Prepared in advance of the AGM on Thursday 9th June at 5.30pm
I am now a year into my tenure as Dean of the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow. It has been a busy and interesting period, but the duties have (as no doubt for all predecessors) confirmed that the job would be impossible without the active and steady support of Faculty staff, most ably led by John McKenzie, by fellow Council members and by the wider membership. I take this opportunity to thank everyone as the first and most important element of this report.
Duties and role of the Dean
The Dean is a leader – but primus inter pares, and should not take airs and graces. This is of course Glasgow, where you don’t get away with that anyway. I have been shown great loyalty and respect by colleagues whom I have led in supporting practitioners, helping to manage educational and CPD offerings, maintaining our beautiful and historic premises (as Dean I have now explored all of the structure including the basement and the various Dickensian cupboards, that are as fascinating as they are ancient) and making our mark in the wider legal, business and cultural community.
I took over from immediate Past Dean Donald Reid, whom I had the honour to support as Vice-Dean, and in line with his wise agenda I have been focusing on the needs and interests of those who are struggling with access to justice or to the legal structures that are around them - often felt to be on top of them, bearing down. We are again providing a growing, commitment to the Glasgow Legal Walk in which takes place annually and is due to recur on Tuesday 27 September 2022 in the early evening, to be led off by the Sheriff Principal. This event is organized in various places in the UK by the Access to Justice Foundation which seeks to provide funded legal help to those in need. It is an enjoyable walk around central Glasgow past courts and other legal buildings and historic landmarks, finishing in a reception with drinks and nibbles for walkers at our own Faculty building. We also continue to liaise with the Lawscot Foundation which provides financial assistance to talented young people from challenging backgrounds who wish to study and pursue a career in law. Our existing charitable funds and focus can contribute to this, and we are constantly on the lookout for ways to raise additional funds – so all suggestions welcome.
Donald in his report last year rightly highlighted the collegiality and mutual support shown to, by, and within the Royal Faculty. Whatever kind of law we practice and in every kind of firm, sole practice or corporate/government, Crown body – and/or academic institution - we all rely on each other in various ways. Part of my role and action has been around expanding connections, especially with all the Glasgow Universities and Glasgow College, most of which are pretty much on our doorstep, and all on our wavelength. These latter colleagues are linked to us as fellow law professionals, and their students are of course the next generation of solicitors and other lawyers. It makes sense for us to work together, to create mutual projects. The Glasgow Legal Walk is just one example of us providing an opportunity for others, especially in the academic world, to join in and draw closer to us. It is only one example of the collegiality that benefits everyone. And if on reading this you want to know more or even think that you and colleagues could join us individually or as a fundraising team, get in touch. Quite literally the more the merrier.
The library is what we are best known for - and rightly. Even the larger firms with research and case law resources find the RFPG’s integrated, comprehensive facilities and works provide the best in support for litigation and other case work. whether you are a working solicitor locally, a suburban high street practitioner or an advocate, use of the library stock and online services is an excellent experience. That may be with or without a visit to sit in the quiet, studious atmosphere which manages to be a throwback to an
earlier gentler time, but using cutting edge tools – and with a posh coffee in the atmospheric Small Library downstairs.
Our CPD and TCPD programmes also remain jewels in our Crown. Professor Charles Hennessy accepted appointment as Education Convenor under Donald Reid’s Deanship, and just as Donald predicted the flowering of a variety of good ideas, those projects are growing fast and fruitfully, featuring the best of speakers and the most popular and useful of subject-matter and format. One stand-out is Charles’ advocacy training course, which has high uptake and is set to be enhanced even further. He has arranged an upcoming event - An Evening with Rita Rae, with one of our more stellar Glasgow lawyers talking about her career and experiences, with some more headline events on the stocks – please keep an eye on the RFPG website, which has recently been renewed and relaunched, and is excellent.
The auditor service for fee assessment and taxation continues strongly under Janet Blackstock. Please keep this facility in mind. It can save hours of clerking work in the office, produces a charge which is independently verified and thus eases the conversations with clients. We thank Janet for her hard work and dedication.
The Faculty Building
No-one reading needs me to tell them what an asset our historic premises are. I have taken a few of my academic guests around it and uniformly they “Ooh!” and “Ahh!” at various points. No wonder. If you were in two minds about joining the Royal Faculty, the building sells us brilliantly. As with any structure, it needs to be maintained to keep it in good shape and presentable, so the ongoing programme of planned maintenance has been timeous. We were successful in gaining a significant grant from Glasgow City
Heritage Trust to assist with a number of initial works. Thereafter the works to take place over the next five to ten years are well underway. On top of these essential tasks we are looking at ways of using the building to its and our best advantage, both for our profession and membership, but also the wider Glasgow civic/cultural scene.
Our members are the heart of our Faculty. Sustaining and increasing membership is crucial both to our finances and to our future. We had been shedding one or two member firms in the last year or so, but as I write this report we have several new members joining and expressions of interest from more. All I can say is that those who are in the Faculty and a fortiori those members who actively use the facilities and services get a great deal of benefit. I can put my hand on my heart and recommend membership to any firm and practitioner considering it. Indeed I invite any such colleagues to contact me first, and I can answer all of your questions
The Law Society of Scotland
Our relations with the profession’s governing body remain strong and friendly. I am (though up for reelection before you read this) just about the longest-serving member of the Council of the Law Society, representing the Glasgow constituency. Dialogue between our two organisations is steady and constructive.
John McKenzie, our chief executive, is the RFPG’s jack of all trades and master of them too. He fulfils his comprehensive brief quietly but effectively, and with grace and respect to all (even when a Dean says or does something daft that needs fixed…). Within the library he is loyally assisted by Heather Rosa and Sam Vallance. Regular readers of this annual report will miss the name of Marjory Stewart. Marjory retired in July 2021 after 30 years working loyally and effectively for the Faculty. She has our thanks, and best wishes for a long and happy retirement.
Throughout the year I have been ably supported and encouraged by my fellow members of Council both on plenary session and in various committees. Donald Reid as a wise Past Dean has been a stalwart, and Stephen Vallance was elected Vice-Dean last year and is highly effective, innovative and always ready to ask the uniquely left-field question. A number of members of Council have served their terms and are stepping down. They are Stephen Grant, Janie Law and Clair McLachlan . On behalf of the Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow I wish to thank them for their wise and cheerful contributions, in so ably serving.
The Year to Come
We are emerging out of two years of hard and worrying lockdown constituted in various ways and degrees, and although there are other horrors in the world at this time, our life and work is returning in Glasgow to something resembling normal. We should forget nothing, take the lessons learned and apply them, and reinvigorate our professional and personal lives with the opportunity to do our best. The Royal Faculty of Procurators in Glasgow has that ethos and we dedicate ourselves to our members, our fellow local legal practitioners, the population we serve and the country we love.
26 April 2022