Birds of a feather stick together. This is true in every walk of life and every human society. And so it is for all of the solicitors practicing law within the borders of Scotland. They have developed into the Law Society of Scotland.
All such institutions grow out of society’s needs. The two driving needs behind the Law Society are 1) for representation of the law professionals. 2) To formalize the system of representation of people who could not afford to pay and who were thereby excluded from justice. An ad hoc ‘legal aid’ arrangement had been in place since the early fifteenth century.
What does it say about the nature of Scottish society that there are nearly eleven thousand paying members, contributing to the eight million pounds per annum budget, of the Law Society of Scotland? Certainly there is an enormous amount of complex regulation affecting the lives of Scottish people.
The Society was founded just after World war II, with the ‘Legal Aid and Solicitors (Scotland) Act. This is the basis of the present day legal aid system. But it’s own rules of conduct and regulation were not codified into law until the 1980’s with the ‘Solicitors (Scotland) Act.
It didn’t spring from nowhere. There is an ancient and proud heritage of practicing the law in Scotland. Lawyers were called ‘Advocates’ back in the day and they founded the first faculty as far back as 1532. Although again they most surely did not simply declare themselves a body to be reckoned with overnight.
Links to the reigning monarch of the past, with the practice of law can be seen in the titles of bodies still practicing today. Even if they do sound a little archaic; ‘the Society of Writers to her Majesty’s Signet’ (1594) and ‘the Royal Faculty of Procurator’s in Glasgow’ (1668).
The stated aims of this august body are to;
- Guide the improvement of services provided by the member solicitors.
- To represent any member solicitor when they are involved in legal matters.
- To give support of all kinds to member solicitors in time of need.
- To act as watchdog over the interests of members of the public in their dealings with member solicitors.
- To be at the centre of, and a positive force within the law-making and law changing processes in Scotland.
The organisation chart of the Society is topped by the Council. This is a group of solicitors elected by the membership body, to lay down the strategy and guide policy for the whole organisation. The president and their vice hold office for a year.
Reporting to this group is the management board. This group is made up of both Council and staff members and is the main decision making organ. It’s chief executive oversees day to day operations in 3 arenas; ‘regulation and standards’, ‘membership and registrar’ and ‘education and training’.
Ad hoc working parties and committees do the bulk of the work for the Society and everybody benefits. Like all good ‘earning organisations’ the Society is currently reviewing all of its structures and processes to better meet its aims.