Retired solicitor David Lyall (pictured, centre) returned in style to Chancery Lane last week – 59 years after his last visit.
The former Gloucestershire practitioner was admitted in 1955 after five years’ articles under a future Law Society president, Sir Ian Yeaman of Cheltenham. ‘Having had deferment during my articles, I was called up for national service on 6 January 1956, to the Royal Signals at Catterick,’ Lyall tells Obiter (who hopes he packed a spare vest).
The following month, he was invited to an admission ceremony at the Law Society’s Hall. He wangled a 48-hour pass and made it to Chancery Lane in uniform, returning to Yorkshire the same day. Lyall spent two years in signals and intelligence, where his duties included learning Russian.
Last week, he was back in the same room for a commemoration of solicitors’ service in the first world war. And once again, in uniform: this time the splendid scarlet coat of a Chelsea Pensioner. After clocking up 57 years of legal practice, Lyall became an in-pensioner at the Royal Hospital in 2012, where he is now an archivist interested in all aspects of military history.
His wasn’t the only uniform at the occasion. Major Dave Cotton of the Army Legal Services gave an enlightening talk on life as a lawyer deployed to Afghanistan, revealing that in modern operations the lawyer is often the last person to speak to soldiers going into action.
Active service was sometimes tough, Cotton said, but it had its compensations. The daily commute, for example: ‘In camp I had a five-minute walk to work with a pistol on my hip, hoping I wouldn’t have to use it. As opposed to an hour-and-a-half commute wishing I did have a pistol on my hip.’