This month's Law Society of Scotland Council member profile: David Preston (Campbeltown, Dunoon, Oban, Rothesay and Fort William)
What is your own practice area?
For 30 years I was a partner in general private practice in Oban. For the past eight years, following the sale of the firm, I have been convener/chair of a number of tribunals and sit as a legal assessor. I have also been developing a mediation practice throughout Scotland and I provide consultancy services to law firms.
What motivates you to get up on a Monday morning?
The total contrast between the nature and variety of work in which I am now involved against years in private practice.
What’s your top tip for new lawyers?
Maintain a sensible work/life balance, and try as far as possible to maintain a range of skills to avoid overspecialisation.
How long have you been a member of Council and how did you become involved?
I was on the Council from 1991-2007 and, after a break of four years, I put myself forward again in 2011. I consider it vital that rural areas retain a good presence on Council despite the difficulties that members perceive in participating fully. Any such difficulties are outweighed by the benefits all round.
In what specific capacities have you served (office bearer, committee or other)?
There are very few committees which I have not served on, and/or convened. Indeed many of them no longer exist! I served as an office bearer between 2001 and 2003.
What have been the highlights for you personally?
Without doubt, serving the profession as President and representing the profession nationally and internationally was the greatest honour which can be granted to any solicitor. Within that, the highlights were the many faculty meetings and the direct interaction with firms where I was able to engage with individual members of the profession.
How do you keep in touch with members in your constituency?
In view of the geography involved in rural Scotland – with difficulty! I also attend faculty meetings.
What do you see as the main issues that your local members want Council to address at present?
Court reform and the eternal pressures on legal aid will have significant impact on rural practices, not to say communities. Court closures are serious, but in addition the west of Scotland, which will lose Rothesay Sheriff Court entirely, will suffer from the downgrading of business from the sheriff courts, which will have significant impact on access to justice locally. In other areas of practice, lenders have already made life difficult by removing small firms from panels, not on the basis of quality of work or ability, but entirely on volume which can be difficult to maintain when the same number of lenders are serving fewer borrowers. “Sep rep” will avoid an element of unfairness in the market place by creating a level playing field.
What do you see as the other main issues that Council has to address at present?
With my enthusiasm for mediation and ADR, I think that the profession has to embrace entirely new and different ways of doing things and departing from what is regarded as the norm. We will have to listen more to clients and provide what they want, even if that means adopting different ways of doing things to provide the value for money clients are looking for. The same applies to conveyancing and the timely review in that sector. I also continue to have concerns about effective regulation of ABS, which is currently being driven by politics rather than principles, and look what happened to the banks when that happened!
If you could change only one thing for your members, what would it be?
Switch off the recession!
What keeps you busy outside of work?
Golf, skiing, hillwalking, the odd bit of sailing, and grandchildren (despite my young age!) – and the Society.