You would hope that, if anyone produced a Top Trumps pack for the professions, both solicitors and accountants would score in the very high 90s for trustworthiness. But to judge by a lively tit-for-tat debate last week between representatives of the two professions, there are sensitivities.
The bout took place at the Westminster Legal Policy Forum on alternative business structures.
First blow came from forum chairman and self-styled ‘old fart’ Lord Phillips of Sudbury, who made a gloomy prediction for the future of legal services by pointing to the number of prosecutions against accountancy firms.
Right away, Felicity Banks, head of business law at the interminably named Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales, was on her feet. She argued that not a single accountancy firm had been hauled before the courts in the past decade, before pointing out that plenty of solicitors have faced the long arm of the law.
Cue a sharp intake of breath from the predominantly legal audience, with one member shouting ‘come off it’ at Banks, who remained standing for a feisty exchange.
Obiter, who despite a natural bias towards solicitors has a high opinion of accountants, will stay neutral. Except to suggest that the two professions find a more appropriate benchmark for trustworthiness than our ability to stay out of the criminal dock.