The legal profession seems stuck in a time warp of long summer breaks.
My mother, an exiled Glaswegian, never tires of telling me about the famous Glasgow Fair. Each year the workers of the city would down tools for the last two weeks of July and head off to some far-flung destination such as Crail, Ayr, or – for the really adventurous – Blackpool.
Meanwhile, Glasgow would become a ghost town and shut down almost entirely.
Anyone passing through Chancery Lane this month will know exactly how that felt. I’m starting to feel like I’m the sole survivor at the end of an apocalypse film, wondering around with the place to myself.
The Tesco queue doesn’t snake around the aisles, I can get to the bar first time in the local Wetherspoons (lawyers seem to love a cheap(ish) pint as much as anyone) and I almost got a seat on the Central Line this morning.
The legal profession is comatose for August, as it ever was. 'Over all the legal neighbourhood, there hangs, like some great veil of rust, or gigantic cobweb, the idleness and pensiveness of the long vacation,' as one Charles Dickens observed. These days three-week holidays and out-of-office messages are the norm, and firms seem happy to forego a month’s turnover for the sake of tradition.
Law is not the only sector which has a quiet time in summer. Journalists will be desperately looking forward to the end of the ‘silly season’, teachers are still in denial about those ‘back to school’ TV adverts and MPs presumably live in constant fear of the phonecall to tell them they’re being recalled.
And of course a lawyer on holiday is not the same as a lawyer not working, tooled up as they are with the BlackBerry and iPad.
But what about clients during August? Have people put off having accidents for month? Shelved plans to buy a home? Postponed a divorce on the off-chance that a bit of sunshine might rekindle their fire? Where do these people go while lawyers are upholding the tradition of the August break?
Now you may dismiss this as the lament of a reporter scraping the barrel for stories in a quiet month (all offers gratefully accepted, by the way). And I wouldn’t want to deny lawyers their hard-earned break – lord knows they deserve it.
But does the whole industry still have to shut down en masse? That overdraft facility won’t take a break, neither will the pressing need to arrange PII head for a fortnight on a beach.
The Glasgow Fair sounds like a great wheeze, but unfortunately economic realities have to kick in. It’s time to open the office again.
John Hyde is a Gazette reporter