18 June 12
This month's Law Society of Scotland Council member profile: Alison Atack (Glasgow)
What is your own practice area?
I am a partner in the Private Client Department of Lindsays, in their Glasgow office. We also have offices in Edinburgh, North Berwick, Jedburgh, Dundee and Arbroath. During the 39 years since I graduated, I have been with very large, medium and small firms, even a sole practitioner at one stage when the flexibility of being my own boss helped with family commitments. I have done a variety of work ranging from property through to commercial and some corporate. However, nothing seemed more rewarding to me than helping individuals in time of stress.
What motivates you to get up on a Monday morning?
Plain, good, old-fashioned Scottish work ethic, I’m afraid. Try as I hard as I can, I cannot get rid of it.
What’s your top tip for new lawyers?
Care for and communicate in plain English with your clients. Tell them what you are going to do for them, why and how you are going to charge. Keep them informed of progress or, even more importantly, lack of it.
How long have you been a member of Council and how did you become involved?
More years than I care to think about. I had been on the Council of the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow (RFPG) and they asked me to represent them. I did not seek it out. Since then I have been re-nominated several times and lived through at least three elections.
In what specific capacities have you served (office bearer, committee or other)?
I am currently on the Regulatory Committee, the board, Remuneration Committee, and vice convener of the Professional Practice Committee. I have served on the Insurance, Audit and Guarantee Fund Committees and convened the Competence, Professional Conduct and Remuneration Committees, as well as the shadow Regulatory Committee before a lay member had to be appointed.
What have been the highlights for you personally?
I have enjoyed my time on Council enormously. I have met fellow lawyers from Shetland to Stranraer, from every type of practice area and size of firm, and had a huge return on the time invested. I have learned more about the profession and its diversity and humanity than I could ever have done sitting behind a desk in Glasgow.
How do you keep in touch with members in your constituency?
Largely through RFPG and email. I would have liked to have had a complete database of Glasgow members, but this is not easy given the numbers and the fact that not all are members of the Faculty or GBA. I like to think I have helped individuals who have contacted me directly over the years, in confidence, for advice when dealing with complaints or Guarantee Fund issues. This holistic side of the Society is the most important for me. I am there to help the members, not in any way for self-promotion.
What do you see as the main issues that your local members want Council to address at present?
Solicitors have been through an unprecedented rollercoaster rise and fall of client instructions since 2008.The recovery has taken much longer than anticipated. Our natural instincts of survival in the economic environment, once the norm for an experienced solicitor, have let us down. Added to all this, the banks have tightened up on their lending criteria, leaving many exposed. Anything we can do to support the profession through this uncertain time we are doing. There have been some excellent initiatives such as the High Street practice conferences, but we have to think outside the box a bit ourselves to change the patterns of a lifetime.
What do you see as the other main issues that Council has to address at present?
The future regulation of the profession and the bedding in of the new Regulatory Committee. The lay members, a team of highly intelligent and professional people, have proved to be a great addition to the system and bring a whole new fresh approach to the life of the Society in general. We have to face too the future shape of how legal services are to be delivered and, love it or loathe it, alternative structures are already with us. There are opportunities there for everyone and more job opportunities for the youth of the profession, who will after all be taking forward with pride the Scottish solicitor brand.
If you could change only one thing for your members, what would it be?
Get financial institutions to start lending again. After all, it is largely to do with their failures that we are where we are. Entrepreneurship needs to be encouraged to create more growth. Not so long ago the legal profession was one of the largest employers in the country. I would also like to see harmony in the profession and an acceptance that we are all seeking a common goal.
What keeps you busy outside of work?
I love walking in the hills near to home, music (particularly opera), and I am a fellow of the RSA and involved in local projects such as the Well-being Forum and Enlightened Enterprise. But most of all I enjoy the fellowship of friends and family.