The Welsh legal sector is in good health. Firms are expanding, international clients are flocking and Cardiff relies more heavily on the legal profession than any other city in the UK.
It certainly ain’t broke, so you wonder what exactly needs fixing? Yet a separate legal jurisdiction is probably looming nearer than ever.
There are no doubt legitimate reasons for trying to address a system that plainly would not be suitable if you were starting from scratch.
As the former counsel general for Wales, Theo Huckle QC, explains here, the existence of the single jurisdiction means there is no such thing as a ‘Welsh’ law, sending the message that the law in Wales and England is the same. In a world where so many laws are devolved, that is clearly a false position.
Huckle argues the single jurisdiction has served its purpose, having been designed for a situation in which the same (English) law applied across the territory of an English jurisdiction.
There is, of course, also the emotion stirred by reversing the infamous 19th century encyclopaedia entry: ‘For Wales, See England.’
It may be logical, but is it right? Will it really benefit Cardiff, where almost 20% of office space is taken up by law firms, to destabilise the system and place barriers to entry from across the Severn?
How does it look to an international marketplace that frankly doesn’t see the difference between Bristol and Swansea and would be alarmed by any suggestion that operating in Wales involves a different set of rules? Supporters may talk up the opportunities of a devolved jurisdiction but clients may not see it that way.
Would a teenager from Port Talbot want to study in her home nation and restrict herself to practising within Wales, or will they opt to come across to England? The most talented will face a difficult dilemma.
More than anything, is anyone asking the lawyers themselves? According to a survey, two thirds of them would oppose a separate jurisdiction, and on several trips to Wales I’ve yet to find one who backs it.
As a half Englishman, I tread carefully here. I don’t doubt the strength of the Welsh legal sector, nor the wisdom of those backing a separate jurisdiction. But will it actually benefit Wales or make it seem like the legal sector is turning in on itself?