I was tricked into a legal career through a conspiracy between my father (an artist) and our lodger (in the music business) who thought I should have ‘a proper job’. I wasn’t so terribly disappointed to have been hoodwinked into the law. I feel its my natural métier. I was taught a Marxist analysis of the law at university and it made me think about the law very differently.
Being responsible for people’s lives – employees and clients – has been the hardest career challenge.
Working in areas of the world where lawyers die or are interned for representing unpopular clients really brings home how privileged we are in this country. A good lawyer has the ability to think beyond a fixed paradigm – after all, isn’t that why clients retain us?
Most of the profession are absolutely lovely. All my partners are delightful and wonderful, even if some do talk about football overmuch. I’m in that privileged position where most people recognise me as ‘that lawyer off the telly’ and so they are all very lovely and engage me in conversations about the latest events. This week, do I think Chris Grayling should be lord chancellor as he’s not a qualified lawyer? Of course he shouldn’t.
What do I think of Chris Grayling’s legal aid reforms? Not a lot – they amount to a denial of justice for those most in need. What do I think of scandalising the court? An outmoded tool of judicial repression which should be done away with.
It would be rude to say Julian Assange was the hardest sort of client, so I won’t.
Barristers are increasingly user-friendly as the class distinction between solicitors and barristers has eroded. My favourite law – it’s illegal to carry an uncaged bear in the front seat of your truck (in Montana). Presumably, its OK in your sedan.
Legal aid has been eroded to the extent that access to justice is imperilled. I was appointed by Lord Irvine to be a Champion of the Community Legal Service. That seems like a bad joke on justice today. Over-specialisation runs counter to an enquiring mind. Only enquiring minds change the law. If I were starting off as a new lawyer now, I would want to be in international law, working on matters that the growing numbers of really great in-house lawyers can’t do logistically.
I’ve tried to put off my daughters from being lawyers.
Mark Stephens CBE is dispute resolution partner, Howard-KennedyFsi