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Plan into action

14 November 16

As the Society publishes its annual plan for 2016-17, it imagines a typical day during the year as its teams pursue the various objectives set out

What will keep the Law Society of Scotland busy in the next 12 months? What will keep its Council councilling, its President presidenting, its staff staffing and its committees committed?

On 1 November they started work on an ambitious new programme of activity and objectives. So, let’s imagine a typical day in the life of the Society in 2016-17.

Policy agenda

Dawn has barely broken on Morrison Street, Edinburgh, but the revolving door that sweeps you into the Society’s office is already going full pelt. It’s a committee day and many of the 500 or so volunteers on the Society’s expert groups are reporting for duty.

Members of the newly-formed Public Policy Committee are among the first to arrive. Today they’ll be discussing Government plans for a new British Bill of Rights, among other policy proposals.

But first, on this chilly morning, top of the agenda is a hot cup of coffee. Sadly, there’s already a queue at the machine. Regulatory Committee members (lined up in orderly fashion, as you’d expect) are grabbing a brew. They too have important work to attend to this morning.

Non-solicitor convener Carole Ford will lead the meeting, which starts with a look at the latest on complaints handling and how the Society can find a solution to issues relating to complaints made up of both service and conduct elements.

As the meeting moves into its second hour, the committee undertakes a detailed assessment of progress on proposed new legislation to regulate the profession – another of the Society’s main priorities in 2016-17.

Member options

In the background, a phone query arises: “I’m looking for some advice about my membership options now that I’ve finished practising as a solicitor.”

It’s good timing. Just the day before, a new package of services for non-practising members was agreed, and the details are relayed down the phone. The member also gets a full rundown of the new categories of membership available. “Oh, I didn’t realise that,” they reply, before hanging up and renewing their membership online.

“Another member retained, plenty more to go,” the Society’s director of member services thinks to herself, as she glances at the 2016-17 annual plan growth targets pinned to a nearby notice board.

As well as existing member retention, the targets pinned up around the office include a 15% increase in paralegal members, £2 million in commercial income and a 10% increase in member participation. These notice boards have high expectations in 2016-17.

Speaking of ambitious boards, the Society’s board has just started its monthly meeting. It’s not long before targets are raised (the topic, that is). “Where are we with funding for the Lawscot Foundation?” someone enquires.

The Society’s new charity is barely a year old, but there’s already talk of the first bursaries being issued to law students from low-income backgrounds, and significant chunks have been chipped away from the 2016-17 target of £150,000 raised.

On the move

Board members aren’t the only ones talking about fair access to the legal profession. Across town, there’s a round table discussion underway on alternative routes to qualification. The Society has been exploring the feasibility of apprenticeships as a means of becoming a solicitor and the team are thrashing out the details with other interested groups.

At precisely the same moment down in London, alternative routes are also being sought. The Society’s anti-money laundering specialists are on their way to a lunchtime event where they’ll make a presentation to representatives from the UK Government. An enforced detour on the Tube, followed by some light running, gets them to Whitehall just in time, and slightly out of breath. Jumping back on the Tube an hour later, they face a race against time to get back to Edinburgh for a Society-hosted evening meeting with representatives from Scotland’s big firms.

“There’s plenty of chat about #DefendLegalAid,” one of the team comments on checking @lawscot’s Twitter notifications in the Heathrow departure lounge. “The research results must be causing a stir.” The Society recently published statistics questioning the sustainability of current fee levels for legal aid firms, and the pressure is on the Scottish Government to respond.

As the AML team eventually board their plane in Heathrow, the Society’s international team are landing in Brussels. They’re not there for the waffles and moules frites – it’s Brexit they’ll be getting stuck into.

More specifically, they’re there for a meeting of the three UK Law Societies and the head of their shared Brussels Office to coordinate activity around the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and the impact on the legal profession. The meeting goes on long into the night.

Full circle

Meanwhile, back on Morrison Street, the phones are ringing again, the meeting rooms are still full, the
revolving door hasn’t stopped, and people now have to take a number for the queue at the coffee machine.

It’s just another day at the Law Society of Scotland in 2016-17.

Read the Society’s full annual plan of activity and objectives at www.lawscot.org.uk/annualplan

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