Our series on the Law Society of Scotland's new senior leadership team (SLT) continues with Aileen Caskie, executive director of member services
Tell us a bit about your career so far…
As a fresh young graduate (English Studies with French), I wanted to help vulnerable people, so worked with Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis and the NUS, providing emotional and practical support as well as training. I realised I wasn’t cut out for the intensity of the frontline, and having had a taste of marketing (as maternity leave cover) with John Smith & Sons booksellers in Glasgow, thought I’d try my luck in London. Since 1994, I have worked as a designer, journalist, brand, product and communications consultant and more recently as a marketing strategist. Much of my career has been as an independent consultant with clients from Abu Dhabi to Paris and Edinburgh as well as the shires of England, spanning sectors including charity, education, energy, financial services, government, publishing and technology.
Why did you decide to join the Society?
When the role came up I was intrigued. I did my research and absolutely loved the boldness and the vision laid out in the Leading Legal Excellence strategy. And when I met the CEO and President and SLT team at interview, their enthusiasm and commitment were dazzling. This role offers me a great opportunity to make a difference with my commercial and marketing expertise. I believe that the legal profession is critical to safeguarding a civilised society – without it you have anarchy. So I am incredibly proud and honoured to work for the Society.
Have your perceptions of the Society changed since you started?
Yes, in that when I started at the beginning of November 2015, we were based in Drumsheugh Gardens, with lots of wee offices tucked down corridors and I was never really sure who and what lay behind all those closed oak-panelled doors. So when we moved to the Atria in December 2015, I loved the fabulously airy open-planned space, designed for collaboration. Teams now work together so much more easily – 42 cross-team projects are currently in flight.
What have been the highlights for you personally?
There have been loads, but to mention just a few: completing the organisational redesign and recruitment of my new management team in June; getting approval at Council of our new marketing strategy and engagement plan in August; watching all our new team members (13 in total!) grow in confidence and really start to enjoy their roles; all the excellent CPD events delivered to our members, especially our flagship annual conference Leading Legal Excellence – Succeeding at the Heart of Society. And, of course, meeting members from the Borders to London, Glasgow and Edinburgh – really looking forward to getting out and about to meet more of you in 2017!
What are the main issues that you think the Society has to address at the moment?
Big picture items centre on how we can continue to use technology to offer better member experiences from the Society, as well as identifying ways we can help our members to build cyber resilience. Changing demographics in the profession offer us the chance to encourage diversity and progression. Identifying how else we can help early and mid-career solicitors beyond black letter law CPD, but also with management and leadership skills is another key challenge. And supporting our members against a landscape of societal shifts such as migration, means we will be providing specialist CPD on asylum and immigration work.
What has been the most surprising aspect of your work at the Society?
The sheer breadth and depth of what we do here! From influencing Government policy through our consultation papers (cited in Holyrood during debates), to the confidential advisory service provided by the Professional Practice team, to our award-winning smartcards. Not to mention the army of volunteers who give of their time on our 60-odd committees and Council to tackle a myriad of issues impacting the profession.
What are you most looking forward to as part of the Society’s Leading Legal Excellence strategy?
Helping the Society to become a truly world class organisation, and helping the profession and wider legal community to adapt, innovate and grasp new opportunities for the greater good of wider society. Member services as a role is all about understanding what our members need and how we can better provide those services to help people and businesses to develop and grow.
What’s your top tip for new lawyers?
Try and retain a space for yourselves that allows you to have moments of joy. Learn to prioritise, say no when you have to, and get plenty of sleep!
If you could change only one thing for members, what would it be?
Increase legal aid rates – if only I had a magic wand!
What keeps you busy outside of work?
I love live music of all kinds, and festivals, but especially Belladrum and Latitude. Living in Edinburgh is just a delight all year round but I also adore getting out and about to the islands (especially Islay where half my family are from) and to rural Perthshire. Cooking for pals and pottering about with my planters – spring bulbs are already appearing. Plus I’m super keen on maintaining my own professional edge, so am a bit of a marketing and news junkie. And I never turn down an invite to a spa day or a whisky tasting!