With an election at hand the Law Society’s public affairs team has compiled a list of lawyers who are candidates to be elected to the Westminster parliament for the first time. Lawyers are fortunate to have peers who seek this bruising form of public service. But will lawyers who succeed on 4 July make good lawmakers?

Eduardo Reyes

Eduardo Reyes

If they can find a public library that’s not been closed by a fellow politician, I hope they will put in a request for Lester Pearson’s Diplomacy in the Nuclear Age (1959).

Pearson, a Canadian statesman and diplomat, regretted that with a rise in ‘direct diplomacy’ between political leaders, the standard of what is actually agreed between states declines. Clarity, detail and skill are degraded. State relations are less well, and less reliably, regulated as a result.

Why? Because with major actors closely involved, the pressure to declare a headline ‘success’ with which they can be associated is so great that the detail – which is the technology of law and diplomacy – is neglected.

Pearson would rather professionals had more agency in diplomacy, with political leaders brought in only when their heft is needed to finesse important deals, having set the original brief.

There is a lesson here for any lawyers elected in this year’s poll. As they observe the legislative process, they should know whether political expedience or workability is driving the options before them.

We have become used to legislation that attracts a headline but is not enacted, even as its replacement is noisily touted. And we have lawyers who have held public office who disown their professionalism, claiming they are ‘recovering lawyers’.

If by that they mean they have left their professional judgement and skills at the entrance to the Palace of Westminster, then that is a loss. We do not, though, need them to be the nation’s lawyers. We do need them to encourage their colleagues to place more trust in professionals and in professional advice – and to back the expertise of, well, experts.

On entering parliament, these new MPs will be leaving a world where all these things matter – where the risk of acting with a lack of competence is a huge personal risk. It is that part of their professional identity which I hope they retain upon taking office.