When the judges assembled to compose a Loyal Address to Queen Victoria on the opening of the Law Courts, the draft before them began: 'We your judges, conscious as we are of our manifold defects ...' The Master of the Rolls exploded: 'I am not conscious of having manifold defects.' Lord Justice Bowen, who was a scholar with a sense of humour, suggested, to mollify him, that the Address might begin: 'We your judges, conscious as we are of each other's manifold defects ...' I have to admit, in relation to the subtitle of Professor Zander's book, that I was not conscious that the legal system was in ferment. But a lot depends on your point of observation. From inside a deeply conservative and complacent profession almost anything can look like the end of the world, starting with the change from foolscap to A4 stationery. I recall the leader of the Bar a decade ago alerting us by circular letter to the appointment of a Royal Commission on Legal Services, and describing criticisms of the Bar which had not yet been advanced to it us 'ill-informed'. In our divided profession we find change upsetting and criticism unwelcome, unless they happen to affect the other side of the profession.
LRB 5 May 1988 | PDF Download