There is scene near the beginning of Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd where the hero has just lost his farm. He goes to the local town for the annual hiring fair when farm workers get taken on in new jobs. Gabriel joins the crowd of unemployed men looking for work. He wants work as a farm manager and is dressed as such.
A farmer comes up to him and when Gabriel tells him what job he is after, the farmer says he is looking for a shepherd. Gabriel goes off and buys a shepherd’s smock and the next employer tells him he is looking for a manager. In those days each trade had a uniform. I was thinking of this scene because criminal duty solicitors go through this type of hiring process although in fact it happens twice a year. The deadline for the next half-yearly hiring is approaching fast.
The LSC website tells us: 'The deadline to submit CDS12 (duty solicitor) applications for the January 2013 duty solicitor rotas is midnight on Wednesday 14 November. Applications are needed if you are moving firms, office or adding new solicitors to your firm.'
It was not always this way. It used to be that duty solicitors could apply to change - I think - on one month’s notice. The effect of the present scheme is there always a flood of lawyers looking for new jobs or being tempted to change posts twice a year. If you just miss the deadline for any reason, you have a long wait. I wonder if this is the best way to run a 'hiring and firing' of criminal lawyers as in effect duty solicitors can only move for very limited periods during the year.
So you see lawyers dressed in their uniform pinstripes hanging round waiting to be hired, not at a country fair with sheep and cattle pens but in advocate’s rooms and near coffee machines at courts.
David Pickup is a partner in Aylesbury-based Pickup & Scott