News In Focus
AGM confirms practising certificate fee standstill
Scottish solicitors will once again pay an unchanged practising certificate fee in 2017-18, last night's annual general meeting of the Law Society of Scotland confirmed.
A proposal to hold the fee at £550 for the eighth year running was passed without opposition at the meeting, which also approved without debate an amendment to the Society's constitution to permit Council to co-opt up to eight members rather than the present six (with the immediate intention of adding a member to represent Scottish solicitors working overseas), and proposals to amend the rules about qualifying as a solicitor advocate to change the order in which the different stages in the process are completed, following consultation with the Lord President.
Giving her address to the meeting, the President, Eilidh Wiseman, who completes her term of office today, said her term had seen some of the most challenging but also most fulfilling months of her career. She regretted the need to pursue litigation against the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, and also shared the profession's frustration at the levy increase demanded by the Commission, but was proud of the Society and profession's "restrained and dignified" response. She was also shocked at the way legal aid practitioners were treated in public. But "against the odds" the profession continued to put its clients first.
One fulfilling occasion had been to see Edinburgh host last week's plenary meeting of the European Lawyers' organisation the CCBE, under its current Scottish President Ruthven Gemmell, despite the uncertainty created by the Brexit vote. Her travels both abroad and within Scotland had also been a highlight, and she avlued the latter just as highly as the former, with its chance to meet new people and understand their points of view.
She was also proud of the Society's initiatives to encourage future generations of lawyers, including Street Law and the Lawscot Foundation, which had received numerous applications from wouldbe mentors as well as from students seeking to benefit.
Chief executive Lorna Jack followed up by reporting that the Society was well into the second year of its five year strategic plan. The new category of student affiliate membership had been added, the client protection and intervention teams were performing at their best levels, and the change of Master Policy insurance broker had gone well. The Society had achieved some exemptions for solicitors from the forthcoming regulation of letting agents through meetings with Scottish Government, and would be pressing its case for other reforms to the independent reviews of professional regulation and of legal aid.
Before the formal business, the meeting saw pioneering mental health and adult incapacity solicitor Adrian Ward presented with life membership of the Society for his achievements. Mr Ward, an MBE, said of all the accolades he had received, he valued this one "far above all the others".