Saturday, March 29, 2014

Past Present and Future

Having yesterday notified the law  firm I have worked with for some 42 years, of my intention to retire at the end of July (when I will be age 65+) posting some  general thought is apt as for a solicitor, reflection on the law and lawyers  after so many years is difficult to avoid:

In the early days, even in a long established London law  firm like mine,  there was far less specialising in legal practice than there is now.

 I recall once having to attend at a mental hospital  in the North of England when a patient (long since deceased) incarcerated there, virtually  picked my name out of a hat. As he was mentally disturbed he had been detained in the hospital 'on her majesty's pleasure' and not convicted of any offence so his social security benefit payments had accumulated enabling him to hire any lawyer he chose.

My name was picked out of the hat and he asked me to assist with his appeal for parole. The case involved an apparent murder on a cargo ship at sea. He wouldn't take "no" for an answer and as he was entitled to a lawyer, a visit to his high security hospital and the appeal committee there followed.

 Today such a lawyer would have had to specialise in the aspect of law in hand so a young 24 year old  general (I was then more or less) legal practitioner  from a  London firm would hardly likely be permitted to be involved yet the outcome today would  almost certainly be the same as it was then though substantially more expensive.

In those days too Roman Catholic institutions tended  to instruct RC firms. This often involved being concerned with catholic strategy for involvement by the Catholic Church and catholics with the state. In C21 the state has  changed from  being affected by such  religious involvement and  is becoming more and more secular, which to be fair, appears to mirror the changes over the years in society at large.

One of the effects of these changes is that in the RC church administration  anyway  the idea of instructing  long established RC firms of solicitors began to wane maybe partly because of perceived cost effectiveness but also  probably because  the religious ideology of the lawyers seemed less important to some in C21 than it had been earlier in C20.

 This change is not  universal  but is increasingly becoming so. An illustration of the possible effects of this gradual  move of Catholic institutions from broadly catholic professional  lawyers to  professional lawyers with different religious histories, are the recent changes in England to all of the former Catholic Adoption Agencies  which declined to offer   prospective gay adoptive parents the same rights as regard child adoption  as hetereosexual  catholic couples. The Charity Commission threatened the Catholic Adoption agencies with being removed from the register of  charities if they didn't give the same service to gay adptive parents as they did to others. There was of course some initial catholic resistance to this but despite involving lawyers the church lost and essentially withdrew from such agencies - which is very sad.  I wonder whether  if traditional 'catholic solicitors' firms had been involved the outcomes might have been different.

 In Scotland  the outcome was different for one Catholic adoption agency agency but I am not sure whether that exception arose from the change in government or the use of traditional catholic lawyers in the arguments or otherwise.

Human beings are attracted to other human beings for all kinds of reasons, with  any logic to the attraction and gender  seeming  to be of of little relevance. However where a sacrament is concerned then church rather than state has to set the parameters. From today, the state in England permits people of the same gender  to marry under the state's rules and live together as married couples do. That is entirely for the state and the people involved to decide.

 However for the same state to prohibit catholics from arranging for babies only  to be adopted by couples who have married in the church sense unless they also offer the same arrangements for people  whose marriages fall outwith the arrangements made by the church  seems quite  wrong. Possibly the greater paucity partly caused by the church authorities of specialist catholic firms of lawyers in C21  compared with C20 is resulting in this kind of overriding of the representations/concerns of catholic institutions.

There have been many huge legal  experiences in personal professional  life   over the past 42 years   of which perhaps a good example is: and last year The Supreme Court - at last a religious success in C21 is another..

The   most exciting legal privilege that I  recall  was that of being honourary  solicitor to the visit to Great Britain of His Holiness Pope John Paul II in 1981/2. The legal position of the Catholic Church in those days was such that the Vatican was not recognised officially as it is today hence the need for the Church then to work hard to raise funds to pay for the visit and hence the need for lawyers.

Many smaller issues cannot be published on a blog  and of course success is not always the outcome but in a reflective post on the verge of retirement from my firm of the past 40 years or so, I concentrate on a couple of the highlights rather than the grist or hard work which are part of any worthwhile  calling/job/career/profession.

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