Professional Practice column: already highly regarded and well used by solicitors, the team is still seeking to increase its service level
One of the biggest challenges for the Professional Practice team is to find ways to reach our members and to tell them about the unique service the team provides.
The current team is headed by Coral Riddell with a team of solicitors (Stella McCraw, Alison Mackay, Fiona J Robb, Mark Shepherd and Kaira Massie). All the team has real experience of life in private practice. The experience in the team, small as it is, spans working as a sole practitioner, to small firms, to large multinational practices. Between them the team has worked in relation to wills, trusts and executries, domestic and commercial property matters, litigation, arbitration, and commercial work. This gives the team a good background to deal with the range of queries dealt with by the service.
We have a number of unique selling points:
- We are all about solicitors. The Professional Practice team only speak to solicitors. Our interest is in you as an individual and in your capacity as a professional. The team will not take calls from clients, and therefore provide advice and guidance which is centred on you without the distraction or possible conflicting interests of clients or stakeholders.
- We operate a protocol of confidentiality. If you call us, you don’t have to give your name (although most solicitors do), because all calls to the team are confidential. The team retains confidential records which cannot be accessed by anyone other than the immediate Professional Practice team, and information about an individual, their firm or any issue is not shared beyond the solicitors in the team. There is, of course, a caveat to this where a solicitor personally admits to money laundering or threatens to commit an immediate criminal act. In those circumstances, the team would assess whether the protocol could be maintained.
- We are a free service. The service operates from the practising certificate fee and no additional charge is levied to members. We are here for you to call us or email us, and to help as best as we can. There is no charge for the service and members can contact us as often as they wish.
The pie chart (see above) summarises the categories of calls that we take, albeit this continues to be refined.
Not surprisingly, the most common calls ultimately focus on matters of conflict or confidentiality. Areas of law where we have seen a particular increase in the frequency of calls at the moment centre on private client and property matters.
The team has ambitions to develop, notwithstanding that we currently respond to more than 600 phone calls and 250 written communications each month.
A lesser-known commitment is that the team is responsible for a number of committees dealing with Civil Justice, Technology and Professional Practice, and also contributes to parliamentary consultations and projects.
There are some key things that the team won’t do, and these are as important as the service we do deliver. While the team may direct a solicitor to practice rules and offer recommendations, the team will not instruct a solicitor what they must do. We consider this to be strength of the service and in line with the Society’s values by respecting a solicitor’s professional judgment. In addition, the team will not report conversations to the regulatory arm of the Society. We are in a unique position in Scotland by having a joint function of regulation and representation, and it is a separation that is respected and maintained.
The introduction of the Professional Practice column in the Journal last year was intended to better explain what it is that the team do and how we might be able to help you. Over the course of the next year, the team will also be running a short survey at the end of email responses and phone calls. A link will also be available from the Society website, as we would like to hear feedback from the profession and to know why members use the service as well as why they might not.
Coral Riddell is head of the Professional Practice team. She is a solicitor with over 10 years in private practice having previously worked in construction and engineering law and commercial dispute resolution. She is also a director with the Scottish Arbitration Centre
As our service develops, we wish to remain relevant to solicitors at all stages in their career, so if you have feedback please get in touch. In the meantime, the Professional Practice number is 0131 226 8896, or email firstname.lastname@example.org