Junkets? You have to be joking

Mr Sayer is reported as saying (about a visit to the American Bar Association's Chicago conference) "I need convincing that this isn't just an outing but I will go with an enquiring mind.

"If it can be of use to the profession all well and good but at the moment I cannot see that a big firm securing a US contract will be good for the profession as a whole, particularly the high street firms.

"In the past when the new president was given the job for 20 years' service on the council this trip at the Law Society's expense was probably seen as a reward for all their service.

"I am not entirely happy about going not least of all because I have been told to go so I will be approaching it cynically but with an open mind".

Well, that is pretty clear and no one should be under any illusions if they work in one of the larger firms.

While their funds will be paid to the Law Society it seems they will not be used to promote their interests. It is that kind of divisive remark I find so unattractive about the present leadership.

I can understand the ignorance regarding the reasons behind visiting the ABA's annual meeting but what I cannot understand is a steadfast refusal to consider that there might be a valid purpose.

Perhaps it would be helpful if I spelt out the reasons for the foreign trips the president undertakes. They are not freebies, in fact no one particularly enjoys them, me least of all.

They are tiring, they involve being on duty 24 hours a day and they have one purpose – to sell the legal profession of England and Wales to potential users overseas.

The Bar has the same purpose and to an extent we are competing with them for work.

There are, therefore, two purposes. First, there is the joint effort with the Bar to ensure that whatever work is coming to Europe comes to the English and Welsh legal professions as opposed to the French or German ones.

Second, between ourselves and the Bar, we in turn must try to ensure that we win most of that work.

It is nothing about freebies. And it is nothing about rewards. It is all about hard and sustained work.

The current officers seem obsessed about competition in the high street. And rightly so. That, too, is hard work.

Competition everywhere is hard work but equally the officers represent both the larger City firms, as well as the high street firms.

The fact the vice-president does not see a big firm securing a US contract as a success for the high street does not mean it is not a success. And it is a success both for City firms, and those who work in them, as well as for the country as a whole in terms of its ability to attract invisible earnings.

Ignorance is always forgivable when caused through lack of experience but ignorance that is trumpeted as some kind of virtue benefits no one least of all the trumpeter.

Going abroad to represent the profession has nothing to do with freebies, rewards for service or, indeed, junkets.

As a matter of fact, junket is a West Country dessert which I would recommend to Mr Sayer. I am sure he would find it a dish well worth trying no matter now suspicious he may be of the term.

Tony Holland is a senior partner at Foot & Bowden.