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David Pickup

Senior Partner, Head of Mental Health Law, Pickup & Scott

Quotation Marks
“We should celebrate our history and traditions as a profession. We do not generally know much about our past as a profession.”

Best of intentions? New Year's resolutions for lawyers

Best of intentions? New Year's resolutions for lawyers


David Pickup reflects on enduring professional principles for another year in practice

New Year is the traditional time to make resolutions for the coming year. Usually, I have good intentions but give up after a few days. I do not drink and am a vegetarian so ‘Veganuary’ and ‘Dry January’ (or an alcohol-free month) are pointless for me.

At this seasonal time, I often think about Scrooge and Dickens’ Christmas Carol. The redeemed Scrooge promised he would, “Live in the past, the present, and the future”. I wonder how he felt a few days into January? It is tough keeping resolutions. I am a little encouraged with the thought that Ebeneezer Scrooge might have been a lawyer.Usually portrayed as a merchant or dealer of some kind but could he have been one of us? Dickens was familiar with the legal world, and had worked as a legal clerk. Scrooge certainly was a money lender, and seems to have made money from foreclosing leases and mortgages. In the nineteenth century, lawyers often were money lenders as well – as this was a useful way of increasing profits. They would have the legal knowledge to get security for loans. As Scrooge says (in the Muppet Christmas Carol version at least, which is probably the best!):

“Christmas is a very busy time for us, Mr. Cratchit. People preparing feasts, giving parties, spending the mortgage money on frivolities. One might say that December is the foreclosure season. Harvest time for the money-lenders.”

So how do we resolve to “Live in the past, the present, and the future” in our practice – but hopefully, like Scrooge, to keep to it?

The Past

We should celebrate our history and traditions as a profession. We do not generally know much about our past as a profession, where we came from or how we got here.

The last nearly forty years of my career have seen the end of the generalist when most firms did most types of work or could handle them. This meant working closely with a thriving independent Bar. Large chunks of our work have disappeared, or are now the preserve of a few firms. Look at PI cases. They used to be handled by most firms for a reasonable fee. Now it is for the specialist.

Some things have worked well, like legal aid green forms, and fixed fees(if you do not know what a green form was, it was a way of giving a limited amount of legal advice on any legal subject to people who needed it but could not afford it). We ought to be able to give basic advice to clients at a modest fee.

The Present

We need a diverse profession that is true representative of the society we serve. A lot of very good work has been done – but there is still a lot to do.

Could we lighten the load of constant audits, peer reviews and checks?

We also have to face it that working life has changed with covid-19.

The Future

In Dickens’ Christmas Carol, it is the ghost of Christmas future that is the scariest. The spirit does not speak but shows what might happen. What do we as a profession fear? Well, quite a lot.

We should embrace the new normal. Covid-19 and Brexit have probably meant we have leapt forward in the future by 10 years. If clients, courts and everyone else want virtual meetings and hearings, we should lap it up, and not miss the ‘waiting for hours in a 1970s office block with a coffee machine that is out of order.’

We need to do more to encourage new lawyers to do the kind of law we do. We also must encourage a more diverse and representative profession. I know I mentioned this in the present – but it is something we need to do for the future as well. On that note, Happy New Year 2022 – and, as Dickens’ Christmas Carol concluded, “God bless us, everyone!”

David Pickup is Senior Partner of Pickup & Scott, and Head of the Mental Health Department: