Toward the end of the twentieth century, English lawyers enjoyed widespread respect and prosperity. They had survived criticism by practitioners and academics and a Royal Commission enquiry, but the final decade witnessed profound changes. First the Conservatives sought to apply laissez-faire principles to the profession. Then Labour transformed the legal aid scheme it had created half a century earlier. At the same time, the profession confronted cumulative changes in higher education and women's aspirations, internal and external competition, and dramatic fluctuations in demand. This book analyses the politics of professionalism during that tumultuous decade, the struggles among individual producers (barristers, solicitors, foreign lawyers, accountants) their associations, consumers (individual and corporate, public and private) and the state to shape the market for legal services by deploying economic, political and rhetorical resources (including changing conceptions of professionalism). The profession had to respond to a greatly increased production of law graduates and the desire of lawyer mothers (and also fathers) to raise their families.
It had to replace exclusivity with efforts to reflect the larger society (class, race, gender). The Bar needed to address challenges to its exclusive rights of audience from both solicitors and employed barristers and decide whether to retaliate by permitting direct access, thereby compromising its claim to be a consulting profession. Solicitors had to reconcile their invocation of market principles against the Bar with their resistance to corporate conveyancing and multidisciplinary practices. Government had to restrain a demand-led legal aid scheme; practitioners and their associations sought to pressure the government to expand eligibility and raise remuneration rates. Divisions within both branches so compromised self-regulation and governance that the government even threatened to deprive lawyers of those essential elements of professionalism. These challenges have begun a transformation of the legal profession that will shape its evolution throughout the twenty-first century.
`'Abel has long been the most learned and perceptive commentator on the English legal profession...This is an immensely important book...''
Geoffrey Bindman, the Law Society Gazette, 11 December 2003
`'I pay fulsome tribute...to Abel's remarkable grasp of the subject... Anyone interested in the history of the English legal profession is ...indebted to him...''
Michael Zander QC
`...Professor Abel's ... complex theorisation of the recent history of the legal profession is drawn from extraordinarily detailed source work. The result is a rich critical history which will prove invaluable for students of the English and Welsh legal profession. At the same time the fact that the analysis is set in the context of underlying social and political change renders it an important contribution to our understanding of the ongoing
reconfiguration of state and citizenship.'
Dr Hilary Sommerlad
`...Professor Abel once again shows his absolute mastery of the subject area, of the background, of the theory and of the facts. This is a book for researchers, for serious students, for historians and policy makers and for practitioners with a view beyond the immediate. It will be essential reading for anybody who wishes to comment on a crucial decade in the development of the English legal profession...The final chapter brings an overall analysis with
strong, unremitting and characteristic comment from the most important commentator on the English legal professional scene. No one can detract from the comprehensive majesty of the agglomeration or the certainty of its analytic touch.
Professor Avrom Sherr
1: The Legal Profession in English Politics
2: An Unlikely Revolutionary
3: Halting the Tide
4: Reflecting Society?
5: Defending the Temple
6: Controlling Competition
7: Conservatives Cut Legal Aid Costs
8: Labour Ends Legal Aid As We Know It
9: Serving Two Masters: The Dilemma of Self-Regulation
10: Governing a Fractious Profession
11: The Future of Legal Professionalism