Ex-Macfarlanes lawyer David Gauke has been promoted to Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice in Theresa May’s Cabinet reshuffle. He is believed to be the first solicitor to become Lord Chancellor.

Gauke replaces David Lidington, who has in turn been promoted to Cabinet Office minister and chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

While – at least until recently – Lord Chancellors have traditionally been barristers, Gauke is a qualified solicitor. He studied at College of Law Chester and trained at Richards Butler (now Reed Smith), before working at Macfarlanes. He was elected MP for South West Hertfordshire in 2005 and moves from his current role as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

In having a legal qualification of any kind, Gauke differs from his four immediate predecessors in the Justice Department.

Chris Grayling became the first non-lawyer Lord Chancellor for over 400 years when he replaced Kenneth Clarke QC in 2012. He was followed by another three MPs with no legal qualifications in Michael Gove, Liz Truss and David Lidington, who took over from Truss in June last year.

Truss’s time in the department was largely viewed negatively by lawyers, and she came under fire for not more strongly defending judges following attacks on the judiciary by the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and Daily Express.

Lidington’s appointment was cautiously welcomed by the profession; however, he has had little time to put his stamp on the role before what is essentially a promotion to deputy Prime Minister. While he has not been given the title of First Secretary of State, he will stand in for Theresa May at Prime Minister’s Questions.

Gauke is the third Justice Secretary in May’s time as Prime Minister, the fourth since 2015, and the sixth in eight years of Conservative government – a fact that in itself has raised the ire of lawyers.

Lord Chancellor Start date End date Length of tenure
Kenneth Clarke QC 12 May 2010 4 Sep 2012 846 days
Chris Grayling 4 Sep 2012 9 May 2015 977 days
Michael Gove 9 May 2015 14 July 2016 431 days
Liz Truss 14 July 2016 11 June 2017 332 days
David Lidington 11 June 2017 8 Jan 2018 211 days

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