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This month, Bristol Law Society President Nick Dell reflects on the role of the legal profession in this day and age.

The bicentenary of the birth of Charles Dickens took place last month on 7 February.  I make this point as Charles Dickens worked in the office of an attorney as a young man.  Before 1873, an attorney was a lawyer that practised in the Chancery division.  Dickens’ writing often described the workings of legal practice in the nineteenth century and the characteristics of certain legal practitioners (both good and bad).  The lawyer, Tulkinghorn, is depicted in ‘Bleak House’ as being a corrupt and self-serving, but clever lawyer, and being a bad example of the profession.  By way of contrast, Mr Jaggers (‘Great Expectations’) although practising in the murky legal world of the Victorian era remained honest and reliable and working in the best interests of his clients.

Bringing us back up to date, I am not sure if you have watched the BBC TV drama, ‘Eternal Law’ involving two lawyers (barristers) who also happen to be ‘angels’ and represent in court a variety of individuals in need of help.  The programme left me reflecting on who were suitable role-models we should all try and live up to in 2012.  A code of conduct modelled on angelic standards although worthy is maybe setting the bar a little too high for us ordinary mortals.  But, we cannot overlook the strict duties placed upon us to uphold the rule of law, act with integrity and independence.  So using going back to the world of Mr Dickens, maybe we should try and be more like Mr Jaggers and certainly not a Tulkinghorn.

In considering these issues, there is one great advantage the membership of our society enjoys and that is our organisation began in 1770, well before Dickensian times and has evolved to the present day without interruption.  Such continuity strengthens the legal and wider community in and around Bristol allowing us to retain our independence whilst sometimes having to adjust and embrace changes in the way we work.  However the underlying reason we are here now and why the legal profession existed in the first place was to represent, defend and protect the rights and liberties of all citizens in society.  This is the difference between the law and other professions and this is what being a lawyer in this day and age should mean to us. These principles underpin how we practice today.

Last month, BLS hosted a seminar organised by the Law Society on compliance issues.  The event was very well attended and extremely successful.  Throughout the coming year we will be organising further training conferences and seminars to assist the membership in maintaining the high standards of advice and service currently provided to clients.  Details of these courses will be advertised on the website very shortly.

The Bristol Law Society represents you as we are no more than a combination of the membership and will always seek to support and promote the local legal profession within the city and regionally and nationally.