Irvine's union-bashing rhetoric won't work

Lord Irvine's claim that the Law Society should not be allowed to use its members' fees to fund its "trade union" activities – which follows closely on the heels of the society's ad campaign against Lord Irvine's cuts to legal aid is symptomatic of a wider attack on the legal profession.

Lord Irvine chose his words carefully. By characterising the society as a "trade union", he positions lawyers as just another interest group. The Law Society is a trade union in a sense and needn't apologise for it. The country needs a vocal legal profession and the Law Society is part of that.

One lobbyist has suggested that City firms should shun the Law Society's legal aid campaign because it could damage the profession's relationship with government and anyway, all it did was support small firms.

Not only does this assume that City firms are narrow-minded and self-interested, it also misses the political point. To refuse to fight for the principle and principled lawyers now is to abdicate the right to fight for others later.

The Government's attack on the Law Society is an attack on the legal profession and it is using legal aid as its battleground. The Lawyer is not afraid to criticise the Law Society, but in this case it is ethically and tactically right.