Monday, October 06, 2008

Law Society Chief Douglas Mill who put Scots lawyers in the doghouse forever finally departs

The one man who did the most to cause intense public hate of Scotland’s once mighty but now weak, corrupt & incompetent legal profession, Douglas Mill, finally departs his office.

Many will breathe a sign of relief … rumours of parties & beacons up and down the length of Scotland slightly exaggerated … (devil worshiping solicitors however remain in mourning for their loss …)

The Scotsman reports :

Mill reaches end of his long goodbye

Published Date: 06 October 2008
By Jennifer Veitch

SINCE it was announced in late January that Douglas Mill was to step down as chief executive of the Law Society of Scotland, some people might be forgiven for thinking that he had already gone.

Yet, despite the fact that his successor, Lorna Jack, was unveiled on Friday, Mill's last day in post actually will be tomorrow.

Although he has largely disappeared from public view over the past nine months, he insists he's "not been hitting golf balls", and has instead been in a "phased withdrawal" from the post. While he has scaled down public engagements, he has worked on special projects, such as paralegal regulation, and his spare time has been spent working on his next venture – his own consultancy business.

But when Mill could have remained in a salaried post until retirement – both his predecessors stayed more than 20 years – leaving to go it alone seems like a big risk, especially during an economic downturn. So what has prompted his resignation?

Many in the profession concluded he simply had had enough of the pressure after several years of fighting the profession's battles over issues including complaints handling – a battle that most think the society lost. It is also suggested he became frustrated with the structure of the society and the length of time involved in trying to get things changed.

Certainly, Mill admits that, by late last year, he had lost much of his enthusiasm for the role. After just over a decade in the job, his gut reaction told him it was time to move on.

"I had been in the job 11 years, and each of my predecessors did about 22 years," he says. "But with all due respect to them, it's a totally different world out there. I have probably admitted more solicitors in the last 11 years than the two of them put together.

"The job as it evolved is very different from the job I applied for. Having said that, I have absolutely no regrets. This is not 'bitter and twisted Douglas Mill goes in a big huff' or anything like that."

He points out the Law Society of England and Wales has gone through three chief executives during his time at Drumsheugh Gardens. "Heading up an organisation like the Law Society is much more of a burn-out job that it used to be," he says.

"I slept in 27 different beds last year, which I stress is not as exciting as it sounds. I had a job which evolved into 14 weekends a year of conference and other commitments."

Mill concluded that if he were going to seek a new challenge, he would have to do it while he still had the drive and energy. "I was 51 in January, and I was 40 when I started here – I thought if I leave this for another five or six years, I'll be a twilight case."

Since resigning, he has travelled around Scotland to write a report on paralegal regulation. His swansong came last month when he presided over the International Institute of Law Association Chief Executives conference in Namibia.

"It was a very elegant and symbolic high note to finish on," he says.

Now he hopes his experience will be of benefit to firms across Scotland who want to improve their business efficiency.

"I have always been interested in management," he says. "I graduated with my MBA in 1990 and I thought I would be the first of a drove of young lawyers to do MBAs. Frankly, you can count them on the fingers of one hand."

With just over 1,200 firms in Scotland, Mill predicts many won't survive the twin pressures of the economic downturn and increased competition arising from alternative business structures.

"They have had an incredibly good decade," he says. "But they are starting to realise over the past few months that the recession has bitten hard and deep.

"The plain fact is, basically all areas of the profession are affected. The big boys don't have the deals any longer, but particularly the high street has remained too reliant on domestic conveyancing. The warnings went out ten or 15 years ago not to have too many eggs in one basket, but that's not happened."

Mill intends to offer advice and training on general management issues as well as more specific areas, such as succession planning and preparing for partnership.

He acknowledges that, in some cases, if he's called in to give advice, he may simply be telling the firm they don't have a viable business. And over the years at the society, Mill has noted an emerging "bifurcation" in the profession between big firms and smaller operations.

The role of the Law Society in representing the interests of solicitors is further complicated by the fact that more than a quarter work in-house. He predicts that the society may have to focus its efforts on smaller firms and, indeed, he foresees a point where larger firms who operate in the rest of the UK may choose to be regulated by the Law Society of England and Wales.

"They've always had that option," he says. "The amount of business that big firms do that actually requires a practising certificate is probably fairly marginal."

Regardless of the detail of the proposals brought forward by the Scottish Government for alternative business structures in Scotland, Mill anticipates that regulation will be a major challenge for his successor and the profession.

"I am perpetually frustrated that no-one has yet looked in any depth at the regulation of alternative business structures. How that grafts on to our collegiate insurance, our collegiate fidelity and so on is a mystery to me."

If Mill has one advantage in the consultancy marketplace, he says it is that few other people understand the implications of alternative business structures and the other pressures on firms better than he does.

"I can go into firms and add real value," he says. "There is a gap here in the market in Scotland."

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