IBA report is a wakeup call for solicitors.

In 1920, Keynes chided the authors of the Versailles Treaty for assuming ‘some of the most peculiar and temporary of our late advantages as natural, permanent, and to be depended on’. Can one detect similarly blasé assumptions in government when it comes to the rule of law?

Decision-makers appear happy to celebrate the size of the legal services economy and the global importance of the law of England and Wales, while superintending or ignoring assaults on the independence of our legal system. That such assaults are now attracting international concern from the International Bar Association should worry us all.

Regulation, to take one area under renewed scrutiny, has its roots in the chaotic and relatively formless world of law in the 18th century. By design, the form settled upon protected the public and served a wider public interest through its stress on independence and the right of clients to privileged advice.

By comparison, the liberalisation campaign against the professions – now two generations old – has a chequered history. When its results are poor, as with the emergence of rogue claims management companies, the policy response has included further attacks on the profession.

To take aim at legal independence, client privilege and troublesome lawyers is to take a dangerous amount for granted. That our advantages were hard won does not necessarily make them permanent – eternal vigilance is required.

  • David Cameron, pictured, ‘has openly criticised several law firms who have undertaken the representation of victims of alleged abuse and unlawful killing in the hands of British soldiers’, according to the IBA report.