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This lawyer's life: Radical legal style

Date:28 NOV 2016
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I was once against counsel who wore jodhpurs in court. It was a disconcerting experience; her jacket was all business but below the waist she was a walking Jilly Cooper novel, an all winking thrusting stallions and mounting fillies country weekend fest.

Bizarrely, perhaps, I finally erased the discombobulating image from my mind recently by watching lawyers wear Pom Pom slippers and slinky cat suits (not together) as they strutted down the catwalk. I also horrified a colleague by saying I understood why a couple 'stole' a child, helped Rumpole get to the ball and learnt that joining Isis is often just teenagers sticking two fingers up at family, society and the world.

Yes, it's been an interesting time since my last article.

Let me explain.

Taking the advice given to Alice, I'll start at the beginning.

If manners maketh the man, how much do clothes make the lady lawyer? 

I'll leave male lawyers out of this because their court attire doesn't vary that much. A 'fun' tie or 'funky' socks might occasionally *ahem* rock a court case but generally it's the same old, same old. Women's fashion, however, even in the courtroom, can veer from the inappropriate to the super stylish. Judging by the huge turnout at the Lawyers Life 'Law in Style' event a few weeks ago, high achieving lady lawyers eschew the faux feminism that baulks at looking good and choose to dress for success. Dressing well shows respect for your position. Like it or not, research shows again and again that we respond at a subconscious level to how a person is dressed and 'judge' accordingly. Our PM, Theresa 'kitten heels' May is living proof that a good outfit never decreased any woman's mass of brain cells. So, our lawyer models proudly strutted their stuff on the catwalk after a hard day poring over 1000s of pages of statements and expert reports. For photographic evidence of legal style:

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Joining Isis. What drives a young person living in a comfortable home and free society to join a violent, murderous rag tag group with, at best, a nebulous 'cause?'

Reading judgments from learned high court judges alone won't give you all the answers. More than one eminent lawyer/ judge has privately confessed that when faced with a 'radicalisation' case they can't get a firm footing in the swampy, brutal and shape shifting ground of extremism.

So, in June when I organised a seminar on the topic for my chambers, I wanted a voice besides that of lawyers dealing with the aftermath of such radicalisation. I found one - not under J for jihadi (even my contacts book doesn't stretch that far!) but under media contacts. A beautiful pop star turned documentary maker, Deeyah Khan, had spent two years with men and women who had been radicalised, had their lives destroyed by the extremism that had seemed so enticing and then, somehow found their way back into mainstream society. Deeyah filmed their journeys and their raw testimonies to the destructive force of hatred. 

For the seminar I screened her BAFTA nominated film 'jihad' and invited one of the men from the film to come speak alongside the lawyers, social workers and guardians. It was a fascinating evening, on a human, political and legal level.

In collaboration with 3 sets of chambers; 1 Crown Office a Row, Westgate and 42 Bedford Row, I organised a similar event in Brighton last week.

The chief executive of Cafcass led an eminent legal and social work panel in discussion while another former jihadi fighter, now working to prevent young people going down the extremist path gave the keynote speech. The event was declared 'brilliant' by the guests.

I will be teaming up with Middle Temple in the new year to run a similar event. If you missed the first two, do come to this one. It will be a fascinating glimpse into a world few of us can comprehend.

From stolen lives to stolen babies. Well, maybe not so much stolen as a case of finders keepers. The film 'The Light between Oceans' is on release in cinemas now. Based on ML Stedman's book of the same name, it tells the story of a childless couple, a lighthouse keeper and his wife, living on a remote island, who find a boat washed ashore one day with a baby and her dead father in it. Grief stricken after the loss of three children, they decide to keep the baby and not inform the authorities. Two years later, back on the mainland, they discover that 'their' daughter's birth mother is alive and grieving for her baby.

What to do?

It was a question I posed to my followers on social media. The result was surprisingly close. Although honesty won the day with more people saying they would come clean and inform the authorities when they first found the baby, a large number said they would keep Schtum and raise the child as their own. Hmm.

Anyway the film is a beautiful tearjerker and a real moral maze. Read my review here:

For those of you who recall the Greatest Fictional Lawyer debate I mentioned in my last article; well it happened and it was a hoot! You can read about how the Bar disgracefully let down poor Horace Rumpole but a firm of solicitors rode into the rescue. And here's the best bit - we'll be doing it again bigger and even better at Middle Temple in 2017. So polish up your debating skills and enter the fray.