all our thanks.

And so, that’s it. I usually sign off with something like “See you next month.” This time I won’t, at least on this page. Hopefully, however, I’ll see you in court.

Over to Jamie.

Ian

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