"Where Mr Gove fell down very badly – indeed, I would suggest unforgivably – was in totally ignoring solicitors while praising the criminal Bar to the skies. Maintaining a healthy independent criminal Bar is one of his “top priorities”, apparently. It was much the same in his first policy speech last month.
I really mean ‘totally’. In 95 minutes, the only mention of the word ‘solicitor’ was in the context of them seeking referral fees from barristers for criminal work – a practice Mr Gove pledged last week he would stamp out because of the damage it does to the Bar.
Other than that, it was as if solicitors do not make up the large bulk of the legal profession, and are not the people spending their days in magistrates’ courts and nights in police stations keeping the rusty wheels of the justice system turning. The way he was talking, you would think that only barristers have a claim to the majesty of the law.
It was either an appalling oversight or a naked attempt to divide the criminal lawyer fraternity (as well as yet another display of the political power of the Bar). Either way, it did Mr Gove no credit and will only serve to stiffen the resolve of striking solicitors."
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Neil Rose is Editor of legal Futures.