From line-outs to the law

From line-outs to the law. Inverness Associate becomes Chamber of Commerce board director.

Contrasting weekends spent playing for, and coaching youngsters at, Highland Rugby Club at Canal Park, during the week Andrew Stott specialises in corporate and commercial advice and transactional work for a wide range of private and public sector clients.

We spoke to the solicitor, based in the Highland capital, to find out more about his role, the recent appointment, and the challenges facing businesses in the north of Scotland.

Tell us briefly about your background?

I was raised in Glasgow, graduating with a masters in business and management from Strathclyde Business School, and a law degree from the University of Edinburgh.

I joined Ledingham Chalmers as a senior solicitor in 2009.

What do you see as the main challenges for businesses, both for the Highlands and Islands, and for legal firms?

Locally it’s the recruitment and retention of workforce.

The Highlands has an ageing population, compared with the rest of Scotland. So there is competition among employers for quality staff of working age.

The new UHI Beechwood campus could help to alleviate this issue by encouraging more young people to stay and work in the Highlands, but that will likely take some time.

On the legal side, we are starting to see individuals carry out more legal work themselves, rather than employ a lawyer, no doubt because more information is freely available on the internet.

While, unsurprisingly it’s not something we’d recommend, I suspect this trend will continue.

In response, I think that the legal profession needs to make the public more aware of the value and importance of employing a professional, and of the complex and time-consuming nature of so much of that work, if done properly.

What expertise do you bring to the Chamber board, and how has your background prepared you?

Being a board director is a great way to use my skills and knowledge while - on a personal level - deepening my involvement with the local business community.

I feel that I bring a wide range of experience to the role, my career has been nothing if not diverse!

I worked on the shopfloor of a factory (as a summer job) from when I was in secondary school to finishing university.

In my 20s, I worked for a global systems integration specialist in consultancy and sales, and I’ve have now worked in corporate law in the central belt and the Highlands for 10 years.

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the industry since you started out?

When I started out as a lawyer, it was before the banking crisis, and the (legal) economy was buoyant.

Those days are gone now and firms have had to adapt. Teams are now leaner, and there is more of an emphasis on a strong contribution from all levels of a team, not just at partner level, in terms of business and operational development.

This is a good thing, particularly in terms of making use of a broader range of skills and more varied perspectives.

What is the importance of the chamber to the business community?

The Highlands have built a reputation for innovation, acumen, and entrepreneurship and the chamber has a central role in maintaining that reputation, supporting both start-ups and established organisations.

The organisation acts as a hub.

It brings business networks together and helps to create synergies that otherwise might not happen. Crucially, it helps to promote the businesses of Inverness-shire and the Highlands to the rest of Scotland, the UK, Europe and beyond.

Having lived and worked in the central belt, I know how important raising the profile of the Highlands is, even within Scotland itself.

What’s the one thing you wish people knew about your job and its challenges?

There is often a lot of extra work that goes on behind the scenes to get a great result for a client. Often it is this work that helps to keep a transaction on track, but the client is understandably not aware: our profession really needs to sell itself better!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

Sounds very obvious, but a professor at Strathclyde Business School, at the end of a lengthy and detailed lecture on business systems, concluded by saying that it does not matter how clever your systems are, or your idea is, if a business is not getting cash in the door, there is no business.

That’s stayed with me, and I find that it helps to apply those simple words to various business and legal scenarios that I face from time to time.

Tell us something about you that most people don’t know

I love cooking, there is something very therapeutic about it, as long as it doesn’t go wrong!

What lessons from rugby can you apply to the law?

I come from a rugby family: my dad played for Glasgow and North & Midlands, and my brother played professionally for Glasgow.

I’ve played since I was five-years-old, as a mini and junior at Cambuslang, then playing senior rugby for West of Scotland and Boroughmuir, although injury curtailed my best senior days.

In my relative playing dotage, I now play for Highland, which is a great social club with bags of potential to be a strong force for rugby in the north of Scotland.

There are lots of lessons from rugby that can be applied to working in a legal business -

  • You need a strong plan that the team understands. To extend that, you need others who are not in the team, but who might be, to understand the plan too.
  • Preparation is key. If you are not prepared, you will not achieve success.
  • Strong, inspirational leadership galvanises a team, and can make that team achieve so much more that the sum of its parts.
  • Teams are about balance. A team full of superstars that do not complement each other will not be consistently good, the way a balanced team will.
  • There is no substitute for hard work and application.
  • Appropriate training, coaching, and mentoring are all crucial.
  • If something is not working, you have to change and adapt. You need to train your players to recognise when things are not working and give them strategies to fix the problem.
  • It’s not all about hard, serious graft. You need to have downtime and fun too!

Posted, 17 May 2017 Categories: Insights