In 2007 Parliament passed the Legal Services Act, which might – or might not – revolutionise the way lawyers work, especially barristers. The law allows for, but does not insist on, barristers being able to enter partnership with solicitors, or with each other, instead of carrying on in the time honoured fashion as self employed. I chair the Bar Standards Board which has the discretion to decide about barristers’ working structures, and after two years of deliberation, and listening to passionate pleas from one side and from the other, we decided to permit them to work in these partnerships. The meeting was quite exhilarating; at last the Act is having an effect on that branch of the profession. But we are not going the whole hog, to what is called “Tesco law”: one-stop shops combining barristers with, say, solicitors, surveyors, estate agents, accountants and so on, as we are still concerned about protecting the consumer properly in such a set up. Is this what consumers want and will it make legal advice more affordable?
I have also been lecturing at Gresham College on Lord Lester’s Cohabitation Bill, which ran out of time in the Lords in April. For over 30 years as a law teacher I have been saying that women ought not and do not need to be kept by men, (or vice versa), save that of course children should be maintained (there is a law for that). Floods of appreciative comments have come in, for the first time in my life – I seem to have caught the mood of the times, finally!
The state opening of Parliament is a wonderful occasion and I am a loyal follower of tradition. But do the roads around the Palace of Westminster have to be closed for so many days by so many barriers, irritating pedestrians, motorists and tourists alike? It is after all quite a short ceremony and a day of closure ought to be enough; any more than that is a gift to the republicans . . .