Reflecting on the important work of the past year, and the handover to incoming office bearers – with an immense thank you to all for help and support during the year
In my first column, I likened the change in President to changing driver in a long distance motor race. So it feels, as I pen my final column, as if I am heading into the final straight with the pit lane close ahead.
What a concentrated year it has been, packed with a constant stream of weighty issues, challenges and opportunities. I am proud of the way the Society has addressed all of these: it has done so with energy, passion, commitment, and no small measure of effectiveness.
In particular, I am enormously proud of our work on the independence referendum. Always challenging, we have plotted a course through the turbulent waters of the debate, adding along the way new insight from our firmly and proudly non-partisan position. And more will follow this month, with the publication of our concluded discussion paper from last August.
I set out with an overarching aim constantly and tirelessly to embed, extend or develop the relevance of the Society and the solicitors’ profession, whether to clients, citizens, civic and institutional Scotland or to government; nationally and internationally. And, of course, to drive the relevance of the Society to the solicitors’ profession itself.
I like to think this has been recognised, through an ever evolving range of initiatives across the profession and more widely. Internally there has been much evolution, such as the way Council deals with strategic business, the self-assessment annually by each committee of its effectiveness (and other work to support this); and, as I undertook at my first Council meeting as President, I will be self-assessing my own performance over the year at this month’s meeting. I will be interested to learn what Council thinks!
While the pit lane may be in sight, I am not slowing down yet. I am just back from visiting solicitors up and down Argyll, and this month will see me in Orkney and Shetland, Greenock, and (hopefully) Ayr and Kilmarnock. I will also be in London meeting UK and Ireland law societies, and selling next April’s Commonwealth Law Conference to the International Bar Association in Brussels.
May also sees this year’s Council elections, with an unprecedented 18 candidates, 12 from Edinburgh. It is hugely telling to have such interest, and from candidates right across the profession. It is worth noting that, for the first time in many years, there will be no vacancy in any constituency. This is, of course, as it should be, but I am nonetheless delighted to see it.
As I type this, word has reached me of the very sad death of Professor Stewart Hamilton. Though the opportunity publicly to pay tribute to him will have arisen long before the Journal hits readers’ doormats, I expressly wanted to record, here, my personal sadness and sense of loss. I hugely enjoyed working with him on the Council and the Audit Committee and counted him as a friend. Both his comradeship and his contribution will be sorely missed, but long remembered.
Parting thoughts and thanks
Having the opportunity to represent the Scottish solicitors’ profession and the Society to a range of audiences, in different places and in various contexts has been truly astonishing. It has been an enormous honour, privilege and pleasure. And I am left with a sense of cautiously expanding optimism – backed up by some of the economic data – at what the future holds for our constantly evolving profession.
I hand over to Alistair Morris and Christine McLintock at a pivotal time for the profession and the Society. It will be 20 years this November since I was admitted as a solicitor. Alistair has been on the Society’s Council for longer. I thank him for his support over the last year and offer him every possible success in what will be a bumper period; I believe he and Christine will prove to be a highly effective team for profession and Society alike.
Of course I will still be around, somewhere, should I be needed. Exactly where remains to be seen; other than a break, one of my early priorities will be to consider what I might do next! Though my career is (I hope) only around the halfway mark, my time as President of the Law Society of Scotland will unquestionably remain its zenith, regardless of what is to come.
Throughout my term, I have enjoyed the most humbling degree of support from solicitors right across Scotland and well beyond; in London and my recent visit to Bristol (the first by a President of the Society) from the dozen or so Scottish solicitors based there; and also from our international colleagues. I have also had really great support from Lorna and all at the excellent Drumsheugh team; to them I publicly offer my sincere thanks.
My lasting thoughts rest with all my fellow solicitors, who have helped to make this year so enjoyable but also, I hope, successful. Thank you all so very much.
Bruce Beveridge is President of the Law Society of Scotland
e: Bruce Beveridge@lawscot.org.uk