Katie Hay: New initiative set to deliver international expansion for Scottish lawyers and legal firms

Scottish solicitors are recognised for having high standards of legal practice, a wealth of expertise and the ability to take an innovative approach.

They are already delivering results for business located at home and elsewhere around the globe and the newly-launched Scottish Legal International (SLI), a joint initiative, led by some of our most successful commercial law firms in partnership with Scottish Development International (SDI) and the Law Society of Scotland, plans to expand on this success and promote this wealth of experience and talent further.

In an increasingly competitive global business environment, it is vital for us to take a coordinated approach to selling the strengths of Scotland’s legal profession.

The creation of SLI means there is a collective mechanism to ensure Scotland is well represented within the UK-wide initiative ‘Legal Services are GREAT’ and has the ability to pursue other projects to support the growth and success of Scottish legal businesses in international markets.

Scottish legal firms have the capacity and flexibility to respond to the demands of today’s economy whilst retaining traditional values of 
integrity and fairness on which the sector’s reputation has been built and SLI highlights the significant 
international work already being carried out by Scottish solicitors and aims to encourage expansion by 
marketing Scottish legal services 
as an essential component of successful international trade and investment.

As a country we already have strong, long lasting international trade links, providing access to extensive networks within leading trade centres across Europe and globally. We also have a world-class legal framework supporting leading expertise across diverse sectors such as financial services, energy, food and drink and digital technologies.

Scottish Legal International aims to highlight the significant overseas work that is already being carried out by solicitors, and expand it by selling Scottish legal services as an essential component of successful international trade and investment. The initiative also aims to equip solicitors and firms with international aspirations with the tools to learn about and engage with business opportunities through SDI’s knowledge of international markets in addition to the access it offers to business networks, including the expanding Globalscot community, a global support network for Scottish businesses looking to access new markets and trade overseas.

SLI, a profession-led initiative which is open to any law firm in Scotland with international aspirations, will be able to harness the knowledge and networks available through SDI alongside the Law Society’s connections with the global legal community.

We plan to contribute by using our overseas networks, as well as 
attendance at key events in the international legal calendar, to promote SLI and Scottish law firms. We will also provide platforms for solicitors to do business and make contacts as part of our own international 
representation work as well as making use of SDI networks to raise SLI’s profile.

SLI has the potential to become a self-sustaining membership group which can reap the rewards of taking a coordinated approach to promoting the profession’s expertise as a whole. This is an environment that we hope SLI will contribute to and benefit from, and we would strongly encourage firms with international ambitions to find out more and get involved.

Scottish Legal International was launched in Edinburgh in February by Annabelle Ewing, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Legal Affairs. A further event, hosted by the City of London Corporation was held on 28 March in London to promote Scotland’s reputation for legal excellence, with speakers Paul Carlyle, Interim Chairman of SLI and Partner at Shepherd and Wedderburn, Catherine McGuinness, Chairman of Policy and Resource, City of London Corporation and Ministry of Justice Director General, Mark Sweeney.

Katie Hay is Head of International at the Law Society of Scotland

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