Philip Yelland, executive director of regulation, is this month's profile subject from the Society's senior leadership team
Tell us about your career so far…
When I left school, I worked for the Department of Health & Social Security, as a supplementary benefits visiting officer for four years before going to study law at Edinburgh University. I spent four years in private practice before joining the Society's Complaints department (as it was then) in 1990.
Why did you decide to join the Society?
The complaints post seemed to link my legal knowledge with some of what I had done in DHSS. It was a very good fit – and the most scary interview I have ever had; if memory serves, there were a grand total of seven people in the room.
Have your perceptions of the Society changed since you started?
Hugely – I think it’s fair to say that in 1990 the profession viewed the Society as its regulator and little else. That perception has changed a lot in the last 10 years, as the Society focuses more on member activities and services, while keeping a keen eye trained on regulation in the interests of both the public and profession.
What have been the highlights for you personally?
Over the years a lot has changed, but for me, the highlight in many ways was our move to Atria One last year – I spent 25 years in Drumsheugh Gardens and loved the place, but it was not fit for purpose as modern office accommodation.
What are the main issues that you think the Society/your department has to address at the moment?
Regulation is necessarily ever changing. The way in which legal services are being delivered is changing and we need to be responsive to that. The biggest challenge in many ways, is getting the message out there that we regulate in the interests of the public and the profession, because they actually have a common interest in having high standards of behaviour and conduct.
What are you most looking forward to as part of the Society’s Leading Legal Excellence strategy?
My focus is on “Assure”, but there are a lot of other really exciting parts to the strategy and in particular those which focus on growing the membership.
What’s your top tip for new lawyers?
Never be afraid to ask questions, and don’t be afraid to give a client bad news if you have to – that’s two top tips for the price of one!
If you could change only one thing for members, what would it be?
It would have to be a review of the legal aid system and a better rate of pay for legal aid solicitors – in all my years with the Society it has been a constant theme and I am of the view that those who do legal aid work are seriously undervalued.
What keeps you busy outside of work?
Lots! Family: my eldest son made me a grandad for the first time in August, my daughter is about to leave St Andrews University and my younger son is still at school. Sport: I have just finished a two year stint as president of the East of Scotland Cricket Association and will continue to have an involvement in that, as well as coaching at my own club Murrayfield DAFS; in football, after 50 years plus with little success, my team, Barrow FC in the National League, are having an incredible season. I write a fair chunk of the match day programme for them, and perhaps our dream of getting back into the Football League for the first time since 1972 is not so farfetched.