A cure for the great millennium hangover

As the country wakes up to the plink, plink, fizzzzz of the new millennium on 1 January, they'll be clearing away the empties from the Dome and polishing the displays ready for the great British public to flock in and see the zones dedicated to New Britain and its great commercial successes. Or at least some of them.

In all the brouhaha about .com companies, which, on the whole, have not contributed a bean to the UK economy, the success of the legal economy has gone unnoticed – save only for the coverage that followed the publication of The Lawyer 100 survey and a report by British Invisibles which demonstrated that lawyers contributed over £1bn to British exports.

UK law firms have had a year of unprecedented expansion in terms of geographical reach, fee income and profitability. Yet their success goes at best unnoticed by the wider media, and at worst turned on its head by the Government, which scapegoats "fat cat lawyers" to gain cheap political points to stifle opposition to its ill thought-out legislative programme.

The problem is only exacerbated by the perilous state of lawyers' own professional bodies – the Law Society and the Bar Council. These have regularly played into the Government's hands by their inept lobbying and internecine intriguing which at certain points of the year descended from tragedy to farce.

Even the most optimistic would find it difficult to gloss over the state of the profession as we enter the next millennium. The profession remains, and will continue to remain, fundamentally divided.

If the profession does not get its own house in order next year by uniting, or more likely sensibly restructuring, then its own millennium hangover promises to be far greater than anyone else's.

Such a hangover requires radical surgery that will either kill or cure it.