The public’s impression of debt collection is too often gleaned from English television or media stories about thuggish bailiffs. In fact, in Scotland, nothing can be further from the truth.
The two main bodies of people involved in debt recovery in Scotland are Solicitors and Sheriff Officers/Messengers at Arms. Solicitors are highly regulated and the public in the main are generally aware of what Solicitors do. The same cannot be said for Sheriff Officers and Messengers at Arms.
They are both highly trained and skilled individuals. As a Debt Recovery Solicitor, I work closely with them on a daily basis and rely on them to recover debts due to my clients, in a professional manner.
Sheriff Officers and Messengers at Arms are regulated just like Solicitors, by the Society of Messengers at Arms and Sheriff Officers (“SMASO”). To become a Sheriff Officer or Messenger at Arms, candidates require to sit an exam and undergo three years of training with a Sheriff Officers’ firm.
I have been a member of the Examination Committee of SMASO for the last three years. The remit of the Committee is to draft exam papers for perspective candidates. We also have the pleasure of marking the exam papers and ultimately breaking the good or bad news to the relevant candidates.
I agreed to join the Committee at a time in my career when I thought I had a good working knowledge of the Court Rules and Regulations governing their practice. How wrong could I have been? The last three years has been a complete eye opener for me. The depth of knowledge required by candidates to pass examination papers is significant. The difficulty of the exam papers is extremely high. As a result, the percentage of candidates passing the exam papers is surprisingly low. That is not a bad thing. It means that only candidates with an expert knowledge of their subject matter pass the examination stage and then move on to training. This creates highly skilled and knowledgeable individuals upon whom we can rely to assist us with recovery of debts. Do not under estimate the depth of knowledge that every Sheriff Officer or Messenger at Arms has when you instruct them. Take advantage of that. Discuss your cases with them. We are lucky to have them.
A good Debt Recovery Solicitor will have a very close working relationship with Sheriff Officers and Messengers at Arms which allows him or her to have the best chance of recovering monies due to their client.
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The information and opinions contained in this blog are for information only. They are not intended to constitute advice and should not be relied upon or considered as a replacement for advice. Before acting on any of the information contained in this blog, please seek specific advice from Gilson Gray.