Diary of A Diploma Student – Top Tips from The Law Society of ScotlandThe Law Society of Scotland Professional Responsbility Workshop and Panel Visit.
Tuesday the 18th January kicked off with a trip back in time to the Bute Hall where I graduated in 2009 and was bestowed my Bachelor of Laws with Honours by the Principal of the University.
The event ‘The Law Society of Scotland Professional Responsibility Workshop and Panel Visit was compulsory for all of the Diploma students and thus a full quota of 175 keen and eager ‘newbie lawyers’ was anticipated.
Being an ‘Extra-keen and some-what obsessed law geek ‘ I would have attended even had it not been compulsory as I hoped to gain an insight into information that would help me in practice.
Alas some of my fellow students didn’t agree with my sentiments and the attendance was lower than anticipated with only 94 out of the possible 175 being in attendance.
For many Diploma students funding the Diploma leaves us with tough decisions to make whether to attend work and earn money or comply with the compulsory element of the course.
It is a very difficult choice, I must say and as a single parent with two little mouths to feed one which gives me great perplexity.
I need to work every minute that I am not required at University in order to pay for the course itself and support my girls.
The disappointing turnout, whilst leaving our Director of Professional Practice Douglas Mill furious at the non-attending students, didn’t not spoil the day itself for me.
Having decided that I would benefit from the day I can honestly say I was not disappointed at all, in fact the Law Society event proved to be incredible useful and informative and helped to portray the ‘Law Society of Scotland’ as a bunch of friendly and approachable professionals who will be at the other end of the phone should I need them during my life as a solicitor.
The morning session was led by David Buchanan-Cook, a Compliant Investigations Manager at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission who gave us an excellent over view of the organization and an indication of the numbers of complaints that find their way to them and how they are dealt with.
Complaints ? Gosh that is a frightening word for a new solicitor and of course no pressure then to make sure we get absolutely everything right in every case. David however did put my mind at ease that the sifting process aims to deal with complaints of a vexatious nature and some complaints with no merit at all. Having not really turned my mind to the nature of complaints I find this part of the session very useful and I know what I will be doing in every case I deal with – sending out Terms of engagement letters at the beginning of EVERY case and communicating with my clients even if it is just to explain the delay.
TOP TIP : Communication ,communication, communication.
Philip Yelland, Director of Regulation at the Law Society of Scotland discussed clients expectations in every case and how as solicitors we should again communicate clearly at the beginning to either confirm or clarify the expected result and cost of a case. He emphasized the need to know and understand and communicate with clients at their level of understanding and to always do what we say we will do. According to Philip , Not making promises that you just cannot deliver will avoid a complaint in many cases as the client will not have unrealistic expectations.
One further point Philip stressed was the need to tell clients to let you know when they change their mobile number and this is a point I found very helpful as the suggestion of including even one line in the terms of engagement could prompt them to update you with a new number and keep the channels of communication open thus lessening the chance of a complaint.
Bruce Ritchie, Director of Professional Practice at the Law Society of Scotland discussed the money Laundering Regulations and an engaging discussion about types of circumstances and transactions to which money laundering checks apply was very helpful especially for new solicitors.
Bruce discussed the core values of being a solicitor and defined them as Independence, Avoiding conflict of interest and confidentiality and placed Trust and personal integrity at the top of the list.
Kindly acknowledging my blog, which the Law Society of Scotland have circulated, he reminded the students of the Double edged sword that comes with using the internet and social media. Bruce reminded students of the need to ‘think’ very carefully before posting anything on-line which may tarnish their reputation as a solicitor. I could not agree more about the danger element of the internet though I think that the benefits of careful use of the new methods of communication will bring so many rewards.
In my opinion effective training in the use of social media will assist new lawyers in both alerting them to the dangers but also in allowing them to move with the times and communicate in a way that all future clients will.
Throwing a debate to the students as to whether a solicitor personal life should play a part in their reputation as a solicitor it led to an active discussion about ‘integrity’ which I must say was met with various different opinions from the students.
The afternoon session was led by Society’s Chief Executive Lorna Jack who joined us with Society’s Director (Education and Training) Liz Campbell and the Manager of the Registrar’s Department, Katie Meanley / Wood.
Lorna Jack acknowledged the Talented winners at Glasgow and congratulated Myself and Matthew Lennon and Simone and Katy for our wins of the Sheriff moot and the Client Counseling competition and it was great to have our trophies on display and acknowledged by the Society.
What a great panel these ladies were outlining the reported increases in traineeships figures in Scotland with a 26% jump from 427 in 2009 to 539 in 2010 and Katie Wood confirmed there are currently 620 Diploma students in Scotland and she really helped soon to be trainees by discussing How to register your traineeship and discussing the role the society plays in the day to day life of trainees.
As a supporter of ‘life long learning’ I was delighted to hear from Liz Campbell about the Societies active part in a manifesto for wider access to public legal education.
The panel had coffee and answered personal questions regarding traineeships at the end.
It was a super day and I am glad I attended.
Yet another example of Glasgow University’s Diploma Team giving our students exactly what we need to prepare us for life in law.
You can follow the law Society of Scotland at @LawScot
Thank you for following my journey through the Diploma in Legal practice.
Michelle Hynes-McIlroy LLB (Hons)