This is a moment of enormous significance for the British people. The end of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign after 70 years on the throne somewhat overshadowed the change of Prime Minister in a time of national crisis.
What Liz Truss and King Charles III inherit is a nation facing tough times. Taking his lead, Truss said the UK “can weather the storm”. She hadn’t expected the flash that came just 48 hours later, triggering a long period of national mourning.
As expected, comments from leaders in the UK legal industry poured in. lawyers paid tribute.
It can be tempting to try to look grandiose on occasions like this. But the truth is that the legal industry has a role to play right now as a key pillar of British society, which, as well as upholding the rule of law, upholds the country’s best values and traditions.
On the morning of the Queen’s death, I presided over a judging session for the British Legal Awards, which took place in November. It was a room full of high caliber people, many of whom have not only been at the top of their fields for decades, but are still striving for improvements and progress around the world.
But I wasn’t impressed so much with their accomplishments as with their intelligence, thoughtfulness, and charm. Their ability to quickly understand complex issues and make thoughtful suggestions on the best course of action.
When I wrote about finance, my colleagues and I would scour the Queen’s New Year Honors list each year to write about bankers and hedge fund managers who had been knighted. The commercial legal industry is different, its attorneys don’t tend to be given as many honours.
And yet, it is a discreet honor. One who offers stability and wisdom, just as Queen Elizabeth II has done throughout her many years of service.
It is these and several other qualities that make lawyers well suited for politics. Indeed, world leaders like Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi were all lawyers.
Politicians who previously worked in law say their legal training has proven invaluable, as this fascinating article explains.
Former UK Conservative Justice Secretary David Gauke, who is now head of public policy at Macfarlanes, explained: ‘A lot of what Parliament does is to scrutinize legislation, so the experience of dealing with the law on a day-to-day basis is really good experience for that.
Unfortunately, the number of lawyers entering the House of Commons is decreasing, partly because the financial sacrifice is simply too great.
But given that so many British lawyers are unhappy with Truss’s appointment, it may be up to a few lawyers to consider trying to change the situation by stepping up themselves. They have all the necessary tools at their disposal.
The same could be said for lawyers everywhere, but many eyes are particularly on the British legal system, which has spread across the world and continues to be respected around the world.
At the same time, the strength of British legal institutions does not make them invulnerable to market forces, of course.
Linklaters last week lost partners to US-led Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in London and Latham & Watkins in Spain, while questions are being asked about the Slaughter elite and May’s ability to continue as the impenetrable fortress given to him. vulnerable to side recruitment raids.
Some of the oldest British companies aren’t even really British companies anymore. The way some of London’s best-known businesses have grown means it’s illogical to think of them that way now and there will be repercussions.
These institutions are also not perfect. A detailed assessment of social mobility in the top UK legal industry by senior journalist Varsha Patel found that the industry’s top ranks and newest interns still come mainly from private schools and socio-economic backgrounds. professionals.
Little progress is being made. In the London office of a US-based company, only 10% of partners went to public school, compared to 93% in the general population.
But at the same time, inspiring stories are unfolding beneath the surface. Reena Parmar, Senior Knowledge Advocate at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, talks here about her experiences as a lawyer with disabilities.
Much still needs to change in the profession to help people like her, but her courage, like many other disadvantaged lawyers we interviewed, is commendable.
In fact, it’s just one of many things about lawyers in the UK that would probably have made the Queen proud.