Richard Barr Writer (and lawyer)

Whatever turns you on

Trying to get your average solicitor to show passion is about as easy as taunting a blancmange. He or she will wobble a bit, and then go back to a state of pink placidness. Jokes about solicitors can sometimes be funny, but ask a solicitor actually to crack a joke and you get something like this:

Me (an articled clerk having just spent three hours reading one of those arcane documents called an abstract of title. Thank goodness something has improved with the law, and we no longer have to read nonsense abbreviations: rectg seisn for an est in fs ffi). “What date shall we put in the conveyance?”

Elderly doddering solicitor with thin reedy voice: “well young whippersnapper as it is 30th April, let’s be really daring and say THE LAST DAY OF April.” With that dramatic departure from convention he fell about with such paroxysm of laughter that he fell off his chair and I had to help him up. Believe it or not that is a true story.

Our jobs make us boring. All day long we have to examine in minute detail the long (and let’s face it) tedious documents and letters prepared by others, and we either have to reply to them or correct them or declare that they are nonsense.

So when something quite important comes along, like a massive earthquake in Romford or Elvis Presley being spotted in Salford we find ourselves so absorbed by our opponent’s offensive insertion of a comma in a lease that we allow the events to pass us by without any detectable increase in heartbeat.

My plea today (which has the full backing of the brand new editor of the SJ) is for everyone who reads this to go out and get excited about something.

I want you to fill the SJ’s postbag like it has never been filled before with the issues that burn you up.

I did it last week (with my concerns over the two mums who have been convicted of murder). Now it is your turn.

Some of you may find outrage in the treatment meted out by judges to trainee solicitors. Others may want to bellyache about the Lord Chancellor’s belly. We should all be livid about the state of the NHS (surely everyone can agree about that).

And I don’t want worthy passions. Therefore no round tablers or Rotarians wearing pyjamas for charity please. Accounts, however impassioned, of the proceedings of local Law Societies are also banned as are sniping attacks on the big Law Society in London (that’s my job in my back page pieces if you don’t mind).

So come on and surprise me. Show me and the editor that the readership does not consist of a collection of boring old farts. Plaster the correspondence pages with purple prose, with causes celebres [REMEMBER TO PUT THE ACCENTS ON]. Tell each other what you stand for, and what if necessary you will die for (even if it is only a strong G and T at the end of a hard week).

I want you also to get angry – with me if it helps; to send fiery letters to the journal which contain so much fury that libel lawyers have to be brought in to vet them. I want you to express those pent up feelings which have for years been covered by layers of legal compost.

Because if you don't, I will address all my future articles to a blancmange, and write only about things which amuse blancmanges, which will make for a fairly pink and wobbly back page.

Published in Solicitors Journal 3 May 2002

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