SYLA: the year in focus
The Past President of the Scottish Young Lawyers’ Association and her successor review the highlights of the past year and invite input for priorities over the next 12 months
As the legal year draws towards a conclusion for the summer, it is opportune to reflect on the year that the Scottish Young Lawyers’ Association has had: one of growth, development, and an ever-increasing voice in the profession, for which it represents the future.
The SYLA was set up in 1974, with three aims: the education, entertainment and representation of young lawyers in Scotland. At that time, it had a handful of members. Now in 2016, it has more than 2,000 members, spread all across Scotland. It has a rich history of delivering on its three key aims, which have remained the same since its inception.
On education, 2015-16 provided more opportunities for young lawyers across Scotland to get involved in a busy events programme, designed to meet their learning needs. This year we held 34 events, including three all-day specialist conferences. The events were spread across Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, with others also taking place in Dundee, Stirling, Falkirk, Dunblane and Cumbernauld; 1,582 young lawyers attended these events over the year. We were fortunate to benefit from a number of distinguished members of the profession giving up their time, including the outgoing Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland QC, the then Dean of Faculty James Wolffe QC, Sheriff Kenny McGowan, Frances McMenamin QC and Lesley Thomson QC, among many others too numerous to mention here, but to whom we offer our profound thanks.
On entertainment, we held a Scottish Parliament debate with local candidates standing for election, but originally hailing from the profession, including former SYLA President Catriona Headley. We also hosted a number of evening socials, including our (infamous) Spring Ball in aid of Breast Cancer Care, our (becoming notorious) Endless Champagne Ceilidh in aid of Cancer Research Racquet/Marie Curie, and our Summer BBQ (which always seems to be accompanied by rain) in aid of Child Brain Injury Trust. This year, more than ever before, we directed our entertainment programme towards the benefit of good causes and we are keen that trend continues.
The biggest issue
This year was perhaps most significant for our representation work. We have continued with our work to provide a young voice in the profession by writing regularly for the Journal, maintaining an active social media presence on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, and issuing regular press releases on our activities.
We also continued to represent Scotland on the international stage through representation at European Young Bar Association events. We continue to tackle the issue of redundancies of young lawyers in the profession, though thankfully this year that has abated slightly. This gave us the opportunity to consider a more fundamental issue in the profession – the impact of negative stress and working practices on young lawyers and the effect this may have on their long-term wellbeing. We wrote the lead article for the April 2016 Journal on this issue.
We received an overwhelming response of comment and support from lawyers across the profession, who identify with this issue and demand urgent action to tackle it. Within a few hours of the “advance look” Journal preview email hitting inboxes, SYLA was inundated with emails from across the profession welcoming the piece, testament to how many people are quietly aware and cognizant of the issue.
The response from the Society was likewise swift. We are now working with the Society and other stakeholders to co-ordinate the profession’s efforts on how best to address the issue. We are hopeful that plans for a round table event on ensuring wellbeing in the profession, hosted by the Society, will come together later in the autumn.
So what next for SYLA? Over the summer months, we’ll be asking you – our members – what you wish to see SYLA tackle in the next year, 2016-17. As it was in 1974, the SYLA in 2016 remains for the benefit of young lawyers, run by young lawyers, and the future of the profession will shape its voice again for the year ahead. If you have any ideas on how the SYLA can meet its aims, please do get in touch with one of the committee. We look forward to seeing you at an event soon!
Emma Boffey is Past President of the Scottish Young Lawyers’ Association and a solicitor at CMS
Laura Meldrum is President of the Scottish Young Lawyers’ Association and a solicitor at Anderson Strathern
New year, new committee
The SYLA held its AGM on 26 May 2016.
The following members were elected to serve as its executive for the year ahead:
President: Laura Meldrum, Anderson Strathern
Vice President: Lucy Thornton, Digby Brown
Treasurer: Dominique McErlane, Brodies
Secretary: Laura Wylie, BLM
Elected as non-executive committee members were Holly Archibald, Adam & Co; Joanne Baker, DWF; Zara Clark, DAC Beachcroft; Ayla Iridag, Clyde & Co; Evonne Morrison, Inksters; Jonathan Tait, Ennova Law; and Jessica Weir, Gillespie Macandrew.
Emma Boffey of CMS remains on the committee, serving as its Past President.