Clare Ferguson, Consultant at Taylor Wessing with William Lovelace
William Lovelace, ‘Serjeant Lovelace’ (c.1525/30-77) by an unknown English artist, dated 1576 © Dulwich Picture Gallery, London
Whereas William Lovelace is bearded, be-hatted, ruffed, brown-gowned and has a calm air, today’s lawyer is unlikely to have any of those accoutrements or characteristics. With mobile fixed to the ear, fingers tapping the Blackberry or tablet, today’s lawyer will likely be dressed in black, likely stressed – or at the least under pressure - and possibly on the run between meetings. He or she will not be held in anything like the regard that William enjoyed. In the sixteenth century there were few lawyers and they were revered. Times have changed.
Of course, there were no female lawyers in 1576 and would not be for another 350 years – women not being ‘persons’ (held the Court of Appeal in 1913) within the meaning of the Solicitors Act 1843. It was not until 1922 that a small trickle of women entered the legal profession.
It was a half a century after this that I commenced my legal career at the Bar and met my fair share of obstacles in a largely middle/upper class male domain. One of them addressed me in Latin, no doubt to unsettle me. It did not work.
Unlike William, today’s lawyer might pitch for the next piece of work, and would have to engage in business development and PR. William would have advised on a wide range of civil and criminal issues whereas today’s London lawyers are highly specialised. They often work long late hours, in different time zones and even when on holiday need to respond to clients’ emails, often by return. William would have had much more time to reflect before he opined.
One grateful client gave William a porpoise, to eat. My equivalent was a brace of bleeding pheasants walked through the office, swinging from a gamekeeper’s shoulder. I hid.
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