A culture of fear and making merry: your letters to the editor
Creating a culture of fear
As a female solicitor, I fully agree with Mark Finburgh’s comments that the SRA should not involve itself with ‘sexual misconduct’ cases (Feedback, 2 December). But they will involve themselves, because they are bloodthirsty, and they undoubtedly feel they have sniffed out a potentially bountiful supply of fresh meat.
As to the wider issue of where conduct lines should be drawn:
1. Conduct during work time must be distinguished from conduct outside work. As professionals, we should all fully understand what is required of us during working hours.
2. The whole point, and attraction, of going out for a few drinks with colleagues is to shake off the constraints of the office environment, to ‘let our hair down’. Boundaries that exist within the office can be relaxed. This is what typically makes for an interesting, and enjoyable evening out.
3. Regarding personal conduct, the relevant lines are, in my view, already drawn by the criminal laws of this country. For the avoidance of doubt, I do not condone criminal behaviour.
4. As adults, whether male or female, we make our own decisions. We might not always make good decisions and some of our decisions might be ‘bad’ ones because they are made under the influence of alcohol (or other intoxicating substance). But they remain our decisions, for better or worse, and we need to live with them. This is not a new concept, but one which I fear is being overlooked.
5. If I have behaved irresponsibly while under the influence of alcohol, I would like to think I could find it in myself to face up to anybody I had offended or upset, and offer them a genuine, unconditional apology. Equally, rather than ensuring I am haunted by the unfortunate episode for the rest of my life, I would like to think my work colleagues might cut me some slack, laugh about it/offer a dose of moral support, as required, then we could all draw a line under it and resume concerning ourselves with more important matters.
6. Women, as much as men, need to take ownership of their own conduct – ladies, if we are going to dish it out, we need also to be prepared to take it. How will we feel if our male colleagues start running to the SRA telling tales of how we disgraced ourselves after too many shots at the office Christmas party? And is this really where any of us want to be?
7. Let’s all just stop and think. We are in danger of creating for ourselves a culture of fear, mistrust and paranoia which will not further the gender equality movement; on the contrary, it will set it back many decades.
Name and address withheld on request
Hats off to making merry
I have read, with increasing mirth, recent articles concerning the Junior Lawyers Division and ‘Dry January’.
Who on earth has decided that junior lawyers are unable to control themselves when faced with small cubes of cheese, Twiglets and a goblet brimming with Nuits- St-Georges ’64?
As a junior lawyer myself, I commend those who have spotted the current trend for binge twigletting. It should be stamped out. They are quite right.
Strangely, we had a ‘gathering’ at Christmas. The ping-pong was hilarious; nobody could answer any of the quiz questions (they couldn’t remember); the mixed netball was fraught with the potential for ‘harassment in the workplace’ claims; the cake decorating became childishly lurid; we skipped the activity day as we had been working for eight hours; and the tea-ceremony had all the elements available to lead to claims of cultural appropriation.
But when we came to hat-making: that was it! Nobody had bought the patterns, felt, hatbands, scissors, steamers, shapers, glue or thread – it was a complete disappointment for the many of our staff who had spent most of the week looking forward to it. (I think the JLD should remove this from their handbook.)
As a result, we were forced to find a local tavern with DJ, wine and nibbles, where we very naughtily had ‘drinks’.
Junior lawyer, Locksbottom, Kent
Beware of the bar
I was interested in the suggestion that the bar is seeking to sideline solicitor-advocates (Gazette feature, 25 November). I do not know if that is the case, but one has to remember the bar has a depressing record of trying to obstruct reforms which would benefit solicitors, and has deployed arguments ranging from the fatuous to the misleading.
In the 1970s there was opposition to solicitors appearing in the undefended divorce list. The bar said marriage was debased by these cases being in the county court, which was largely involved in debt collecting. These cases were heard by a county court judge sitting in the county court wearing his normal robes. He was called a divorce commissioner to preserve the bar monopoly.
Strangely, there was no objection to the assizes – which dealt largely with sordid sex cases such as incest – hearing divorces. Nor was there mention of self-interest.
‘Barristers do not do conveyancing’ was also invoked.
When the CPS sought rights of audience the bar realised that solicitors might take advantage, so we were told they lacked objectivity. The same was said when CPS lawyers wished to apply for recorderships. No such point was made about Treasury counsel being excluded.
The bar continues to peddle the myth that they are subject to a compulsory cab rank rule and that makes them morally superior.
We must be very vigilant.
Retired circuit judge and solicitor-advocate, Norwich