I wouldn’t want to compare the legal services market to Soviet Russia given how that’s turned out, but that is rather how I felt coming home from the Legal Futures conference on ‘the new frontiers of law’ on Monday. Having said that, there may be some similarities.
The Legal Futures conference yesterday was refreshing in many respects. Hearing from people who are actually making the future of legal services is such a welcome change from the years I have spent talking about liberalisation of the market to, frankly, unreconstructed Luddites. But, and there is always a but, there was one keynote speaker who reminded me we are certainly not all there yet.
Last week I had the pleasure of having lunch with barrister Henrietta Hill. We were at university together more years ago than would be polite to disclose. I’ll admit to being slightly jealous that she has managed to achieve far more than I have in fighting injustice, but then I didn’t have the aptitude or dedication to become a top lawyer and have been muddling along ever since.
Legal aid might not be dead yet, but it is certainly on life support. The route to justice for thousands of people, including children, victims of domestic violence, disabled people appealing decisions to cut welfare payments and patients who have suffered at the hands of a negligent doctor, is slowly being choked off. And yet there has been more press coverage about having to pay VAT on a hot pasty.
I have to admit I have never actually attended the St Albans annual Shrove Tuesday pancake race, even though it takes place 10 minutes from where I live. In fact, I don’t think I had even heard of it until it was cited as a classic example of health and safety gone mad because one year contestants were told to walk, not run, because of rain.
Easter Sunday, along with Christmas and birthdays, is the only day you are allowed to eat chocolate for breakfast. It’s not a very enforceable rule and not one, as far as I know, defined by statute, but it’s a rule nonetheless. Unlike the supposed law banning eating mince pies on Christmas day, which is, as with many of the most amusing examples of stupid laws, an urban myth.
I wouldn't describe myself as a social media guru, although if I'm in a roomful of lawyers the chances are I'll know more about the subject than the rest of them combined. This isn't hubris: I know for a fact I was appointed to the management board of a legal charity in large part because none of the other trustees, nor many of the staff, knew their Twitter from their Tumblr. It is, however, a fact I find terribly amusing.
People who know me know that I am not afraid to cry. Sometimes it doesn’t take much: watching my daughter skipping in the garden, burning the dinner, stubbing my toe, kittens playing (ok, that’s probably an exaggeration). But on the whole I don’t get emotional about adverts, unless they are for John Lewis, which, I believe, are designed to induce sobs from even the hardest of hearts.