Naomi Pryde represents Scottish solicitors in England & Wales on the Society's Council
Tell us about your career so far
I'd wanted to be a lawyer since I was a little girl, though I didn't know any lawyers and was the first in my family to go to university. I did my LLB at Glasgow and my Diploma at Edinburgh, then trained and qualified at Tods Murray LLP where I worked for over six years before moving down to London. I was elected to Council in 2015. I'm also a notary public in Scotland and a Writer to Her Majesty's Signet. I've been practising in England for just over three years now and have just completed the QLTS and have applied for my English practising certificate (although I'll obviously be keeping my Scottish one!). I'm doing my higher rights qualification to become a solicitor advocate in England & Wales in September.
Why did you decide to stand for Council?
I had not long moved to England & Wales and I was speaking quite passionately about some issues affecting solicitors practising here, for example the QLTS and the status of notaries public with the head of member engagement for England & Wales, Chantel Gaber, and a group of my peers. I was told I should run for Council. I was impressed by Chantel and I thought we would make a formidable team. It so happened there was a Council vacancy for a representative for England & Wales. I was nominated and ended up in the first ever contested election for the England & Wales constituency.
Have your perceptions of the Society changed since you joined Council?
I had always been a fan of the Society – I sat as a trainee representative for the Education & Training PEAT review when I was a trainee – but it continues to impress me. If people were to sit in on one of our Council meetings I think they would be surprised to discover how modern and forward thinking the Society is.
What have been the highlights for you personally?
A real highlight for me was being involved in the creation of the Lawscot Foundation, the Society's charity which supports young people who have the drive, ambition and academic ability to become solicitors but in light of their financial circumstances are unable to do so. I was really proud of Council when we voted to donate the entire proceeds of the society's shareholding in Legal Post to the Foundation. I believe passionately in diversity for the profession and I think the Foundation is a wonderful long term investment in the future of the profession. I've also been very fortunate to have attended a number of events representing the Society: a real highlight for me was attending the Queen's Garden Party, and another was teaching the Ambassador of Brazil Scottish country dancing at the Society's St Andrew's Dinner in London!
What are the main issues that you think Council has to address at the moment?
There are a number of issues. I think a key issue has to be the changing nature of the law, so ensuring that we keep up to date, for example looking at alternative routes to qualification, or considering the impact of technology. Brexit is obviously going to be an issue for us and the Society has set up a Brexit Working Group.
What has been the most surprising aspect of your work as a Council member?
I've been surprised (and genuinely delighted) at how keen members in England are to engage with me and the Society away from Scotland. We recently launched Scotland House (a place in London for members working away from Scotland to work and network), and I was overwhelmed at the response we had from members – we had a waiting list! Quite a few members travelled up from Bristol especially for the event, which was lovely to see.
The Society is currently recruiting for an “international” Council member to represent Scottish solicitors outside Great Britain. What would you say to anyone thinking of applying?
I say do it! I find being a part of Council really rewarding. It's hard work but the Society is very supportive. I'd also say that you will have a member of the Society's staff who will support you. I couldn't do my role as Council member nearly so effectively without the support of Chantel. I'm really pleased the Society is recruiting for an international Council member – I think it's great for the Society's strategy. I also think that it will better represent the future of law. It is possible to attend the meetings via conference call or video link when work doesn't permit you to attend in person, so they shouldn't be too concerned about necessarily travelling to attend every meeting. I try to attend the meetings in person but it's not always possible.
What’s your top tip for new lawyers?
Think like a business owner. At the end of the day, law is a business. Your clients are your customers and you are selling your services. Treat your customers, the “other side” and your contacts how you would like to be treated. Also start to cultivate a network as early as you can, and attend as many networking events as you can. And don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it, from the Society, your employer or LawCare, which is an excellent resource for lawyers.
If you could change only one thing for your members, what would it be?
I was asked this question when I first joined Council and my answer was that I would change the current qualification procedure for Scottish solicitors qualifying in England & Wales. Hopefully we are on our way! So I'd like to get a fairer deal for Scotland's legal aid lawyers. Access to justice is so important.
What keeps you busy outside of work?
I'm a bit of a busy bee! I do pro bono work for the National Centre for Domestic Violence, which is a cause I feel strongly about. My wonderful family and friends keep me busy, although I try to catch up with members for drinks/coffee as often as I can. England & Wales is a big area to cover! I'm really lucky as a lot of the members in England & Wales, particularly in London, have become good friends. I'm a real foodie and I love exploring the restaurants in London, and I also secretly love to cook. When I have a minute I try to keep fit – I ran the London Marathon for the British Heart Foundation last year and I'd like to run the Edinburgh Marathon next year for the Lawscot Foundation.