With unique pressures shaping the profession, maybe we should have our own calendar too.
Last Sunday was Old Lady Day. It is not a strange version of Mother’s Day but is a vestige of the calendar change in 1752. Up until then new year was 25 March and 6April remained the start of the financial or tax year. 6April is also the Quarter Day adjusted for the lost days of the calendar change in 1752 following the move from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. It had also been used as the start of the new year. So happy new year!
Lady Day was a traditional day on which year-long contracts between landowners and tenant farmers would begin and end in England. Farmers’ time of ‘entry’ into new farms and onto new fields was often this day. As a result, farming families who were changing farms would travel from the old farm to the new one on Lady Day. The date is referred to in some Thomas Hardy novels including Tess of the d’Urbervilles and Far from the Madding Crowd.
So when should new year be for solicitors? There are plenty of choices. September, the start of the academic year, when students come looking for training contracts, which nearly ties in with the date of renewal indemnity insurance, if you can still get it. Perhaps a better solution would be the time for annual renewal of practising certificates. For criminal duty solicitors new year comes but twice a year – with the biannual deadline for changing rotas.
In an era when life was simpler, it did not matter what time of year people left or started new jobs. Nowadays training and practising certificates are so expensive that these things are important.
No one wants to spend a lot of money on someone who then leaves. I am told the salary expectations of legal aid solicitors is falling due to uncertainty in the ‘market’ (as some like to call the profession), but there is no sign the costs of practice are falling. Perhaps we will end up as suppliers working in a market supplying products for customers.
Not something to tell your old lady or old man.
David Pickup is a partner at Aylesbury-based Pickup & Scott