RE: Judge Attacks Barristers Without Law Degrees (The Lawyer, 9 June 1998).
Mr Justice Lightman's attack on barristers without law degrees (and by implication, solicitors) is as surprising as it is ill-considered.
I can only guess at the reaction to his comments within the Patent Bar, whose members appear in front of him on an almost daily basis, and for whom a first degree in a science is considered a near necessity.
Does he really regard them, silks and all, as a bunch of bungling amateurs?
My own experience on the Bar Vocational Course (BVC), and that of colleagues on the Legal Practice Course (LPC), was that students coming from Continuing Practice Education (CPE) courses were every bit as able as those whose first degrees were in law.
I personally found that a science degree, and the approach to problem-solving it required, was a far better preparation for practical law than some of my contemporaries' essay-based courses.
Even now, practising as a solicitor, I find it difficult to distinguish non-law graduates from other trainees on the basis of legal knowledge. I doubt that the learned judge could distinguish between those appearing before him on that basis either.
If Judge Lightman is concerned about the quality of the advocacy in his court, he would do better to criticise the way in which it is taught.
An attempt to revive a prejudice that most had thought thankfully long gone, will do nothing to improve either the quality of the Bar's membership or its reputation.