Now even the Law Society has fallen into the gavel trap

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By Judge John Hack on

Its job is to represent every solicitor in England and Wales, but the venerable 192-year-old body needs to brush up on UK court procedure

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The campaign against the inaccurate use of gavels to represent the UK legal system has stepped up a notch with the shocking discovery that the accident prone Law Society has fallen into the ignorance trap.

Legal Cheek readers will be well aware of various bodies — ranging from the BBC to several law schools and others — that have unthinkingly reached for gavel imagery, their rationale presumably polluted by countless US courtroom dramas.

All should have known better — but this latest clanger is arguably the most egregious of the lot.

The Law Society represents the nearly 160,000 solicitors currently on the roll in England and Wales. In the dark and distant past, solicitors would have whiled away any time in court sitting behind counsel and probably drifting off as the barristers droned on.

But ever since implementation of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990, solicitor-advocates have increasingly been on their feet in the higher courts of England and Wales. And they will undoubtedly be aware that the judges they appear before don’t bash gavels.

Nonetheless, that point seems to have eluded the solicitors’ representative body. What’s worse, the society’s display of gavel drawings appear in two very public sections of its website.


First, the icon illustrates the “getting help with your legal issue” section of the site the public is directed to when searching for a solicitor. Then it crops up again, this time on the “law careers” page of the site.


If nothing else, Chancery Lane is guilty of furthering already widespread public misconceptions about court processes, while making itself look like a right numpty before its own membership.

When the error was pointed out, the society put up its hands, and in the time honoured way of large institutions, blamed a contractor. But to be fair, the usually staid institution exhibited a sense of humility and humour over the cock up, with a spokesman saying:

“Thanks for spotting this one, Legal Cheek. Before you know it, we’ll have Judge Judy on the site. We sometimes use external agencies to develop our website and on this occasion a gavel slipped through. We’ll be updating it in the next few days.”

The “next few days” has turned into at least a fortnight, and the gavels are still there. But then time moves slowly at Chancery Lane.

And as far as Judge Judy is concerned, Legal Cheek has a better suggestion: how about Judge Rinder as the society’s next chief executive …?