Confederation Report (February 2008)

This is an extremely odd phase of my life. I formally retired as a senior partner with Rausa Mumford at the back end of last year, after 23 years.

Apart from making me realise how very long in the tooth I am, it also made me think just how much private practice has changed in that time.

I did all my own bills back then. They were really easy: grey forms, which you sent to Marland House and they duly paid you. And in most cases they didn’t reduce them either!

Mobile telephones were the size of a small suitcase and as heavy as a dozen bricks (I remember taking the ruddy thing to an Accies Sunday League match. I had to leave it next to the goal at Trelai Park. The goalkeeper was none other than Roy “The Cat” Morgan, now the eminent senior partner of Morgans, and he took great pleasure in calling me to answer it every 10 minutes or so. It never rang then or at any other time because it had less signal range than two tin cans with a piece of string attached!)

Nobody sent texts, loads of us took Friday afternoons off, usually spending them in some eatery or other before adjourning to the Horse & Groom at about 5.00pm. It was all so much more fun!

Computers were in a very early stage of development in terms of solicitor usage. Fax machines were coming into vogue. The public didn’t actively dislike us and I had a 32 inch waist.

By the time I reached last October, I realised that I had reached my sell-by date as a partner. I hated the pressures of administration, the constant worry about the tax and VAT bills, the eroding of profits and the constant fight to stay above water.

And I wanted to come home to Pembrokeshire.

Don’t get me wrong - I have loved being a part of the Cardiff legal scene. It has been a brilliant time for me and I have been privileged to serve you, the profession, on the Law Society Council in Chancery Lane and as President of Cardiff and District and now as President of the Confederation.

But it was time for a change and down here life is taken at a much slower pace. I will still be making cameo appearances in Cardiff Mags and Crown Courts - maybe once a week - and will continue as Confederation President for long as you want me. So it’s not “goodbye”, just “see less of you”.

I had the pleasure of doing an appeal in No 8 Crown Court last week before His Honour Judge David Wynne-Morgan. David is an old friend and he just loves taking the mickey in that dry laconic style of his. As I walked in he removed his wig and said how pleased he was to see such an eminent personage in his court. I replied: “And a Happy New Year to you, Your Honour!”

He then asked me whether I was adhering to tradition, or simply not aware of the changes to court dress - i.e. WIG WEARING.

I had intended to purchase one of the ridiculous toupees, even though I don’t want to. But the cost is horrendous - £400 dabs for the horse hair and another £120 for the stupid tin box it comes in.

Since I am now an impoverished consultant (and also because I had to buy a frighteningly expensive new army uniform as my old one has fallen to pieces), I had hoped to put off the evil hour.

Now the CPS Solicitor Advocates (and, as you know, they are being pushed into the Crown Courts at an increasing rate of knots) are standing firm about this - their bosses won’t pay for wigs, and most of them are refusing to shell out their own cash.

Happily, HH Judge DW-M was not at all bothered about the absence of the grey object from my and the CPS advocate’s bonce. It cost me, mind. I had to contribute to his project - the St David’s Festival Concert later this year. All in a good cause and anyone interested in divvying up and getting a mention in the programme and seats right at the front, should contact the judge via the Cardiff Crown Court.

Whether the other judges are going to take exception to this is unknown. It is not mandatory, as I understand it, but we are “supposed” to conform. I just wish the decision had been that NO advocates, barristers or us, had to wear the thing. Still, I suppose it will be tax deductible. We shall see.

I am afraid I don’t have much to report, it being January and the Festivities having been the priority for most of us. I am hoping to press ahead with the membership increases for the Confederation and the enlarging of the boundaries in the next couple of months. I am going to persuade poor old Mike Walters, our tireless Secretary, to send a lot of mail soon. If it goes according to plan, we hope to be able to offer some extremely attractive services to the lawyers of South Wales. More details next, I hope. One area that Richard Fisher and I are interested in is providing help to those unfortunate enough to fall foul of the increasing vicious Solicitors Regulation Authority.

I think I have banged on enough about the fact that SRA was NEVER going to be the National Law Society poodle that the majority of the Council in Chancery Lane hoped it would be. They have made it clear that they regard themselves as totally independent and not constrained by the Council.

They are now baring their teeth and, I fear, are going to employ secret police-type methods to “hunt down an increasing number of our brethren. If we can form an organisation like the one that the doctors have, which provides insurance and representation at disciplinary tribunals, we think it would be a major service.

I think we shall see an increasing amount of money being siphoned off from the Practising Certificate fee for the purposes of taking action against “miscreants”. A bit like charging lambs for the journey to the slaughterhouse! Hope I am wrong.

On a lighter note... I heard some great jokes over Christmas - several about lawyers:

“What is the ideal weight for a lawyer? About 3lbs including the urn!”

A man walks into a bar with the alligator and asks the barman: “Do you serve lawyers in here?” “Yes,” says the barman. “Then I’ll have a beer and the ‘gator will have a lawyer.”

What’s the difference between a lawyer and a sperm? A sperm has a one in a million chance of becoming a human being.

But my favourite was the incomparable Tommy Cooper - happily not about lawyers:

“I’ve bought my wife an artificial leg for Christmas. It’s not her main present - just a stocking filler.”

Keep smiling through the pain. Yours from the asparagus trench.

Simon Mumford

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