Looking back on 2011: ‘The impact of Cadder on criminal defence agents has been huge’

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Linda Urquhart, Chairman, Morton Fraser: “It’s been a tough year for everyone, as the dawning realisation that the world is different has hit home. The recession isn’t going to be a short blip.

“Uncertainty is here to stay. We are not insulated from the economies of our neighbours, and our ability to influence our destiny has limitations. Whilst not affecting the work we do at Morton Fraser, in terms of developments in Scots law, Cadder was the year’s most significant event.”

Sir David Edward, former European Court of Justice judge: “For me, the most significant event of 2011 was, I’m afraid, the death of Lord Rodger. Although Lord Reed is a worthy successor, I don’t think anyone can match Lord Rodger for his depth of knowledge of the law and his willingness to give his time to students, societies of young lawyers, academics and so on.” 

Philip Rodney, Chairman, Burness: “There was an interesting dynamic in the Scottish legal market in 2011, a shift of market positions. In the past, there was a sense that the larger the firm, the more successful it was. That has changed. The firms that have been most successful are the ones that have a really intimate understanding of clients’ business that allows them to see the issues that keep them awake at night and find solutions. It’s about being prepared to go beyond giving a client merely what it wants, and rather have the ability and relationship of trust that allows one to tell them what it is that they need. That kind of connection is the catalyst to being not just a lawyer, but a trusted advisor.”

Stephen O’Rourke, Advocate and Scotsman columnist: “From a Scottish point of view I would say the seismic event of 2011 was the announcement that the Scottish Court Service budget has been cut by 20 per cent. This will pose enormous challenges for the delivery of justice in Scotland, both in the civil and criminal spheres. It is difficult to imagine how any more meaningful or broader reforms to the system (such as envisaged by Lord Gill) can be achieved in such straitened times.” 

Catriona Headley, President of the Scottish Young Lawyers’ Association and solicitor at Digby Brown: “I feel 2011 will come to be seen as the starting point for a period of transformation across the profession: The Legal Services (Scotland) Act 2010; a new proposed constitution for the Law Society of Scotland; The Carloway and McCluskey Reviews; the new postgraduate education and training system for solicitors and changes to the funding of the PEAT1. The most significant event was the debate around the role of the UK Supreme Court in Scots law in response to the decisions in Cadder and Fraser”.

Lorna Jack, Chief Executive, Law Society of Scotland: “2011 has been a tough year across the board for many solicitors. The belt-tightening which we saw from 2008-2010 in private practice firms reached the public sector with a direct impact on solicitors working in-house for local authorities and those who are paid through Legal Aid. Further consolidations of firms took place this year, and that is a trend which we believe will continue into 2012 and beyond. The Society’s Cost of Time survey shows that the total turnover of the firms which took part has increased over last year, which is some good news. Of course, the impact of Cadder on criminal defence agents has been huge, and the subsequent Carloway review brings positive changes such as clarifying the law on detention of suspects at police stations. However, the 24/7 nature of on-call duty expected of criminal defence solicitors has been difficult for many, and there are no easy solutions. Corroboration continues to cause the Society concern, with the proposal to remove this safeguard in criminal cases.”

Robert Carr, Chairman, Anderson Strathern: “The impact of the introduction of ABS in England and Wales was watched with interest, opportunity and concern by the different groups within the Scottish legal industry. It was the largest firms who came out in force and gave ABS a resounding thumbs-up but there remains concern among the majority of firms which comprise fewer than ten partners about the impact of ABS in Scotland when implementation commences in 2012. A key driver for change brought about by ABS is an improved service for consumers. Time will tell as to whether this will be realised.”

Tom Reid, Managing Partner, Davis Polk, New York: “2011 was another year of escalating litigation and wave after wave of new regulation affecting the financial services industry. In America, every action in the nature of a financial crisis provokes an unequal and not entirely opposite reaction. We are seeing that play out fully now and the defining events of 2011 must be the federal government’s massive lawsuit via the FHFA against the country’s major lenders and the proposal of the Volcker rule by five federal regulators which threatens to set the US financial sector back decades and render US banks less competitive than their non-US competitors.”

John Sturrock, Chief Executive, Core Solutions Group: “The most significant event has to be the election of an SNP Government with an overall majority – the implications of this will affect us all, in the legal profession and elsewhere for years to come.”

Joyce Cullen, Chairman, Brodies: “While the general economic outlook remains gloomy, we have seen some increase in business activity by our clients and a growing number of instructions, particularly in the last quarter. We recognise times are tough for many Scottish businesses and have focused on exploring new opportunities and evolving our services to help clients succeed in Scotland, the UK and further afield.”

Chris Smylie, Chief Executive of Maclay Murray & Spens LLP: “Law firms are facing a very different and uncertain future, which makes it all the more important to have a clear strategic focus and coherent execution. We recognised these challenges at an early stage and the steps we have taken to realign our business have put us in a strong position to take advantage of the opportunities that will undoubtedly arise. The Eurozone crisis is the most significant event given its effect in dampening economic recovery.”

Donald Shaw, Managing Partner, Dundas & Wilson: “2011 remained a challenging year for the legal profession with increasing competitive and economic pressure affecting client confidence, particularly after the summer. For likely longer term impact, the commencement of the phased introduction of the Legal Services Act in both Scotland and England and Wales, and the start of private equity investments into law, were probably the most significant events for the legal profession in the UK as a whole.”