Come to terms with law's new face

Get used to change, says Tony Holland – young lawyers and other professions have

So the vote is over. The shouting has died down, and just over one in five of our profession has installed Martin Mears and Robert Sayer in Chancery Lane to lead us onward and, hopefully, upward.

I am younger than Mears and have two of my sons in the profession, so I still have a great deal left to play for in terms of its future. It is that future that the election was really all about. Given, however, that only just over 20 per cent voted, perhaps the future is of no interest except to a discordant and aggrieved minority of our profession.

The younger lawyers have long come to terms with competition, long hours, hard work and a critical client. Others are changing their working methods to meet these challenges, while others seem to think the Law Society can reverse modern life, overcome the recession and fight every battle on behalf of every practitioner.

I have news for you. There are, as the young know better than their elders, no free rides any more. No one has escaped the revolution over the past 10 years. Be they doctors, teachers, university dons, nurses, engineers, or even miners, change has hit all on a daily basis.

Why should the law be any exception?

To make matters worse, despite the hardships we allege we endure, we are not the flavour of the month. If we seriously believe the Government is going to make a special exception for the legal profession we are only deluding ourselves.

The fact is that change has been handled relatively well by the Law Society and a lot has been achieved over the past 10 years. Rights of audience are now in our grasp, and will increasingly be exercised, as the young come to terms with the hurdles they have to surmount.

Authorised conveyancing practitioners have been seen off, although not for ever. We could still manage to shoot ourselves in the foot on that topic.

The Legal Aid budget, despite all criticism, has risen to a figure of £1.5 billion and nearly all of it finds its way into the pockets of the profession.

We put all this at risk if we think we have not achieved enough. Only time will tell who is right and who is wrong.

Tony Holland is senior partner at Foot & Bowden.