Chief executive Lorna Jack completes our series on the Law Society of Scotland's senior leadership team
First, congratulations on your recent UK Association Excellence Award for Leadership. What did that mean to you?
It was unexpected and humbling as there were some great people on the shortlist but the thing that means most to me about it is that my colleagues took the time and care to nominate me. This act of kindness is yet another illustration of how fantastic the Society team are.
Tell us a bit about your career so far…
I’ve been lucky to work for some great individuals throughout my career who have given me opportunities to constantly challenge myself and learn both technically and in leadership. I qualified as a chartered accountant, had a spell as a finance director and company secretary of a private company and have led teams in the public sector. I earned my first CEO role at Scottish Enterprise Forth Valley in 2000 having been mentored into role by its wonderful out-going CEO, Bill Morton.
I then had a terrific opportunity to restructure and lead the Scottish Development International team based in North America. That was an amazing job that got me into the boardrooms of American and Canadian companies prospecting for business for Scotland, and although physically exhausting (250,000 flying miles per annum), it was unbelievably rewarding.
Why did you decide to join the Society?
Returning from the US, I was looking for a new role that would allow me to use my talents for leading people through strategic change, in a field that I could really care about. Relaxing at a spa with my pal Yvonne, she shoved the job ad in front of my face and said: “That’s you they’re looking for.” She was right, but I only discovered that after a fair amount of personal research, a scary, tough first interview with the Society’s headhunter and a dynamic panel interview with a seven strong subgroup of the Council. I left it thinking I really like these people and what they stand for.
Have your perceptions of the Society changed since you started?
Only a little. The Society has changed dramatically since I started in 2009, but what I perceived in that initial job ad and the very early interactions with Council members and with my colleagues, was an organisation wanting to change, to modernise, to do things differently and do different things. I perceived it to have amazing potential and as it transpired, I was right!
Your senior leadership team counted team development and the move to Atria One amongst their proudest moments at the Society but what have been the highlights for you personally?
I read their articles and agree with every highlight they mentioned: Lawscot Foundation, the 2016 flagship conference, move to Atria One, Street Law and the evolution of our teams. But the highlights for me are the daily personal stories from trainees, solicitors, faculties, parliamentarians and members of the public who increasingly drop us notes of unsolicited praise for the Society’s work and remind me of the many ways in which my colleagues make a positive difference to the lives of others. That’s what matters.
What do you see as the main challenges the Society has to address currently and in the future?
My SLT colleagues have previously mentioned the limiting nature of the statutes which govern us, and whilst we welcome the Scottish Government’s recently announced review, given the lengthy processes behind legislative change, that will remain a challenge for some time. Meantime our challenge is to do all we can within our existing vires to continue to transform our activity digitally and to lead and support the profession through the changes they face in the legal services market, dealing with the impacts of the broader political and economic change. Change won’t wait for us to get ready.
What has been the most surprising aspect of your work at the Society?
The collegiality and commitment to a unified direction, the Society’s strategy, from solicitors and non-solicitors on the Society Council and committees. Even though our office bearers change every year and may come from dramatically different backgrounds and/or geographies, they each play their leadership role as part of a massive team effort to deliver on the long term goals that the Society has set itself. That’s surprising and deeply encouraging.
What are you most looking forward to as part of the Society’s Leading Legal Excellence strategy?
I am excited about the whole strategy. The five goals are mutually supportive and if we achieve them we will naturally be a world-class professional body. So, looking forward, I love to visualise the picture of a dynamic growing membership of people in Scotland and around the world, who get such value from their professional body that they are proud to be associated with it.
What’s your top tip for new lawyers?
Curiosity – develop it. Be interested in others. The more you ask, the better you understand.
Your senior leadership team were pretty much unanimous in the view that they would address the legal aid situation and dispel unfair and inaccurate misconceptions about Scottish solicitors – if you could change anything for members what would it be?
The same. Due to the continuing freeze on already unfeasible rates, many of our members simply can’t afford to carry out legal aid work. The implications for access to justice are of real concern to both the public and profession. And if the vital contribution which the Scottish legal profession as a whole makes to homes, businesses and communities across Scotland was better understood, there would be greater value placed on what they do.
What were the biggest surprises when you read your senior leadership team’s profile pieces?
There were no surprises – just a wonderful reminder to me again of how lucky I am to work with this team of committed, capable people.
What keeps you busy outside of work?
My immediate family, husband Lucas and assorted adult children – Corinne, Daan and Roos are my priority and keep me busy with all sorts of stuff including travel, yoga, choir/guitar performances, movies, skiing, French DIY, husky and cat sitting. Then my extended family (eight siblings and their families) and my friends mean there’s always a party or celebration on the horizon. I am treasurer of a charity and a non-executive director on Highlands & Islands Airports board. Occasionally when I have a spare moment just to myself, I love to sing and occasionally I get the chance to read something just for fun. This month I am excited to read my friend Gail’s debut novel Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Shameless plug!