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Keynote legal excellence

16 July 18

An impressive lineup of keynote speakers will appear at this year’s Leading Legal Excellence, the Society’s annual conference – headed by the President of the UK Supreme Court

Four keynote speakers spanning the worlds of law, business and politics have now been confirmed for Leading Legal Excellence, the Law Society of Scotland’s 2018 annual conference. The UK’s most senior judge; a leading authority on EU and UK constitutional law; a Harvard professor of law and business; and a former senior Scottish and UK judge who now occupies a unique position in Parliament lead the lineup for the conference in Edinburgh on Friday 26 October. 

Baroness Hale of Richmond was appointed President of the UK Supreme Court in 2017. A trailblazer throughout her career, she was the first woman appointed to the Law Commission, the only woman to serve as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary and the first woman Justice of the UK Supreme Court. She was also the first High Court judge to have worked principally as an academic and public servant rather than a practising barrister prior to her appointment. 

Lady Hale’s keynote address will examine the impact that Scottish cases have had on developing UK law. In addition to well-known contributions to the development of the law of negligence (from Donoghue v Stevenson to more recent examples such as McFarlane v Tayside Health Board, Mitchell v Glasgow City Council and Montgomery v Lanarkshire Health Board), she will examine the impact of Scots cases on private international, discrimination and constitutional law and on devolution jurisprudence.

Aidan O’Neill QC of Matrix Chambers and Ampersand Advocates is a “double silk”, practising at both the Scottish Bar and the Bar of England & Wales. With particular expertise in commercial judicial review, environmental and employment law, O’Neill is a noted specialist in EU law and UK constitutional law. Recently involved in both Wightman v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, his keynote will focus on Brexit and its legal implications. A widely published legal author, he will no doubt draw on the work he is undertaking for his forthcoming book Brexit, law and trade: a guide for the perplexed.

Dr Heidi Gardner is a Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School, was previously on the faculty at Harvard Business School and is a former McKinsey consultant. Her research focuses on organisational behaviour, with in-depth studies of global professional service firms providing the basis for her book Smart Collaboration: How Professionals and Their Firms Succeed by Breaking Down Silos. In her keynote, Gardner will demonstrate empirically how higher margins can be earned, greater client loyalty inspired, the best talent attracted and a competitive edge gained from smart collaboration. In a sector where many achieve success by becoming individual specialists in a narrow practice area, she will explain the value of working across boundaries and also how to do it properly.

Lord Hope of Craighead served as a QC and advocate depute before his appointment as Lord President of the Court of Session. He served as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, becoming Deputy President of the UK Supreme Court on its creation in 2009 until his retirement in 2013. At this time of constitutional debate, and tight parliamentary arithmetic, Lord Hope’s current position in the legislature could yet be as significant as his time in the judiciary. As convener of the cross-bench (independent) peers, Lord Hope has a unique position from which to observe and contribute to debates in the House of Lords, including recently on the EU (Withdrawal) Bill. Lord Hope will look back on his legal career in conversation with conference chair Austin Lafferty.

Delegates at the conference will have an opportunity to put their questions to each of the keynote speakers as well as choose from a programme of breakout and panel sessions depending on their work and interest. Topics are set to include risk, technology, cybersecurity, business development and Brexit. 

Leading Legal Excellence takes place on Friday 26 October at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre. An earlybird discount of 20% is available until Tuesday 31 July and tickets can be purchased from


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