Seize the moment

With the choice of a new Justice Secretary, it would be good if the Bar avoided a few past own goals. The first will be not to bitch because the new incumbent is not a lawyer. I wish that he were and thus understand more readily the ethos and inticacies of the profession. But as Joshua Rosenberg has pointed out, we have in post a highly intelligent politician who, incidentally, plainly will have the ear of the Prime Minister and the clout which may go with that. 

Second, we must not make the fundamental mistake of demonizing the man. One of the key rules of good advocacy is never to attack your opponent personally.  So many brilliant members of the Bar forgot that, time after time, in their anger and concern.  It is not that the cause is not just. It certainly is. It is that we demean ourselves by childish ridicule.

Third, we should move very quickly to set up working links. This is emphatically not a plea for sycophancy, but rather the institution and demonstration of civilized discourse. So the associations should seek meetings and make sure their delegations are well staffed with outstanding junior members to tell it as it is.

Fourth, we should seek to negotiate matters where there would be little if any public dissent. Proper travel expenses is an obvious example. Too many advocates are losing money, which is quite absurd.  This obvious reform is years overdue.

Fifth, we should show a responsible public face by supporting the reforms which we know should be in place. Someething as basic as court canteens offer an opportunity for enterprising small local businesses to provide a service. This is happening already.

Sixth and in many respects, the open approach that I most favour, we should invite the Lord Chancellor to find the time to join practitioners in a wide variety of Courts for an hour or two during his busy schedule.  I would be very surprised if this particular Justice Secretary turned that down.

In a sentence, seize the moment. We do it every day in Court

Nigel Pascoe QC


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