Business First meets Ian Huddleston, President of the Law Society of Northern Ireland

| August 7, 2017

Ian HuddelstonBusiness First meets President of the Law Society of Northern Ireland, Ian Huddleston

Why did you want to become President of the Law Society of Northern Ireland?

Ian Huddleston: I have always had a strong commitment to the solicitor profession and the role which it has in all aspects of the our society in so far as it touches the lives of individuals as it does commerce

It just seemed natural that I become involved in the Law Society of Northern Ireland as the representative and regulatory body for solicitors in Northern Ireland.

In November 2009 I was elected as a Council member of the Society and since then I have been Chair of a number of committees before agreeing to become Junior Vice President and subsequently President at the end of 2016.

I have always had an interest in legal education and continue to be heavily involved in that area.

What does the President of the Law Society actually do?

Ian Huddleston: Being President of the Law Society of Northern Ireland is more than just a title or a symbolic role.

As President you are first and foremost there to work alongside the Society’s Chief Executive in the important overarching work which the Society undertakes in representing the 2,500 plus solicitor members through engagement with key decision makers and organisations.

This has proven to be of greater importance this year as the Brexit debate has intensified and particularly given the prominent role Northern Ireland now has within the ongoing discussions.

How do you balance being President and a practising solicitor?

Ian Huddleston: There is no ‘perfect’ balance and I think you simply do the best you can. I’m not complaining as I find the role and the responsibilities very rewarding and I actually enjoy engaging with our members and stakeholders and other Law Societies on issues of importance to the legal profession and Northern Ireland more generally

What are the main issues facing the solicitor profession in Northern Ireland?

Ian Huddleston: The uncertainty of Brexit coupled with the ongoing political instability in Northern Ireland continues to cause concern not only for the solicitor profession but for Northern Ireland as a whole.

As local businesses many Solicitor firms are considering the out-workings of Brexit not just in terms of the impact on their clients but also on the potential impact on their own practices.

Do you think the public value the solicitor profession in Northern Ireland?

Ian Huddleston: A recent survey showed that in Northern Ireland there is overwhelming trust placed in an independent solicitor profession which is a recognition of the important and at times life changing advice and help which they provide.

Local solicitors are integral to our economy not just as the providers of legal advice but also as businesses and employers.

They are an invaluable community resource supporting the most vulnerable and those in need as well as playing their part in supporting schools, churches and local businesses.

In 2016 the Society commissioned research which indicated that 78% of those questioned said that they would prefer to use a local solicitor for their legal matters.

Even in an age when our lives are dominated by technology many still value being able to access their local solicitor and to be able to speak to them on issues which are of importance to them.

Do you think the solicitor profession in Northern Ireland needs to change with the times?

Ian Huddleston: I believe that solicitors and firms are and always have been responsive to the social, economic and technological changes. That pace of change will inevitably continue as we look for new ways of providing legal services and advice.

As a practising solicitor I am all too aware that clients are more discerning and at times demanding and that’s perfectly understandable especially when it comes to someone providing a professional service. I think that solicitors will continue to be responsive to the needs of clients and the public.

Did you always want to be a solicitor?

Ian Huddleston: Yes I can’t imagine doing anything else…well I can confess that coming from a farming background my father had hoped I would become a vet which he thought would be more useful.

What’s the best piece of career advice that you have been given?

Ian Huddleston: Be honest and always make sure you know what you’re talking about.

What does the President of the Law Society do when he’s off duty?

Ian Huddleston: I enjoy sailing, walking and reading but unfortunately finding the time at present is always difficult.



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