For some reason Yeat’s poem The Second Coming bubbled up in my mind when I read an article based on an interview with the incoming chairman of the UK bar, Michael Todd in the Law section of the London Times recently. These lines of the poem in particular –
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world…”
I don’t suppose Yeats was foreshadowing the turf war between barristers and solicitors much, or that he was particularly worried about it. But promoters of a Canadian model of legal services in which advocacy is a specialty, should keep a learning eye on what is happening in the UK.
According to the article, the last hallmarks of the two branches – barristers and solicitors – are being removed.
Always above the financial fray, relying on solicitors to be responsible for their fees, barristers are now contemplating new rules that would allow them to handle the client’s money.
What’s more, there are plans to allow the public to retain barristers directly, instead of through solicitors.
According to the article, modernization of the way in which barristers provide their services does not go down well with solicitors.The last major struggle between the professions was in the 1980’s when solicitors were given extended rights of audience in the courts. Barristers then allowed fellow professionals to brief them directly, not through solicitors.
Who knows where this will end. There does seem to be an evolution towards the Canadian model, but the F word – fusion – is apparently not yet in the cards: “People can go to solicitors for general advice but if specialist advice is needed they can come to us” says Todd.
Whatever way it emerges, whatever shape it takes, a model in which some lawyers specialize in advocacy and therefore have lower overheads, will offer the public greater advocacy experience for their dollar.