Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Brief Encounters

The view from the Bench into the well of the court has changed enormously over the years. When I first joined, a grizzled police Sergeant would present cases with Counsel attending for the more serious stuff. Our regular local solicitors numbered a couple of dozen at most, with a hard core who were in almost every day. These solicitors were nearly all white and nearly all men. They knew their clients and they also knew their benches, tailoring their tactics to the known preferences of those sitting.
Today the view is very different. To my right on the front bench is the CPS Associate Prosecutor; to my left, in the defence lawyers' place I am most likely to see a youngish woman of Asian extraction. I used to know most regulars by name, but the duty solicitor rota is now so enormous that I often have to ask.
The missing cohort of young lawyers appears to consist of white men. 62.7% of new trainee solicitors were women last year, and 19.9% were from BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) groups.
We all have our own theories as to why this is so. My own is that the cohesion and discipline in many Asian families encourages work and discourages the drink-fuelled lifestyle of too many students, just as happened with the Jewish refugees who arrived between the wars. Hence they get good exam results, and in the present climate that is the only way into the legal trade.
The law is becoming a desperately overcrowded profession, with 8,480 new solicitors admitted last year; it is no better at the Bar either, with well over half of newly called barristers unable to get the pupillage that is essential before they may practice.

(later) Here's a Guardian piece about it.

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