While there is very little that SLAS can do to offset the horrors of the credit crunch and general downturn in business and, in particular, the advent of redundant practitioners and even redundant trainees, SLAS Council has made two initiatives in the face of these difficult circumstances.
KEEPING IN TOUCH PROGRAMME
In the first place, SLAS has offered to operate a register of firms who would be willing to employ redundant practitioners on a part time and unpaid basis with duties designed mainly to keep those practitioners in touch with professional developments. Clearly, SLAS would wish such firms to operate this programme on the understanding that terms and conditions would be reasonable and non exploitative. SLAS offers also to operate a register of redundant practitioners who would be interested in participating in this programme. At present, we have received a number of enquiries and some favourable comment but no specific registrations have taken place.
WAIVING OF SUBSCRIPTIONS
Council has provided that any practitioner members who have been made redundant should be excused their subscription for 2009. In order to implement this provision, any affected members are invited to return their subscription notice marked “redundant as of (date)” and they will be credited with membership to the end of 2009 without payment of subscription but on the understanding that, if they find a position during 2009 they will inform SLAS accordingly so that a partial subscription might be calculated. Any affected members who have already paid their subscription are invited to contact the Secretary in order to claim a refund. This policy initially applies only to those members who have been made redundant prior to 31st March 2009 but the position shall be kept under review.
Council is aware that these measures may be of little comfort to many solicitors facing difficulties at this stage and members are invited to suggest other ways and means that might be used to address difficult current circumstances. The profession is reminded also of the availability of assistance from the Scottish Solicitors Benevolent Fund (SSBF) which, however, due to limited resources is available only in extremely straightened circumstances. There is also the potential for holiday respite through the SSBF Tod Foundation which is aimed at practitioners or their dependants who might be suffering problems such as stress and with a view to providing short term holiday respite, to be taken within Scotland.