In painting a stark picture of our parlous justice system, Secret Barrister makes a worthy Law Society Gazette Legal Personality of the Year.
I am occasionally asked why our news pages can appear cheerless and bleak. My retort, more often than not, is to observe that when the government ploughs hundreds of millions more into legal aid, or refrains from asset-stripping the courts estate, the Gazette will be among the first to report on it.
Don’t shoot the messenger, in other words.
Nevertheless, it is gratifying to kick off this week’s issue with an unambiguously good news story – the Law Society’s Excellence Awards 2018. This initiative has come far since the inaugural ceremony, which took place before a few dozen cognoscenti at a modest City venue back in the prelapsarian days before the financial crash. Last Wednesday, over 1,000 people gathered at the Grosvenor House in Park Lane to celebrate the brightest and best among you.
Perhaps the most beneficial purpose of the awards is to remind solicitors that they are all one profession, despite the polarity of firms and disciplines upon which we report each week. Worthy winners and nominees range from sole practitioners to global giants, and from small legal aid practices to large commercial outfits bursting out of their regional confines. Then, of course, there are the dogged and hitherto unsung individuals who toil away at the same case year after year in their determination to see justice done.
We salute them all – and these days we salute rather more of them. In 2007 there were just seven awards. This year there were 22.
A word too on the Law Society Gazette Legal Personality of the Year. Secret Barrister is the first non-solicitor to land this accolade in the decade of its existence. Not an easy choice to make, but the criteria are clear. The winner has to be ‘influential, inspirational and in the public eye’, and to have made an ‘outstanding public contribution’ to the legal profession. Quite simply, no one person has done more in the last 12 months to highlight to the public and politicians the parlous state of our justice system than this anonymous advocate.
S/he also joins a select band of people to have penned a Sunday Times bestseller without revealing their identity. Move over Robert Galbraith.