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President's column

18 February 19

The Society’s Platinum Year is an opportunity to promote the high standards and abilities of Scottish solicitors, and to mark significant changes since 1949, not least the advancement of women

by Alison Atack

Haggis bon bons, a nip of Glengoyne, an exhilarating Dashing White Sergeant with current Vice President John Mulholland and former President Ruthven Gemmell, and very interesting dinner companions such as Lord McFall and Lord Keen, can only mean one event: the Society of Scottish Lawyers in London Burns Supper.

The event is certainly one of the highlights of the year, and a great opportunity to meet up with our members south of the border – there are almost 500 Scottish solicitors in London alone. I chatted to Pamela Doherty of Collas Crill’s Jersey office Property department. Originally from Hamilton, she qualified with a law degree from Glasgow University and still returns regularly to Scotland to visit family. I was surprised to discover from Pamela that there are 60 Scottish solicitors practising in Jersey.

This experience underlines the importance and flexibility of being a Scottish-qualified solicitor. It demonstrates how our brand is accepted globally as a badge of excellence with the highest standards of honesty, integrity and professionalism. Those who enter the profession in Scotland are steeped in law and jurisprudential thinking throughout the process, whether it is through the accredited law degree route or the alternative route of a training contract and the Society’s exams. Our solicitors are highly competent, fit and proper and thoroughly able to meet all demands of the public.

That standard is particularly important as we launch our Platinum Year. Our 70th anniversary is an opportunity to showcase the tremendous work of the Scottish legal profession, reflecting on progress made, as well as looking to the future. The legal world is certainly a very different place from that in 1949, but the ethos of high standards and integrity, with public protection at the heart of the practice of law, remains the same.

Help us mark the year

As part of our 70th anniversary celebrations we are inviting nominations for honorary membership for outstanding service for the public good by a Scottish solicitor. Do you know a solicitor or former solicitor who deserves recognition? The deadline for nominations is Friday, 29 March – you can find out more and download a nomination form at www.lawscot.org.uk/honorary

Could you design The Journal front cover? We are launching a competition for people working in the Scottish legal profession and Scottish schoolchildren, each to design a special Journal cover to be published in July. If you have links to a school, make sure you tell them about this competition. The winning school will receive £750.

It was indeed a privilege to meet Anne Meikle recently, the longest-serving Scottish solicitor, who has been on the Society’s roll for 70 years. Anne is a remarkable woman and a real trailblazer.

Significantly, if Anne had wanted to be admitted as a solicitor 100 years ago, she would not have been allowed. 2019 is an extra-special year for the legal profession because it is 100 years since a change in the law permitted women to become lawyers for the first time. The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act in 1919 paved the way for women to build a career as a solicitor, so there is much to celebrate.

In 1949 there were just over 3,000 solicitor members, and just 3% were female.

In 1988 there were just over 8,000 Scottish solicitors, and 25% were female.

Today we have almost 12,000 Scottish solicitors, and 53% are female.

So much has changed, which is why we are asking our members to tell us what you think the biggest changes have been for the legal profession and the law over the past 70 years, together with your predictions for the future. See www.lawscot.org.uk/platinum for details. 

Alison Atack is President of the Law Society of Scotland – President@lawscot.org.uk; Twitter: @AtackAlison

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