Barristers ,Doctors on strike – professional pride?

In the late 1970s, I was a young barrister struggling to make a living at the Criminal Bar. Legal Aid fees hadn’t gone up for seven years and I had an overdraft which increased regularly every three months.Hardly surprising, as, at one point, the bank charged me some 19 percent interest on it. Inflation was rampant and strikes of every sort including  ones involving transport were a daily occurrence.

Eventually, the Bar Council together with the Senate of the four Inns held a meeting in the Old Hall at Lincoln’s Inn to discuss the issue. Lord Scarman presided but the news was not good.The Government weren’t going to increase our fees and we would just have to lump it.

Yet the thought of going on strike never occurred to us.

That’s not to say for a moment that I blame either the barristers and doctors in the the present situation. Indeed, I had some sympathy for the barristers when they chose to take action recently.

My point is quite simple. In those days, we seemed to value our professional status much more than they do now. There was no advertising, of course, or overt touting but just a quiet pride that we belonged to an ancient and noble profession.

That also made a practical difference. If you went to the Magistrates’ courts (as I frequently did) and wore the traditional black jacket and striped trousers, you were often accorded more respect and courtesy than was meted out to solicitors or their clerks.

Was that so wrong, I wonder?

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