Tuesday 20 December 2022

Lynn McMahon appointed Trustee of the WS Society


We are very proud that the firm's Lynn McMahon has been appointed to the WS Society's Board of Trustees

Founded in 1594, the Society of His Majesty's Writers to the Signet "may be supposed...the oldest extant professional body in the world." 

The "Signet" was one of the ancient Crown seals of the Kingdom of Scotland: 

"The publick Seals in Scotland are the Signet, the Great Seal, the Quarter Seal, and the Privy Seal. Summons for citing Persons before the Lords of Session, Letters of Horning, Caption, Inhibition, Arrestment, and other personal or real Diligence, Signatures and Precepts pass the King's Signet"

(William Forbes, "Institutes of the Law of Scotland" I, iv, 187)

The famous Great Seal was appended to Royal Charters and the like. The earliest extant impression of the Great Seal dates back over 1,000 years, being that of King Duncan II who reigned briefly in 1094 (having survived being held hostage by William the Conqueror for 15 years from the age of 12). For a fascinating study of the Seal under the various monarchs see "History of Scottish Seals"). 

In contrast, the Signet was the private seal of the early Scottish kings, "appended to the private letters or orders of the Sovereign regarding summonses and executions of the law and later to writs and warrants of the Court of Session issued in the Sovereign's name". The Writers to the Signet were those authorised to supervise its use and, later, to act as clerks to the Courts. The earliest recorded use of the Signet was in 1369. Writers to the Signet evolved into lawyers and, in 1532, were recognised as the original solicitors for litigation in the Supreme Courts as members of the College of Justice established by King James V. Writers to the Signet were included as members of the College of Justice when it was established in 1532, but the Society did not formally appear until 1594, when the King's Secretary, as Keeper of the Signet, granted Commissions to a Deputy Keeper and eighteen other writers.

Today, the WS Society is "at the heart of Scotland's law", maintains the magnificent category-A listed Signet Library and aims to "advance and disseminate knowledge and education in law and legal practice for public benefit...and promote high standards of expertise and professional conduct." We congratulate Lynn on her appointment and could not be happier to support the Society in all that it seeks to achieve. 

Thursday 20 October 2022

The Law Awards of Scotland 2022


Having won the Litigation Firm of the Year award in 2015, and having been named commended finalists in 2019, we have once again been shortlisted as finalists for the Litigation Team of the Year at The Herald Law Awards of Scotland 2022 by a panel of distinguished judges which included members of the Faculty of Advocates and the President of the Law Society of Scotland. The Awards were established in 2004 and "recognise those individuals and legal firms who uphold the highest standards and deliver exceptional services". The organisers note:

"These awards are the leading legal event in Scotland bringing together the country’s most influential figures. Established in 2004, they shine a spotlight on the excellent quality of work being undertaken by Scotland’s most respected lawyers and law firms. A broad range of categories ensure that the best in-house teams, individuals, law firms and suppliers across Scotland are recognised and rewarded."

As always, we are delighted and grateful to the judging panel for the work that it does in highlighting the excellent work done by the country's legal community.

Wednesday 13 May 2020

Covid-19 and creditor petitions

(Image by Neal Nisbet from Pixabay)

A second Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill was introduced at Holyrood this week.  Parliament agreed yesterday to treat it as an Emergency Bill and it is now therefore on an accelerated timetable, with the third and final stage of its progress towards being passed as law due to take place on 20 May.

For businesses, one of the Bill's key provisions will be the proposal to raise the threshold for creditor petitions for sequestration of debtors from the current £3,000 to £10,000 (in England the threshold is already £5,000).  This higher hurdle for creditors is intended to provide an additional protection for debtors, meaning that fewer will face the threat of personal bankruptcy, and follows on from the increase in the length of the statutory moratorium, from six weeks to six months, that was introduced in the first 2020 Coronavirus Act. Scotland's Government has explained that the principal purpose of these measures is to give adequate time to those debtors who will be able to repay their debts, once they have recovered from the immediate financial shock caused by the economic impacts of the coronavirus outbreak. These measures will inevitably greatly reduce the number of creditor petitions proceeding through the courts, which ought to have the additional benefit of relieving some of the administrative burden upon both the courts and the Accountant in Bankruptcy.

The increase in the threshold for creditor petitions, if passed, will expire automatically on 30 September 2020, unless extended by the Parliament for no more than two periods of six months – so 30 September 2021 at the latest. The Scottish Ministers could bring the provisions to an end earlier than the expiry date if those are deemed no longer necessary.  The Scottish Ministers would also be required by the Bill to report on the continued need for the measures, and on the use of powers in the Bill, every two months.

Nevertheless, and despite the explicitly temporary nature of these proposed changes, we still don't know what the overall economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak will be nor how long it will last. The curve may be L-shaped, rather than V or even U.  The policy considerations underlying the change in the law are, expressly, those of debtor protection. Much law from Holyrood, not just provisions relating to Covid-19, has had similar underlying aims. Our Parliament does not have much of a history of removing protections like this. It may yet be that in the end it's felt sensible to keep the new limit and that it quietly becomes a permanent feature of our insolvency law. As with so much today, only time will tell.