110 lawyers gathered at Dunblane Hydro on Wednesday 28th September for the second Connect2Law Annual Conference, organised by law firm Harper Macleod LLP, which operates the Connect2Law referral and support network in Scotland.
The conference marked the third anniversary of the launch of the network in Scotland, which is designed to make sure clients of high street and rural firms never outgrow them by allowing them to use Harper Macleod's services to provide a wider range of legal advice.
Chaired by Douglas Mill, Director of Professional Legal Practice at the University of Glasgow, the conference welcomed speakers including Bruce Ritchie and Neil Stevenson of the Law Society of Scotland, Donald Parbrook of Milne Craig, Jeff Collins and Richard Smith of Allied Surveyors and Murdoch MacLennan of Clydesdale Bank plc.
The conference provided a platform for member firms to come together to share ideas, discuss problems and suggest solutions with the overarching focus on the future of, and opportunities in, the Scottish legal market.
The debate surrounding ABS continued to be a hot topic with many agreeing with Harper Macleod's chairman, Professor Lorne Crerar, that the legal "cake" is changing and that one must choose whether they will "embrace or fight" the changes, which will, in turn, result in larger or smaller slices of market being redistributed. The general consensus was that legal services such as conveyancing, wills and executries and employment, which are capable of being commoditised by use of technology, will be areas where ABS will have the greatest impact.
During the conference, one delegate commented: "It was nice to see an optimistic take on the poor economic situation, to see it as a chance to take advantage of the poor conditions and to see ABS as an opportunity, not a threat."
Two of the most popular breakout groups at the event were on the topics of Managing your Practice and Marketing Yourself, Your Firm and Your Services, indicating that member firms are keen to develop their business expertise.
Connect2Law member Jimmy Macdonald of Freelands, Motherwell, said: "The day was, for me, like last year, extremely worthwhile - not only because of the talks and speakers but also because the conference helps to emphasise the way Connect2Law actually works, with member firms mixing and sharing with Harper Macleod. There was a feeling that we're actually working together in this and that we're part of a bigger thing, which I think is really important."
Anne Macdonald, Associate and Business Development Manager for the network, commented: "We are very proud of Connect2Law and the manner in which it has matured into a very workable and supportive network with collaboration at its core. Since its launch, Connect2Law has grown to be Scotland's largest referral and support network with over 160 member firms in locations from Lerwick to Jedburgh, and almost every town in between."
Since the launch of the network in September 2008, over 1650 referrals have been received by Harper Macleod with over 450 of these being referred back out amongst fellow member firms. Harper Macleod has also utilised, where possible, member firms as local agents and now have 38 of the 50 Sheriff Courts covered by member firms.
Established in 1988, Harper Macleod, the Official Law Firm to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, has 45 Partners, 150 fee-earners and a total complement of over 261 staff based in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness. The firm is noted for its expertise in key industry sectors, including Banks & Financial Institutions; Energy & Natural Resources; Food, Leisure & Hospitality; Insurance; Property & Construction; Public Sector (including Housing); Retail; Sport; and Family-owned Businesses. Clients include Clydesdale Bank, SSE Renewable Developments, William Hill, Heineken UK, RBS Insurance, National Car Parks, The Forestry Commission Scotland, The Department for Work & Pensions, The Scottish Government, HEROtsc, National Car Parks, The Scottish Premier League and Optical Express.