Peer review

So it?s goodbye Charlie, hello Jack. When Lord Falconer became Lord Chancellor in 2003, he was seen as a breath of fresh air ? but coming after Lord Irvine, that was not too hard. It also won him the infamously backhanded ?cheerful chappie? tribute from Lord Woolf.

At times he seemed no friend of lawyers, not least when it came to legal aid. But when one considers Lord Falconer?s most profound impact on the profession ? the Legal Services Bill ? things could have been far worse. It is easily forgotten that the likes of the Legal Services Commission, Legal Services Ombudsman and Which? all called for the independent regulation of lawyers. Guided by Sir David Clementi, Lord Falconer chose to retain professional involvement.

At the same time, his decision to discard Sir David?s recommendation to adopt a phased approach to allowing multi-disciplinary partnerships and ?Tesco Law? could be the most significant one of all. That the hardline Bridget Prentice remains to pilot the Bill through the Commons is also a sign that a change at the top may not herald many changes in the legislation.

The upgrading of the Department for Constitutional Affairs to the Ministry of Justice has been both a blessing and a curse. On one hand it is now a key ministry with a heavyweight leader; on the other, lawyers? concerns are more peripheral to its work. Jack Straw?s first actions will be watched carefully to see if the one-time barrister will uphold the ?justice? he now stands for.

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