Are There Radical Lawyers?

The Times Online has a curious nostalgia piece entitled, “Whatever happened to the radical lawyers,” that keys off Michael Mansfield’s autobiography, Memoirs of a Radical Lawyer (co-written with Yvette Vanson). Mansfield, president of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, has been practising in Britain since 1967, and has a string of unpopular causes as his clients over the years. The article examines his, and others’, views on what happened to the radicalism of the sixties that seemed to motivate so many young law graduates.

I say the piece is curious because it supplies something of an answer to its own question without realizing, or at least acknowledging, it. The answer is that the Establishment inhaled them — and will likely continue to do so, I’d say. My evidence? Look at their list of old radical lawyers as they are today:

  • Michael Mansfield, Q.C.
  • Helena Kennedy, QC (orse. Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws)
  • Lord Justice Stephen Sedley
  • Sir Geoffrey Bindman

There are, of course, other reasons for the dampening of overt radicalism throughout the legal profession generally, and the article does touch on some of these.

It got me wondering, though: are there radical lawyers in Canada now? I do have to say that when I left law teaching, a decade ago now, it had been many, many years since any significant element of the student body bore any resemblance to the radical groups present in the law schools in the sixties and early seventies. Things may have changed since I’ve been out teaching, though. Have they?

Are there radical lawyers in Canada? Are the numbers smaller than they used to be?

Comments are closed.