Saturday, 26 November 2016

Legal Eagles

The watchword of these days is ‘uncertainty’, as if the absolute certainty of all those dire economic forecasts that were to befall the post-referendum nation had been realised and now the only thing that can save us is to believe the same doom-mongers and overturn the will of the people. In the seventies they warned about global cooling. By the nineties it had become global warming and now it is referred to as climate change. Why not call it what it is – climate uncertainty, because it’s uncertainty that is the real evil here?

But that is a bogus claim, as uncertainty is the normal state of affairs in human society, so it is a clever trick that has been performed, to demonise that normal state, blame it for everything and then imply that somehow threatening to ignore the outcome of a vote will restore us to certainty. In fact, people already voted for more certainty; they want the certainty of their wages not being undercut by outsiders with no stake in Britain. They want the certainty that criminals will be deterred from their actions. Most of all, they want the certainty that when the government seeks a mandate and gets it, the government will act on it.

There are few real certainties, other than death and taxes... and Tony Blair seeking a return to public life. But there is one cast iron certainty - to paraphrase the pledge that put us in our current state of turmoil – and that is, whatever happens whatever it costs, somebody, somewhere will be making money from it. Financial gurus, stoking the fears and making the markets, rent-seeking, professional ‘advisors’ attaining positions of influence and altering the circumstances of many without ever having to atone for their mistakes. And of course, the legal profession.

In Dickens’ Bleak House, the law firm Jarndyce and Jarndyce which is, ‘of course’, acting only in the best interest of their clients, emerge the only winners, having spent the entirety of a considerable fortune to pay their fees and thus solved the knotty problem of how that fortune was to be distributed. Recourse to law has been the refuge of both victims and their villains throughout social history and its verdicts have been the source of much anger and frustration. So it is unusual to see the passing of lawyers as the reason for national morning.

But, on one recent occasion there was an enormous turnout to witness the laying to rest of not one, but two prominent local legal eagles. The funeral procession included two horse-drawn hearses behind which walked a man leading a large Rottweiler. A few paces behind, several hundred more people followed the man and his dog. Curious, I approached the man and asked what was going on. “The first hearse carries my ex-wife's lawyer," he said. "My dog bit him and he died two days later. The second hearse is for the lawyer who opposed me in some business litigation. My dog bit him and he also died.”

I pondered for a moment what he had told me and walked a few paces alongside the pair. Like many of us, I have harboured my share of animus with the legal profession. I asked him, with a wry smile as I did, “Could I borrow your dog?” He barely glanced up, but I could see a ghost of a smile on his lips. “Of course, you can. That’s fine by me” he said, and gestured at the procession behind, “but you're going to have to wait your turn, like all the others.”

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