Editorial: What do Rumpole and Ally McBeal  have in common? Not very much

The Bar Council may be guilty of a crime against common sense
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As the legal aid budget is savaged, forcing more people to represent themselves in court, the Bar Council has thoughtfully come up with a layman’s guide to conducting oneself in court.

Among such sage advice as, “Speak loudly and clearly”, there is an intriguing recommendation “not to speak like lawyers on TV”, on the grounds that “judges do not like it”.

This raises questions about what it is that judges don’t like and which TV lawyers they mean. Is it only British ones? Presumably they can’t still have in mind that iconic hero of the courtroom, Perry Mason, whose show finished long before many people were even born.

As for Rumpole of the Bailey, Ally McBeal – ever preoccupied with her biological clock – and Martha Costello, star of Silk, it is hard to see in terms of courtroom style what they have in common. Will this guide improve our legal system for the better? The jury is out.