The close of another year: a time to reflect
As the end of 2023 approaches, we delve into the archives
As the end of another year approaches, it feels appropriate to reflect on what got us here. How far we’ve come. Have a root around in the archives, which are pretty sizable given that Solicitors Journal was established in 1856, over 160 long years ago.
If you roll up your sleeves and delve into the archives and pull out an edition from 1999, just over 20 years ago, what you’ll find is a slightly intimidating legal publication that instead of the glossy front cover, which you get today, has a very dramatic smoke-filled cover celebrating 200 years of Sweet & Maxwell.
The issue opens with an article on trials and tribulations through the ages, with a look at how the role of the lawyer has changed since the 13th century. Then, there is an article looking at technology and how it is impacting legal working practices, and another one on whether law firms have kept up with the advances in technology. There is also an opinion piece on the future of legal education. Followed by an indepth article on the flood of international mergers being dealt with by City law firms. In addition to this, there are two articles assessing the impact of Lord Woolf’s civil justice reforms. This is all topped off with an interview featuring several lawyers who share their views on what they expect from the coming year, the year 2000.
Flipping through this particular issue, I can’t help but feel that we have come so far and yet not very far at all. We are still dealing with the same challenges that the legal profession was grappling with at the turn of the century, albeit to a differing degree. There is no mention of ChatGPT, but there is an appreciation of how laptops, mobile phones and email were disrupting the way the legal profession worked, allowing lawyers to remain on the job while on the move and providing the profession with access to rich sources of information online.
In looking forward to the millennium, the interviewees stress the need for a future in which solicitors play a key role in ensuring access to quality legal advice that is available to all, an aim that still resonates today. It will be interesting to see what the profession will be hoping for and working towards in 2024.
Features and Opinion Editor