First­ly, a warm wel­come to our new col­league, Alexan­dra Hirst who joined us on 2nd Jan­u­ary. The 2nd of Jan­u­ary was an aus­pi­cious day for Alex for two rea­sons. Not only did she join the best firm in the land and all the world, (hel­lo City fans) but she also qual­i­fied as a Solic­i­tor. Congratulations.

This was a mere 35 years and 33 days after me. Have things changed? Yes they have, for all of us includ­ing our Clients. For a start, pass­ing my pro­fes­sion­al exams and com­plet­ing my arti­cles (train­ing con­tract) was not enough in those days. I had still to be vet­ted by a Law Soci­ety com­mit­tee which I sup­pose is a bit like the FA’s fit and prop­er per­son test today. Nei­ther proved fit for pur­pose as both I and Vin­cent Tan were adjudged to be such.

A num­ber of peo­ple had kind­ly tried to calm my pre inter­view nerves by telling me that the out­come was by no means a fore­gone con­clu­sion and that it wasn’t mere­ly a for­mal­i­ty. Thanks for that. I don’t remem­ber much about the grilling but I cer­tain­ly remem­ber the two things that saw me through. British snobi­ness at its best and Poyn­ton, yes, Poyn­ton. One of the com­mit­tee noticed that I was work­ing in Poyn­ton. Poyn­ton was, appar­ent­ly, an out­post” of the Cheshire empire, of which Chester was the jew­ell in the crown. I sus­pect that this is the root cause of my dis­like of Chester (except The Rail­way pub) ever since. It may have been the cen­tre of their uni­verse but it cer­tain­ly wasn’t mine.

I also thought that I was join­ing a’ pro­fes­sion but soon found out that I had joined what was pompous­ly referred to as the” pro­fes­sion. Near­ly every speak­er and solic­i­tor from the floor at every course and lec­ture repeat­ed­ly referred to the” pro­fes­sion. Every change was resist­ed as an attack whether or not it ben­e­fit­ted clients. The sta­tus quo was all that mat­tered. Most Solic­i­tors in those days (and for some time to come) seemed only inter­est­ed in them­selves and their (per­ceived ) sta­tus of them­selves and I don’t think the word ser­vice” was either used or under­stood. It was all alien to me and I didn’t like it or them to say the least, so I ignored them as far as pos­si­ble and just got on with my job.

I don’t know exact­ly why they act­ed in this way but I have two the­o­ries. Until a few years ear­li­er fees had been based, for Con­veyanc­ing at least, on quite a gen­er­ous fixed scale but that had been abol­ished well before I qual­i­fied. Income was there­fore more under pres­sure and the pro­fes­sion” was affront­ed at hav­ing to oper­ate in a com­pet­i­tive envi­ron­ment and, frankly, didn’t know how to. Sec­ond­ly, there were a lot of father and son Solic­i­tors and I sus­pect that fathers had told their sons about the sta­tus they used to enjoy when they were young like coun­try vets or even bank man­agers. If this sounds fan­ci­ful today, watch an episode of Dad’s Army and see the stand­ing that Cap­tain Main­war­ing had in the com­mu­ni­ty. He was also Cap­tain not through mil­i­tary ser­vice of any sort but through social rank as a respect­ed bank manager. 

Thank­ful­ly those days are behind us. Today, we are a busi­ness in a ser­vice indus­try and we need to oper­ate as such. It is per­fect­ly pos­si­ble to main­tain the high­est pro­fes­sion­al stan­dards whilst deliv­er­ing a first class con­sumer expe­ri­ence. Our Clients are enti­tled to take our qual­i­fi­ca­tions and expe­ri­ence for grant­ed just as we expect chefs in restau­rants to be able to cook. It is a given.

What now dif­fer­en­ti­ates us from our com­peti­tors is the way in which we deliv­er that knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence as a ser­vice. We must deliv­er in a time­ly, friend­ly way at a rea­son­able cost and, if we do, we will be suc­cess­ful and our Clients will be hap­py. So, over 35 years, an aged, self-cen­tred pro­fes­sion has final­ly been replaced by a young, mod­ern, cus­tomer fac­ing indus­try. Sev­en­ty per cent (70%) of our work­force is now aged 30 or under and the” is thank­ful­ly con­signed to his­to­ry. Alex and all our future new Lawyers now have a pro­fes­sion they can be proud to be part of.