Who is the top lawyer in Scotland?

In the quest to identify the top lawyer in Scotland, the spotlight falls on the accomplished Kevin McCallum QC, whose rise through the ranks of Scottish legal practise is as impressive as it is inspiring. This article explores the various facets of the Scottish legal system, from the career trajectory of a leading criminal silk to the darker aspects of legal practise, the cultural nuances within law firms, the educational journey to becoming a lawyer, and the critical role of solicitors in public inquiries. As we delve into these areas, we uncover the rich tapestry of Scotland’s legal landscape and the individuals who navigate it with expertise and dedication.

Key Takeaways

  • Kevin McCallum QC’s transition from Procurator Fiscal to a prominent defence advocate exemplifies the dynamic career paths in Scottish law.
  • The Scottish legal scene is not without its challenges, including major fraud cases and the alarming rate of violence against criminal defence lawyers.
  • Scottish law firms celebrate their heritage and identity through unique cultural expressions, though not without occasional controversy.
  • The journey to becoming a top lawyer in Scotland involves rigorous academic and postgraduate qualifications, including an LLB (Hons) Scots Law and a Diploma in Legal Practise.
  • Solicitors play a pivotal role in public inquiries, with Arlene Speirs’ involvement in the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry highlighting the importance of legal expertise in national investigations.

The Rise of Top Scottish Criminal Silk Kevin McCallum QC

The Rise of Top Scottish Criminal Silk Kevin McCallum QC

From Procurator Fiscal to Prominent Defence Advocate

Kevin McCallum QC’s journey from a Procurator Fiscal Depute to a renowned defence advocate is a testament to his versatility and expertise in the Scottish legal system. Appointed as a Senior Advocate Depute in November 2006, Kevin was tasked with the preparation and prosecution of complex and high-profile cases in Scotland. His transition back to defence practise in 2010 marked a significant shift, allowing him to apply his prosecutorial experience to defend a wide array of cases, from high value drugs cases to serious sexual offences.

McCallum’s move to 3PB Barristers in November 2021 further solidified his position as a top criminal silk. At 3PB, he continues to specialise in criminal defence, fatal accident inquiries, and inquests, operating from the prestigious Inner Temple offices in London.

The legal landscape in Scotland is dynamic, with the ‘Big 4’ law firms and numerous skilled solicitors in cities like Glasgow. McCallum’s expertise is particularly sought after for cases involving proceeds of crime, reflecting the demand for top-tier legal representation in such matters.

Joining the Ranks at 3PB Barristers

The addition of Kevin McCallum QC to the 3PB Barristers’ team marks a significant moment in the chambers’ expansion. As the third Scottish QC to join the ranks in recent years, McCallum’s move is indicative of 3PB’s growing influence within the legal community.

McCallum’s expertise in criminal law complements the diverse skill set of the barristers at 3PB, enhancing the chambers’ ability to represent clients across a broad spectrum of legal matters.

The recent regrading of several 3PB criminal barristers by the CPS Advocate Panel List underscores the chambers’ commitment to excellence and professional development. This achievement reflects the high standards and dedication of its members, including McCallum, who is poised to contribute significantly to the team’s success.

A Record of Success in High-Profile Prosecutions

Kevin McCallum QC’s tenure as a Senior Advocate Depute is marked by a track record of success in high-profile cases. Appointed in November 2006, he led the prosecution in numerous complex and intensive trials, showcasing his legal acumen. After returning to defence practise in 2010, McCallum has been at the forefront of defending serious charges, ranging from high-value drug cases to historic sexual abuse allegations.

McCallum’s expertise is not limited to the courtroom; his strategic approach to case preparation and his ability to navigate the intricacies of Scottish law have set a benchmark for legal excellence.

The following list highlights some of the significant cases McCallum has been involved with:

  • Multiple-accused high value drugs cases
  • Fraud and money laundering offences
  • Confiscation proceedings
  • Firearms offences
  • Serious sexual offences

His contributions to the Scottish legal system are a testament to the calibre of lawyers the country produces. Scottish lawyers, both solicitors and advocates, are equipped to represent clients in various legal capacities, a fact exemplified by the likes of Alexander MacLeod, a lawyer in Central Glasgow.

The Dark Side of Law in Scotland

The Dark Side of Law in Scotland

The £10 Million Scottish Castle Swindle

The Scottish legal landscape was shaken by the revelation of a dodgy solicitor gaoled for a
10 million swindle
involving a historic castle. This case highlighted the vulnerabilities within the property sector and the dire consequences of unscrupulous practises in law.

The solicitor’s scheme involved intricate legal manoeuvres and a deep understanding of property law, ultimately leading to a significant breach of trust. The fallout from this scandal has prompted calls for stricter oversight and ethical standards in the legal profession.

The swindle not only defrauded investors but also tarnished the reputation of the Scottish legal system, which prides itself on integrity and fairness.

While the majority of Scottish lawyers maintain high ethical standards, this incident serves as a stark reminder of the potential for malpractice. It underscores the importance of due diligence and the need for continuous professional development among legal practitioners to prevent such egregious acts.

Violence Against Criminal Defence Lawyers

The legal profession in Scotland is not immune to the darker aspects of society, with criminal defence lawyers often finding themselves at the receiving end of threats and violence. The safety of legal professionals is paramount, yet incidents continue to occur, highlighting the risks associated with defending those accused of serious crimes.

In recent years, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of reported attacks against lawyers. These range from verbal threats to physical assaults, both within and outside the courtroom. The stress and anxiety caused by such events can have a profound impact on the wellbeing of legal practitioners.

  • Verbal Threats: Often occur during or after heated court proceedings.
  • Physical Assaults: Can happen in the courtroom or when lawyers are off duty.
  • Psychological Impact: Long-term effects on lawyers’ mental health.

The legal community must stand together to address and mitigate these threats, ensuring that justice can be served without fear of retribution.

Unprofessional Conduct: The Case of the Creepy Partner

The legal profession in Scotland, as in many other jurisdictions, is not immune to instances of unprofessional conduct. One such case that sent ripples through the Scottish legal community involved a partner at a well-respected firm who was struck off for sending inappropriate emails to a trainee. This case highlights the importance of maintaining professional boundaries and the consequences of failing to do so.

The severity of the misconduct led to a swift and decisive response from the regulatory body, ensuring that the integrity of the profession is upheld. It serves as a stark reminder that the legal profession demands the highest standards of conduct from its members.

While the details of the case are confidential, the impact on the firm and the individuals involved cannot be understated. The firm had to manage the fallout, which included:

  • Reassuring clients about the firm’s commitment to professionalism
  • Reviewing internal policies to prevent future incidents
  • Providing support to affected staff members

The legal community must continue to foster an environment where such behaviour is neither tolerated nor excused.

In light of such events, legal advice recommends against direct communication with the opposing party’s solicitor in sensitive matters such as divorce. Spousal maintenance in Scotland is influenced by factors including the length of the marriage, the needs of the parties, and the expertise of legal professionals to ensure fair settlements.

Celebrating Scottish Legal Culture

Celebrating Scottish Legal Culture

Burness Paull’s Unique Haggis and Bagpipes Film

In a bold move to celebrate Scottish legal culture, Burness Paull released a film that has become a talking point across the legal community. Featuring traditional Scottish elements such as haggis and bagpipes, the film showcases the firm’s pride in its heritage. This unique approach to branding has set a precedent for law firms looking to highlight their national identity in a creative way.

While some may see it as a mere marketing stunt, the film resonates with a deeper sense of Scottish pride. It’s a reminder that law firms can embrace their roots while still providing top-tier legal services. The Burness Paull film stands out not just for its content, but for the message it conveys about the firm’s values and identity.

The film is a testament to the firm’s commitment to celebrating Scottish tradition within the legal profession.

In light of this, other firms have attempted to capture a similar essence in their own way. The recent snippet mentioning CMS’s film appears to be a nod to the trend set by Burness Paull, albeit with a different cultural twist.

Addleshaw Goddard’s Controversial Hawaii-Themed Party

The Addleshaw Goddard Hawaii-themed party has sparked a wave of controversy across the Scottish legal community. The firm’s choice of theme has been criticised for its perceived insensitivity and timing, coming at a period when the legal sector is grappling with serious issues such as the Scottish castle swindle and violence against lawyers.

While the firm defended its decision, stating the event was meant to boost morale and provide a lighthearted break from the demanding world of law, the backlash was significant. The party’s details, including the decorations and activities, were widely discussed on legal forums and social media platforms, with opinions ranging from amusement to outright disapproval.

The debate over the appropriateness of such themed events in a professional setting continues to be a polarising topic within the legal fraternity.

The incident has led to broader discussions about the culture within law firms and the balance between maintaining a professional environment and allowing for team-building and stress-relief activities. It raises the question of where the line should be drawn in corporate event planning, especially in a profession as venerable as law.

Legal Education and Qualifications in Scotland

Legal Education and Qualifications in Scotland

The Path to Becoming a Top Lawyer: LLB (Hons) Scots Law

The journey to legal excellence in Scotland begins with obtaining an LLB (Hons) Scots Law degree. This foundational qualification is a testament to the rigorous academic training that aspiring lawyers must undergo. The University of Dundee is renowned for its LLB (Hons) Scots Law degree, a programme that has produced many of Scotland’s legal luminaries.

To illustrate the breadth of opportunities available post-graduation, here’s a glimpse into the diverse teams that LLB graduates may aspire to join:

  • Partners
  • Associates
  • Solicitor Advocates
  • Serious and Fatal Injury Unit
  • Accident Team
  • Road Traffic Team
  • Lung Disease Team
  • Industrial Disease Team
  • Employment Team
  • Private Client Team
  • Foreign and Travel Team
  • Medical Negligence Team
  • Mass Litigation Team
  • Survivors Team
  • Crime and Professional Support
  • Inquiry Team

The LLB (Hons) is more than just a degree; it is the gateway to a multitude of specialisations within the legal profession, each with its own challenges and rewards.

Postgraduate Steps: Diploma in Legal Practise

Following the completion of an LLB (Hons) Scots Law degree, the next step for aspiring lawyers is the Diploma in Professional Legal Practise. This postgraduate qualification is essential for those seeking to enter the legal profession in Scotland. It equips graduates with the practical skills and knowledge necessary to embark on a traineeship and ultimately qualify as a solicitor or advocate.

The Diploma in Legal Practise, such as the one offered by the University of Edinburgh, is a vocational course that focuses on the application of legal theory in practise. It covers a range of subjects including conveyancing, litigation, and business law, ensuring that students are well-prepared for the realities of legal work.

  • Ethical rules and conduct
  • Practical legal skills
  • Client communication and negotiation

The Diploma is a vocational course – you’ll learn the ethical rules, practical knowledge and personal skills required of lawyers in Scotland.

The University of Strathclyde is noted for its Diploma in Professional Legal Practise, which emphasises the development of personal skills alongside legal knowledge. This balance is crucial for success in the legal field, where interpersonal skills are as important as technical legal expertise.

The Role of Solicitors in Public Inquiries

The Role of Solicitors in Public Inquiries

Arlene Speirs: Solicitor to the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry

Arlene Speirs, currently serving as the Solicitor to the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry, brings a wealth of experience in public and administrative law to the table. Her role at Thompsons Scotland has seen her take on significant challenges, including judicial reviews and questioning the lawfulness of decisions made by the Home Office.

With a strong background in human rights, Arlene is committed to ensuring that the inquiry is conducted with these principles at its core. Her belief is that every participant’s voice should be heard, and human rights considerations should be paramount.

Arlene’s expertise is not limited to the legal domain; she also contributes to society through her position on the Board of Directors at North Lanarkshire Women’s Aid. Her comprehensive understanding of human rights and inequalities law is complemented by her hands-on experience in supporting individuals through various stages of asylum and immigration processes.

Her qualifications include an LLB (Hons) Scots Law Degree from the University of Dundee, which she obtained in 2004. This academic foundation, coupled with her practical experience, positions Arlene as a key figure in the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry, poised to navigate the complexities of the case with diligence and empathy.

The Importance of Legal Expertise in National Investigations

The intricate nature of public inquiries necessitates a deep understanding of legal frameworks and the ability to navigate complex evidentiary landscapes. Solicitors like Arlene Speirs, who bring a wealth of experience and specialised knowledge to the table, are pivotal in ensuring that these investigations are conducted with the utmost integrity and thoroughness.

Legal expertise is not only about arguing cases but also about shaping the proceedings to uphold justice and public interest. The role of solicitors extends beyond the courtroom; they influence legislation and the perception of the legal system among the public. This is particularly significant as public trust is a cornerstone of a functioning legal system.

The cumulative skills and insider knowledge of solicitors are indispensable for the comprehensive examination and understanding of cases during public inquiries.

The following list highlights the key contributions of solicitors in public inquiries:

  • Providing invaluable advice to vulnerable groups
  • Representing clients at appeals tribunals
  • Conducting strategic litigation
  • Expertise in human rights and inequalities law

These contributions underscore the importance of having seasoned legal professionals involved in national investigations, ensuring that the voices of all affected parties are heard and that the inquiry’s findings are robust and fair.


In the quest to identify the top lawyer in Scotland, we have traversed the landscape of legal excellence, examining the careers and credentials of many distinguished practitioners. Amongst the luminaries, Kevin McCallum QC stands out with his formidable reputation in criminal defence, bolstered by his recent move to 3PB Barristers and his history as a Senior Advocate Depute. His expertise is complemented by the likes of Arlene Speirs, who brings her own specialisation to the Mass Litigation Team and serves as the Solicitor to the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry. While the title of ‘top lawyer’ is subjective and contingent on the area of law, these individuals exemplify the pinnacle of legal proficiency in Scotland. As the Scottish legal sector continues to evolve, these professionals, along with their peers, will undoubtedly shape its future.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is considered the top lawyer in Scotland?

Kevin McCallum QC is highly regarded as one of the top lawyers in Scotland, especially noted for his expertise in criminal defence work.

What is Kevin McCallum QC’s background?

Kevin McCallum QC began his career as a Procurator Fiscal Depute before transitioning to a prominent defence advocate. He has a strong record of success in high-profile prosecutions.

What notable cases has Kevin McCallum QC worked on?

Kevin McCallum QC has been involved in a variety of cases including multiple-accused high value drugs cases, fraud and money laundering offences, and serious sexual offences.

How has the Scottish legal culture been celebrated by law firms?

Scottish legal culture has been celebrated in unique ways, such as Burness Paull’s haggis and bagpipes film and Addleshaw Goddard’s Hawaii-themed party.

What is the path to becoming a top lawyer in Scotland?

The path typically starts with obtaining an LLB (Hons) Scots Law degree, followed by a Diploma in Legal Practise. Further professional experience and qualifications may also be required.

What role do solicitors play in public inquiries in Scotland?

Solicitors like Arlene Speirs, who is the Solicitor to the Scottish Covid-19 Inquiry, play a crucial role in providing legal expertise and conducting thorough investigations in public inquiries.

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