The Society of Writers to Her Majesty’s Signet Trust

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Government & Management organisation chart

The Society of Writers to Her Majesty's Signet - also known as The WS Society - prides itself as being one of the 'oldest professional bodies in the world'. The Society's purposes include promoting the highest standards of professional competence in the legal services, and it owns and occupies 'the magnificent' Signet Library building conveniently located in Parliament Square, Edinburgh.

Its somewhat arcane organisational structure (pictured right), has The Keeper of the Signet (The Earl of Wemyss and March, KT.) at the top. Solicitors in Scotland are known by many names, some kinder than others, but they were formally known as "writers". The WS Society comprised "writers with special privileges in relation to certain types of documentation requiring the Signet - the royal seal of the Scottish kings." Some law firms are entitled to use the suffix "WS" after the firm name and to use the Society's services and facilities.

The WS Society's historic place in Scotland's legal system

Deputy Keeper is R. John Elliot Chairman of Lindsays

The Firm magazine recently reported that WS Society had unveiled its Accreditation board members :

• The Rt Hon Lord Cullen of Whitekirk, retired Lord President of the Court of Session. Court of Inquiry into the Piper Alpha disaster 1988-90, Inquiry into the shootings at Dunblane Primary School 1996, Ladbroke Grove Rail Enquiry 1999-01, Cullen also led the tribunal which heard the failed appeal of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi against his conviction for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. These episodes are in no way synonymous with the 'highest standards of professional competence' in terms of transparancy and openess. They represent bans (which at times stretch to hundreds of years) on even the ability to evaluate basic data at a fundemental level, and they also — according to many of the
Jeremy Peat, BBC Trustee for Scotland, and Director, David Hume Institute
Malcolm Wood, WS, General Counsel and Secretary, Standard Life plc
• Professor Kenneth Reid, WS, Professor of Property Law, University of Edinburgh
Kaliani Lyle, Chief Executive, Citizens Advice Scotland
Richard Henderson, WS, Solicitor to the Scottish Executive, Office of the Solicitor to the Scottish Executive
• Professor David Rowley, Director of Education, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and Head of Department, Faculty of Medicine, University of Dundee

The Signet Library is one of Scotland's premier venues for corporate hospitality and private events. Its Council is a large group of Solicitors from firms such as Shepherd and Wedderburn who fund the David Hume Institute and are members of the Scottish Parliament Business Exchange (along with their lobbying subsidiary Saltire Public Affairs) and members of Scottish Financial Enterprise, Gillespie Macandrew, WS, Maclay Murray & Spens, Murray Beith Murray, WS.


Adam Bruce | William Drummond