From one Court to another

Published on 5 August 2022

Amanda Millar’s rise to the upper echelons of Scotland’s legal profession was guided by values rather than a calculated career plan. These values have led her to election as Chair of Court earlier this year.

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Court, the University’s governing body, is responsible for overseeing the institution’s activities, agreeing on its strategic direction, and ensuring an environment that enables its learners to realise their potential.

Staff and students earlier this year elected Amanda to the position of Chair, which will see her take responsibility for the leadership and effectiveness of Court. It is a role she is well prepared for, having obtained extensive experience in corporate governance at a national level. Amanda was the first open member of the LGBTQ+ community to be President of Law Society of Scotland and is currently Chair of Samaritans Scotland Committee.

It is a journey that began in Ayrshire when a teenager considering university options decided that law was a more natural fit than accountancy.

"I did well at school, and it was expected that I would go to university and have a career in a profession," she explained. "I never set out to become a solicitor, but it came down to the fact I was better with words than numbers. My stepfather and best friend at school had chosen the accountancy path and I knew that wasn’t the route for me, so I chose to study law instead. It seemed to offer a route into what was perceived as a proper job."

It proved a wise decision, although the path to professional success was not always smooth. Amanda entered the profession when the economy was struggling, and legal traineeships were in short supply. After working as a tutor at the University of Strathclyde, where she had studied, and as a lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University she landed a traineeship three years after graduating. Amanda worked in many areas of law, including family, criminal and civil litigation, without having any speciality in mind. It was her core values of equality, equity, justice, and respect that ultimately gave her career direction.

She continued, "I am fascinated by the challenges people face when they don’t know where to turn. I became the first solicitor in the country accredited as a specialist in both mental health law and in incapacity and mental disability law. I have represented the interests of many vulnerable people, who have been unable to represent themselves for a wide range of reasons.

"What I have always tried to do is to place the person at the heart of a case, including them as much as possible in the process, especially when I am in the position of taking their place and ultimately making recommendations. I’ve lost count of the number of times I heard a well-meaning professional say ‘we’ve put together a great plan for X!’ when they haven’t thought to include X in the preparation and then they’re surprised when they don’t agree with what they’ve decided on their behalf. Communicating with people and empowering them to help themselves has been central to my career. I would say I’ve built a career on seeking to deliver positive outcomes either as a solicitor working with a single client or in a senior leadership role within a complex organisation."

As a young lesbian, Amanda didn’t see a visible role model who embodied her own experiences. This influenced her later determination to act as a role model herself and to lead campaigns to demonstrate the diversity that did exist within the law. That the legal profession is for everybody and must reflect the society it represents, is a strong conviction of hers.

"Part of my motivation in applying to become Chair of Court is that the University’s vision and values align with mine," she said. "The University is about to launch its new strategy. This, along with learning positively from the challenges of the last few years, make this an exciting time for Dundee. My core values have led me to build a career based on honesty, integrity, clarity, and an ambitious desire to help people access opportunities and develop themselves.

"These values sit well with the University’s vision to positively transform lives. I look forward to leading the Court to govern, challenge and support the University in delivering on its aims over the next three years. There are undoubtedly challenges ahead for the University and the whole sector but we are all constantly facing challenges and the best way to react to these is positively and aim to turn them into opportunities."

Amanda will take over from outgoing Chair of Court Ronnie Bowie from 1 August 2022.

Dr Jim McGeorge, University Secretary and Chief Operating Officer, congratulated Amanda on her election, saying, "A successful Chair of Court must share the University’s vision and values and Amanda has demonstrated a clear commitment to all these as well as possessing a highly impressive track record of delivering strategic goals on behalf of the organisations she has led."

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