I recently celebrated 15 years as a qualified attorney. Moments like these provide an opportunity for reflection. Over the course of my career I have practiced law while living in three very different Scottish cities, starting with an apprenticeship in Aberdeen and then moving to Edinburgh for four years, before moving to Inverness in 2012. My career has given me the opportunity to work with clients across Scotland and In doing so, I became aware of the particular challenges that present themselves in these different locations. Having spent most of my professional life (11 years) in the Heights, I have developed a deep understanding of how those challenges affect this community and how they can be overcome.
The total area of Highland Council territory, including all the islands, is 26,484 square kilometres, which is one-third of the land area of Scotland. The large distances between courts across the Highlands and Islands has an impact on us and many of our clients. Before the pandemic, I would fly from Inverness to the Isle of Lewis once a month to personally represent clients at Stornoway Sheriff’s Court. I also regularly took a two hour round trip to Tyne Sheriff Court. To attend meetings with me, some clients had to drive miles, taking entire days off work. The pandemic has brought about an unprecedented change in the way we work and introduced the use of video court hearings, so that clients can meet with attorneys via video call instead of in person if they do not want or cannot travel. The result is that as societies spread out in the Highlands and Islands, technology has made the world a smaller place and clients can reach us or courts more easily than ever before.
Small and secret societies
Over the years a number of people have expressed to me their concerns about hiring family solicitors in Inverness or other parts of the Highlands and Islands on the grounds that they fear “everyone will find out”. My response to this is reassurance. Dealing with clients and their information is strictly confidential. Every solicitor across Scotland is subject to the ‘Standards of Conduct’ set by the Law Society of Scotland. These standards specify that attorneys must act with honesty and integrity at all times and that all associates in the law firm must maintain the confidentiality of their clients’ business. Family attorneys know that they are dealing with emotionally sensitive and often financially complex information. Preserving the inherently private nature of that information is a cornerstone of our professional commitments.
The complexity of the instructions and the quality of the lawyers
I also heard it said, more than once, that “there are no good lawyers north of the middle belt”. The fact is that the location in which a lawyer practices does not determine his capabilities. Having practiced as a solicitor in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Inverness it is certain that the same family legal cases are to be found in the likes of Thurso, Ullapool, Aviemore, Dingwall, Elgin and Portree as they are in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Families across Scotland are diverse, complex and interesting. They all need the best lawyers to help them in the event of breakdown in relationships and conflict. From the beginning of my career I have been fortunate to have worked, and will continue to work here in Inverness, alongside and interviewing family solicitors.