With five new members joining the Society’s In-house Lawyers’ Committee (ILC) following a popular recruitment drive, the ILC took the chance to ask five key questions to introduce them to readers
Why did you join the In-house Lawyers Committee (ILC)?
Norma Shippin, Director, Central Legal Office (CLO), NHS Scotland: “I have never previously had much involvement with the ILC, but after meeting a couple of folk from the group and learning a bit more about its the role I felt it would be important for the CLO, as one of the largest employers of in-house lawyers in Scotland, to get more involved.”
David Boag, solicitor, Glasgow City Council (court team): “A new year, a new challenge! I was looking for a way to broaden my experience and understanding of other sectors and saw the ILC as a perfect way of engaging with fellow professionals in this area.”
Vladimir Valiente, principal solicitor, Midlothian Council, and SOLAR: “I have had the privilege of working for three local authorities. This experience coupled with my current role of communications officer with the Society of Local Authority Lawyers and Administrators (SOLAR) provides me with significant insight into the needs of an in-house lawyer and in particular of local authority lawyers. I hope this experience will help me to represent the local authority/public services perspective at the ILC.”
David Bryson, legal counsel, Baillie Gifford & Co (financial services): “Having benefited from a great career, I like to find ways to give something back to the profession. To date, I have enjoyed helping the Law Society of Scotland through acting as both a career and TCPD mentor and being a panel member at professional practice talks for students and practising solicitors. The ILC provides an excellent platform to increase my contribution by helping to support other in-house lawyers.”
Thembe McInnes, legal manager, Whyte & Mackay Ltd: “Through the Society’s mentoring programme I have had the privilege of mentoring in-house lawyers who were facing career challenges that resonate across the in-house sector. Joining the ILC was an opportunity to further contribute to the Society’s engagement with in-house lawyers.”
What do you hope to bring to the role of ILC member?
Norma Shippin: “An NHS/public sector perspective and insights from over 30 years of experience working at CLO.”
David Boag: “Enthusiasm and a fresh perspective… I hope!”
Vladimir Valiente: “Management and committee experience gained within and outwith my in-house lawyer roles (including previous director of a charity) to help the ILC to set its strategic objectives and deliver on them.”
David Bryson: “Energy, enthusiasm, a desire to make a contribution and hopefully an ability to listen.”
Thembe McInnes: “An understanding of the pressures of working in-house, particularly in an organisation where there is a developing legal team.”
What do you like best about working in-house/your job?
Norma Shippin: “Our clients are very good to work with. Also my colleagues are a fantastic bunch (and no one paid me to say that!). The work we do is really interesting and genuinely makes a difference!”
David Boag: “Education, social work, licensing, council tax, environmental health and cleansing are just a few of the areas of responsibility that a local authority has. Providing legal support and advice to these distinct service areas means being an in-house lawyer with the council is never dull. I am also very fortunate that there is a wealth of expertise to draw on.”
Vladimir Valiente: “I love the special client-lawyer relationship which is unique to in-house lawyers, and enjoy the variety and broad areas of work that go along with such a job. Every day is interesting and different.”
David Bryson: “Being part of a very successful organisation that performs an important and useful function for society. I like working with people from other professional disciplines as it helps me see things from a different perspective. Like most lawyers, my role is ultimately about helping people with the problems they face and it is a great privilege to be of service.”
Thembe McInnes: “Being part of an ambitious business in a competitive industry. The global spirits market is evolving constantly so I am learning all the time, and that keeps me motivated. It also helps that the business creates a portfolio of brands that are easy to appreciate and enjoy (responsibly, of course!).”
What do you think is the biggest issue for in-house lawyers in Scotland in 2017 (or at least your sector), and how can the ILC help?
Norma Shippin: “Within the NHS and public sector we operate within tight financial constraints and this creates pressures for our clients. There are changes in data protection and information governance which affect us all and need careful monitoring. The move to electronic record keeping brings challenges and benefits. Hopefully we can share experiences within ILC and learn from each other.”
David Boag: “One of the biggest challenges for in-house public sector legal teams is how to maintain a comprehensive service in these straitened times. The ILC can help by providing CPD and networking opportunities where innovative practice and approaches can be shared.”
Vladimir Valiente: “Public sector budgets/cuts (‘more for less’), whilst legislative duties and responsibilities continue to increase, will inevitably put significant strain on local authorities’ legal services. We play a key role in ensuring compliance and in decision making. For the individual local authority lawyer this may translate into more cases, higher turnaround expectations from client departments, redundancies, wider remits, inability to keep up with new legislation, inability to concentrate on preventative type work (training and guidance for client departments). In other words, more firefighting. These conditions could create an environment of constant stress and job dissatisfaction. In my view the ILC can help by acknowledging the issue and providing support, guidance and training on managing the forever stressful environment we are being asked to work in. I think the Law Society of Scotland’s Legal Wellbeing Scotland initiative is a fantastic project which can help the ILC to deliver on some of these tasks.”
David Bryson: “Digesting huge amounts of regulatory driven change while continuing to provide excellent client service within the confines of the resources available, will be a big challenge for in-house lawyers in 2017. The ILC can help through providing relevant technical training and supporting the development of ‘soft skills’ so that in-house lawyers can be as effective as possible. Organising networking opportunities for in-house lawyers to discuss how to respond to these challenges will also be key.”
Thembe McInnes: “Like most, I will be intently watching the Brexit negotiations unfold. The ILC has the opportunity to offer its members networking and CPD events where sector specific concerns can be discussed and industry insights can be shared.”
The ILC is well known for its training events – what makes a good training event in your view?
Norma Shippin: “A good training event provides high calibre speakers who are leaders in their field, enables good networking, is clear in its objectives and delivers what it promises!”
David Boag: “Good training should always take account of and be tailored to the requirements of the audience – seems fairly obvious – so that is why it is crucially important that the membership of the ILC reflects the broad scope of work carried out by in-house legal teams.”
Vladimir Valiente: “A good training event surpasses expectations by being informative, accurate/up-to-date, useful (ability to implement the knowledge gained) and delivered in an engaging manner.”
David Bryson: “Good training inspires me to change something.”
Thembe McInnes: “In-house lawyers need training that is relevant, targeted and consistently offers learning outcomes that support them to deliver the high quality work that has come to be relied on by employers.”
Welcoming the new members, ILC convener Graeme McWilliams commented: “With sadness, we bid farewell to some of our longer serving ILC members who moved on recently, but it was a great opportunity to inject some new blood into our committee and to make sure we’re as representative as possible of our wide spectrum of membership in both the public and private sectors. We were amazed to receive 11 excellent applications for the five vacancies in November. It was difficult but necessary to pick just five, and I was delighted to welcome aboard our fabulous new members in December.
“We had our first 2017 meeting in January. Everyone hit the ground running, and I am really looking forward to working with our refreshed committee. Seven months on since I became ILC convener, we are in great shape to champion our in-house community, support the Society’s pursuit of legal excellence, and make a real difference for our in-house members in both the private and public sectors.”