“Time to say goodbye”, as the presidency changes hands: it has been a privilege to serve, despite some difficult issues, and the current Government reviews are an opportunity to shape our future
Of all the columns I have written this year, this has been the most difficult to find the right sentence with which to begin. Writing it, at the end of April, is the first step in the formal journey to the end of my year as your President, and what a year it has been.
Such a privilege for me to represent our wonderful profession. A profession which, I know from my travels across the country, can feel overloaded and undervalued at times, especially in certain sectors, but even in the face of such difficulties retains its integrity, decency, professional judgment and a very large dose of humour.
We have not had our troubles to seek. I cannot claim to have enjoyed in any sense the dispute with the SLCC, the frustration over the levy, the current issues with the SLAB draft code of practice nor indeed the strong dissatisfaction with the proposed legal aid rates for work to be undertaken under part 1 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016, but these issues are there, cannot be ignored and are affecting large parts of our profession.
My commitment is to do all that I can to ensure the profession’s views and concerns are made known, heard and listened to on these issues. I know that is the commitment also of all of the Society’s staff and committee members who work tirelessly, behind the scenes, to pull together the materials and factual examples which underpin our responses. This work will continue under Graham Matthews’ guidance when he becomes your new President at the end of this month.
Contribute to your future
Finding a way forward on these matters is critical to the future sustainability of the profession. That is why I have high hopes for the current Scottish Government Review into Legal Aid, and the Legal Services Review. I am refusing to be other than an optimist. As a “once in a lifetime” opportunity, we must all contribute as fully as possible to the debate and discussion. The public whom we serve deserve nothing less, and let’s be honest, neither do we.
It’s our business, our markets, our future as a profession which are under review. Our strength as a profession comes from being part of a bigger group, one that through collective knowledge, skill and diversity is far greater than the sum of its parts. Our ability to present ourselves as a strong and united profession should not be underestimated.
It has been the most enormous privilege to serve and represent you this year. I am thankful and grateful for your support and encouragement. It is of course a team effort here at the Society’s offices at Atria One, and in closing I wish to acknowledge the tremendous guidance I have received from Past President Christine McLintock, your incoming President Graham Matthews and of course the effervescent Lorna Jack, chief executive of the Society, all of whom have helped me so much on so many occasions throughout the year.
As they say in Bugs Bunny: “That’s all folks”.