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Celebrating change

Summer has arrived along with a flurry of seasonal parties, from the Law Society's annual bash to those of many barristers' chambers. However, there is cause to celebrate, as diversity in the profession is improving. And it's worth looking back at how far we have come, which I did at a performance of Hobson's Choice at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park, London. Although originally set in the 1880s, Harold Brighouse's 1915 play about gender and class has been relocated to post-war Salford. It was a time when skirts became shorter, minds broadened, and traditional values were questioned at each level of society. The play is about a small family-run bootmaker, but lawyers are never far from the mind of the often drunk owner and patriarch, Henry Horatio Hobson. From the off, he makes his disdain for the profession as clear as his fear of social reform, exclaiming of his eldest daughter: "I hate bumptiousness like I hate a lawyer." Being a comedy, it will come as no surprise that the same daughter, Maggie, has a master plan to release herself from the yoke of her father and take up his position as the head of the household and shopkeeper. Without doubt, she is the puppetmaster and uses not only her younger sisters to satisfy her cunning plan but also a lowly and unsuspecting bootmaker, Willie Mossop, who she takes up as her unwilling husband. Unhappy with the lot she was presented with by being born into womanhood, the play carefully balances a gentle mocking of feminine virtues while both warning of and welcoming a change already under way in the late 19th century, and again in the 1960s. It was the role of lawyers that I found most compelling, however. Henry Hobson is contemptuous of lawyers, complaining of us having a "secret language" where you have to take a letter from one to "get it read" by another. Eventually, by quite literally falling into a trap set by Maggie, Henry seals his fate and blames it on the lawyers. "I've kept away from lawyers all my life, I've hated lawyers and they've got their chance to make me bleed for it. They'll squeeze me dry for it." The fact that one of his daughters is set on marrying a lawyer becomes almost too much to bear; that he was beaten by a lawyer is equally intolerable. But for Hobson, having a lawyer in the family - even a young one - is more palatable than the thought of keeping an 'old maid' at home. We should be rightly optimistic about the progress we have already achieved as a profession and be ready to embrace and promote change, setting an example to a sometimes reluctant society. Finally, I am looking forward to meeting many of you who will be joining us at SJ Live in London this week. Please say hello if you see me. And if you can't attend, follow us on Twitter @SJ_Weekly, using the hashtag #SJLive, and look out for a report in next week's issue.

16 June 2014

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Summer has arrived along with a flurry of seasonal parties, from the Law Society's annual bash to those of many barristers' chambers.

However, there is cause to celebrate, as diversity in the profession is improving.

And it's worth looking back at how far we have come, which I did at a performance of Hobson's Choice at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park, London.

Although originally set in the 1880s, Harold Brighouse's 1915 play about gender and class has been relocated to post-war Salford. It was a time when skirts became shorter, minds broadened, and traditional values were questioned at each level of society.

The play is about a small family-run bootmaker, but lawyers are never far from the mind of the often drunk owner and patriarch, Henry Horatio Hobson. From the off, he makes his disdain for the profession as clear as his fear of social reform, exclaiming of his eldest daughter: "I hate bumptiousness like I hate a lawyer."

Being a comedy, it will come as no surprise that the same daughter, Maggie, has a master plan to release herself from the yoke of her father and take up his position as the head of the household and shopkeeper.

Without doubt, she is the puppetmaster and uses not only her younger sisters to satisfy her cunning plan but also a lowly and unsuspecting bootmaker, Willie Mossop, who she takes up
as her unwilling husband.

Unhappy with the lot she was presented with by being born into womanhood, the play carefully balances a gentle mocking of feminine virtues while both warning of and welcoming a change already under way in the late 19th century, and again in the 1960s.

It was the role of lawyers that I found most compelling, however. Henry Hobson is contemptuous of lawyers, complaining of us having a "secret language" where you have to take a letter from one to "get it read" by another.

Eventually, by quite literally falling into a trap set by Maggie, Henry seals his fate and blames it on the lawyers. "I've kept away from lawyers all my life, I've hated lawyers and they've got their chance to make me bleed for it. They'll squeeze me dry for it."

The fact that one of his daughters is set on marrying a lawyer becomes almost too much to bear; that he was beaten by a lawyer is equally intolerable. But for Hobson, having a lawyer in the family - even a young one - is more palatable than the thought of keeping an 'old maid' at home.

We should be rightly optimistic about the progress we have already achieved as a profession and be ready to embrace and promote change, setting an example to a sometimes reluctant society.

Finally, I am looking forward to meeting many of you who will be joining us at SJ Live in London this week. Please say hello if you see me. And if you can't attend, follow us on Twitter @SJ_Weekly, using the hashtag #SJLive, and look out for a report in next week's issue.