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The importance of organisations for legal professionals

The importance of organisations for legal professionals

Posted by david-hand | 25 October 2018

The organisations which exist to provide representation, networking and professional development opportunities to legal professionals play an important role in the legal industry. One such organisation is the Society of Advocates in Aberdeen, which exists to promote professional expertise and standards amongst members of the legal profession in and around Aberdeen and establish links between them.

The Society of Advocates in Aberdeen

The origins of the Society can be traced back to the 16th Century and have been authorized by Royal Charters in 1774, 1799 and 1862.  When the Society began, membership was essential for anyone who wished to practise law in the Aberdeen area, a power which the Law Society of Scotland holds now.

Today the society has 365 members, drawn from lawyers of all age groups involved in the whole spectrum of legal practice in the Aberdeen area, including criminal, civil, and sole practitioners, large firms, and in-house advocates, ranging from trainees to those who have retired.

Maria Robertson is the Executive Secretary and Librarian at the Society of Advocates in Aberdeen and provides us with an insight into the range of benefits that the Society offers to their members, from lobbying in their interests to bringing a diverse range of practitioners together through a range of networking opportunities.

What benefits do the Society of Advocates in Aberdeen offer to members?

“An important benefit is the networking facilities we offer and the events we run. The chance for our members to meet and talk to their peers is vital, especially as so much business is done through email these days. It is very beneficial for our members to meet each other and put faces to names. As an example of why this networking is important, at one of our monthly Library Lunches I witnessed a business card being passed to a member who had recently been made redundant with the instruction to “call me”. 

These events range from formal dinners to pub quizzes to attending performances by local theatre companies. Our members have a wide range of interests outside work and we try to cater for everyone at some point.

Beyond these networking events, other benefits of membership include the use of the Society library, seminars on key topics and a programme of CPD-recognised training events. We also circulate items of interest to them and run private members only Facebook and LinkedIn groups to allow them to discuss things within the community. We also represent our members through lobbying activities we conduct for the greater benefit of the interests of the profession both locally and nationally.“

How often do you conduct lobbying activities?

“While lobbying activities are not something we conduct terribly frequently, they are an important aspect of what we do, especially as we act as a representative of our members’ interests. Recently our lobbying activities did have notable success when the Law Society of Scotland wanted to change its constitution; we submitted a paper against the changes which helped prove these changes were not favourable, and they were scrapped.”

As the Society has a diverse membership, how do you ensure that you are meeting the range of needs they have?

”The Society is entirely self-funded, so maintaining our membership and ensuring that we are meeting the needs of all of our members is vital. Gathering their feedback is the best way for us to know that we are accomplishing that. Last year we conducted a survey covering topics from social events to library subscriptions and acted on various items that came out of this. We now have redecorated bathrooms, and we have offered social and networking opportunities that our members had indicated would be beneficial.”

What relationship do you have with other representative bodies in Scotland?

“While the focus of the Society is primarily on our members, I keep in touch with other law librarians through the Scottish Law Librarians Group (SLLG). The Society has a reciprocal agreement with the Society of Solicitors in the Supreme Courts of Scotland (SSC) in Edinburgh and Royal Faculty of Procurators (RFPG) in Glasgow so that members of each organisation can use each other’s facilities when in a different city. The Faculty of Advocates pay an annual subscription so their members can use our library when in Aberdeen. We are currently working on strengthening ties with the Law Society of Scotland and are hosting some remote seminars they are hosting, we’re also in discussions about a big legal dinner in the city to include all solicitors, not just our members.

Beyond other similar bodies, we also take advantage of the network of members we have to provide a service for the wider community of Aberdeen, most notably through creating a Will Search mailing list. As there is no central database of wills in Scotland if someone dies, and their family do not know where their will is, they have to conduct extensive searches to try to find it or get a solicitor to do it on their behalf. The Will Search mailing list covers all member firms which deal with executries and if someone is looking for a will I can circulate an email to ask them all to check for it. This idea has proved very popular, and the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow have set up a similar service for their local area.”

About Maria

Maria grew up in a hotel but was determined to work 9-5 so qualified in Information and Library Studies.  She was a Children’s Librarian before falling into law working at the Advocates Library, McGrigor Donald, and then returning to the Advocates for her dream job of Reader Services Librarian.  When she and her husband decided to move back to Aberdeen Maria took the post of Executive Secretary and Librarian for the Society of Advocates in Aberdeen.  Here she uses all the transferable skills collected over the years, and some new ones, in a very unusual job which she is slowly turning into her (revised) dream job.  As well as taking care of the membership she also has turned the gorgeous Victorian library into an exclusive venue for private or corporate events.

Do you know your local equivalent?

Organisations like the Society of Advocates in Aberdeen play an important role for legal professionals, providing a range of opportunities that are focussed entirely on their needs. From networking opportunities to courses which further professional development, becoming a member of one of these organisations brings a range of benefits that would be difficult to organise on an ongoing basis without them. With societies, associations and other similar organisations existing across the world, these opportunities are available to many legal practitioners.

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