In a fourth successive non-lawyer appointment to the role, former House of Commons leader David Lidington has been appointed Lord Chancellor, taking up his role on 11 June.As part of a post-election reshuffle, Lidington replaces former Lord Chancellor Liz Truss who has been made chief secretary to The Treasury.
Lidington previously served as minister of state for Europe between 2010 and 2016, and before that as shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland between 2003 and 2007.
Ashurst litigator and chairman of the City of London of Law Society (CLLS) Ed Sparrow described the appointment of another non-lawyer Lord Chancellor as ‘a pity’, telling Legal Business that ‘knowledge of the legal sector and the independence that comes with legal training and practice are skills that make the job easier.’
‘But City lawyers are a pragmatic lot and we work with what and whom we find. I look forward to meeting him’, he said, adding that ‘I will do my best to work with him and his team as I have with Liz Truss.’
Travers Smith senior partner Chris Hale told Legal Business he remained sceptical of the recent trend to appoint non-lawyers to the role because it makes it harder for them to understand the issues relevant to the legal sector.
Hale also expressed doubt as to whether Lidington would be any different from his non-lawyer predecessors.
Hogan Lovells head of competition Nicholas Heaton told Legal Business that the preeminent issue for the new Lord Chancellor was to maintain the UK’s ‘pivotal role in relation to international legal affairs.’
Heaton also highlighted the UK’s position as an attractive venue for global commercial litigation and stated that Lidington’s ‘mosr important’ task is to ensure this position continues.
Lidington has attracted controversy in the past, after it was revealed in 2009 he had claimed nearly £1,300 for dry cleaning, toothpaste, shower gel, body spray and vitamin supplements on his second home allowance.
Former Lord Chancellor Truss, also a non-lawyer, gathered criticism from lawyers generally for a number of decisions, in particular due to her failure to defend the judiciary after the Daily Mail published a headline entitled ‘enemies of the people’ during EU campaigner Gina Miller’s legal challenge to the government’s decision to trigger Article 50.
Truss had already received criticism from the profession, such as in September 2016, after unveiling proposals to extend the recoverable costs regime to as many civil cases as possible. At the time, Law Society president Robert Bourns described the proposals as likely to be ‘totally inappropriate.’