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Archive for July 21st, 2009

Thoughts for my day….

I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.

Hunter S. Thompson

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Channel 4 reports: “Bright children from middle and working class families are missing out on professional jobs because of continuing “elitism”, a government-commissioned report warns. The report, by a cross-party panel chaired by former cabinet minister Alan Milburn, calls for urgent action to break “closed shop mentality” which, it says, still  characterises the professions in Britain.”

This is a tired old theme, but one worth looking at less emotively than through the rather mundane rhetoric of a politician possibly trying to please rank and file and constituents in the run up to an election.

I remember reading Professor JAG Griffith’s book The Politics of The Judiciary when I was at law school in the early to mid 1970s.  I can’t imagine that he has had to do much updating to the statistics on Oxbridge and public school educated members of the Judiciary,  Bar or the leading City and Commercial firms and, indeed, Milburn states that “Currently 75 per cent of judges and 45 per cent of senior civil servants were independently educated”

I am not sure that ‘Class’ comes into it in quite the same way it may once have done.  The legal profession has never been of great interest to the aristocracy and landed families – the Church, Army, the Arts and State tend to get second sons and daughters from that relatively small world in terms of numbers.  But there can be little doubt, still,  that it is easier for the children of middle and professional class families to get into the leading sets or law firms simply because private money can pay for good private education and there is a high chance many of these privately educated middle / professional class children will get into Oxbridge and Russell Group universities and have a better chance at the top sets and firms.

The professional demographic is changing. Labour and Conservative governments have widened access to education and business opportunity – and nothing is to be served by making hackneyed party political points.

History is a wonderful thing but it can obscure what is beginning to happen now and I, for one, prefer to concentrate on the official efforts being made by both The Law Society and The Bar Council to achieve diversity.  Lord Neuberger reported.  The Law Society and Bar Council   are encouraging wider entry to the profession – but whatever their aspirations and efforts – the professional bodies cannot do it all. It is down to money and information.  It is down to the firms and sets trying to inform, trying to help through sponsorship and scholarships and this they are doing.  It is down to the firms to  recruit from a wider base (provided the quality is there)  and providing information to show that the law is not an elitist profession, that it is open to talented people from all walks of life.

It is also, frankly, down to the law schools to raise their game and provide as high a quality of education as the leading universities and down to recruiters to look more closely at that quality instead of being mesmerised by the words Oxford, Cambridge, London, Durham et al.

It is easy for politicians to make statements which they can then forget as they move on to the next hot cliche, but I believe that we have already seen marked change in the last twenty years and the next ten will see yet more change as the legal world changes, as new opportunity arises, and a new legal demographic develops.

It takes time for change to happen but the cartoon image of upper middle class barristers portrayed in my caption pic is not typical at all of those I meet from the Bar, the law firms or the professional bodies –  and it irritates me, and I suspect many, when government ministers bandy about outmoded cliches about class and Oxbridge.  The legal profession should be run on lines of excellence,  for that will ensure quality and competition. Excellence and elitism of quality of career  should, however, be open to all – and that, I’m afraid, is still down to opportunity, information and money – and for the present, the middle and professional classes dominate in terms of opportunity because they have  the money to privately educate, tutor and have the connections to get advice and guidance from members of both sides of the profession. Jobs for the boys and girls is a thing of the past, surely? – but it may well still be true that birds of a feather flock together when it comes down to candidates wwith equal  CVs.

As always.. your thoughts would be most useful.  What would you advise if we are to ensure that we are not percieved as an elitist profession in terms of entry. Elitism in terms of quality of service is an aspiration most would not quarrel with. That is competition and only a fool would go to the worst lawyer for advice is better advice is available at a reasonable price…as in all walks of life.

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To boldly go…

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Inner Temple Survey results

I have written before here and here (with an online ‘straw’ poll) about the proposal to merge Inner and Middle Temple libraries.

The results of the Inner Temple Library survey are here. (I shall post the link to the Middle Temple survey result when it is available.  The survey result is interesting, revealing some inconsistencies (inevitably) but a quick glance indicates a degree of resistance to the idea. The straw poll I conducted on my blog revealed:

Is the proposal to merge the Inner Temple and Middle Temple libraries a good idea or a bad idea

Good idea – 8 votes (8%)

Bad Idea – 85 (85%)

Don’t know – 7 (7%)

Total votes: 100

Interestingly the job advertisement for a property manager below describes the Inner Temple Library as ‘World Class’ but indicates that the successful applicant ‘will have a hugely influential role in the development and implementation of the Inn’s property strategy over the coming decade and beyond.’

Could it be that the decision has already been taken?  Surely not before the result of the survey?  That, to use a cricketing metaphor after the excellent Lords win yesterday, would not be playing with a ‘straight bat’ … in fact it would be…  caught and bowled.

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21st July: Laws news, reports, latest blog posts etc up on Insite Law

40 years ago Mankind landed on the Moon.

This video from The Onion celebrates the achievement… “We’re on the fucking Moon”

Hat  Tip to Obnoxio The Clown – who often has stuff well worth looking at…

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