Yes, it’s true. Despite all the jokes.
(Here’s one: Question: a snake and a lawyer fall from a 12-storey building. The snake is slightly smoother and more slippery than the lawyer. Who hits the ground first? Answer: Who cares?) And it’s true despite the wanton gluttony of commercial law: I heard, second hand, that £100m of the £700m or so spent rebuilding Wembley Stadium a few years ago was lawyers’ fees. No earth was moved but some chargeable hours were sure clocked up.
But it’s true. I’ve been thinking a lot about autocracy, as you do, how someone takes over the country and tries to dismantle whatever structures would preserve democratic legitimacy.
Such niggling strictures so get in the way of the aspiring autocrat. So who is first in your sights? The journalists and the lawyers and the lawyers who have become judges. What you need to do, aspiring autocrat, is dump the independent and principled and clever poeple, and replace them with compliant people. Ideally, the compliant ones will be so dim that they think they have their new jobs on merit.
This battle is being played out all over the world, and it’s a conflict of the slow (the lawyers and journalists) against the rash, impatient autocrat. Judges in Malawi threw out a crooked election. The EU is arguing with the Polish government about its policy of sacking independent judges. Judges in the US threw out nearly 50 claims of a crooked election.
Then, helping the helpless. I’ve watched defence lawyers, unthanked individuals, defend abjectly needy people in court with careful preparation and beautiful logic. (I am passing over the cynicism here that also dogs much of legal practice.) At their best, I think lawyers are about the rule of law, all of us equal under the law, rather than the rule of low cunning, or the rule of One.
Stunning. Slow. Surprising. Lawyers. Who’d’ve thought?