Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Lawyers are smart...aren't they?

I mean, they've all gone through many years of expensive education, designed to weed out those who're not able to perform to the high levels demanded in the competitive world of the law. In the case of Advocates, Solicitor-Advocates and Barristers, after their initial degree qualification there's even more training involved, again, accepting only the best minds to this higher level of education.

And then, once they're out practising in the Big Bad World, they have to be able to assess information presented to them, the accuracy of that information, identify opportunities and threats, and figure out what's really a sensible conclusion to many issues.

So...with all that education, knowledge, experience and business skill, just how the hell did this proposal get any further than a 4am late-night-cheese-snack-induced nightmare?!?

The Executive Committees of Inner Temple and Middle Temple have agreed to commission a feasibility study to investigate the potential benefits of merging their Libraries and creating a Joint Education and Advocacy Centre.


The study will be overseen by a working group chaired jointly by Master Jonathan Hirst for Inner Temple and Master Stanley Burnton, Deputy Treasurer, for Middle Temple.


The results of the study are likely to be available in the late summer and no decisions are anticipated until much later in the year, after full consultation with staff and consideration by the relevant Inn Committees, Bench Table and Parliament.

In particular, no assumption has been made as to which Inn would house the Library and which the Education Centre, should the project proceed.


Vivian Robinson QC
Treasurer


Now, having worked at a large institutional legal library myself, my brain just shuts down in shock when confronted with a lunatic proposal like this. Really - this is actually a serious proposition, from these "smart" people? Charon QC has commented extensively on this here, and here: please feel free to take part in his poll. Many others have also commented on the absurdity of this proposal.

Even in Scotland the Inn Libraries have an outstanding reputation. Their extensive holdings and experienced staff are essential to the smooth running of the legal system in England and Wales, just as the Advocates Library is here in Scotland. Without the knowledge and skill of the library staff, and the immediate access to a wide range of legal materials they have in stock, the barrister profession of England and Wales would be hamstrung.

So, to propose that that wealth of experience and materials would be effectively halved by merging the Inner Temple and Middle Temple Libraries is verging on the insane! And where is the actual detail on this proposal? What exactly are they studying the "feasibility" of? Cutting staff? Cutting stock or putting it into storage? Losing study space? Saving money? Ahhh...saving money. I think we may have found the reason here. Because you can be sure that this initiative is not for the benefit of the members of these libraries...it'll be about cutting costs, while pretending to (as is a favourite excuse) "modernise" the service.

Because, of course, a modern service is one that has fewer staff, and fewer resources, but looks shiny and pretty. As, after all, nobody reads those musty old things called books any more. And librarians just sit at desks and stamp books. And users can navigate the intricacies of all the massive databases with ease, because they're designed to be nice and user friendly. And all the books that users actually do want (strange, old fashioned users that they must be!) are always right where you want them....

Right?....
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