2018 — A Year in Pictures
Inspired by, or rather shamelessly copying an idea of Chris Dale, as I also did for 2017, I’ve selected a few of the many photographs I took last year to form a review in pictures of 2018. I’ve chosen some which are — loosely - connected with my life as a lawyer in London. I took all of them except November’s, some with a phone camera and some with an SLR. Choosing and editing imposes discipline on the freedom of taking many photographs, although my decision to make them public and link them with my legal life mean these aren’t necessarily either technically the most proficient, or those which mean most to me as images and memories of the year.
Walking through central London on the way to the annual Chancery Bar Association conference at the Royal College of Physicians — itself a building of the 1960s, bright winter sunlight illuminates Richard Seifert’s Centre Point. I’m always conscious of Seifert on the skyline, as his cylindrical building for the Civil Aviation Authority, Space House, is close to Lincoln’s Inn and forms part of the architectural backdrop looking westwards from its Great Hall and gateway over Lincoln’s Inn Fields, always striking in a vivid equinoctial sunset.
Seifert’s architecture — and Centre Point in particular — has been controversial since it was built in the mid-1960s. Built as an office block, at the time this picture was taken, the building was in the process of conversion to apartments, including a penthouse on sale for £55M, far beyond the reach both literally and metaphorically of passers-by on the pavement below.
The very end of the winter brought late snow to London, here in New Square, Lincoln’s Inn. In the foreground, the Jubilee fountain, behind it the gables and chimneys of 12 New Square, one of the older parts of the Inn. Long after I retire and no longer walk down the side of New Square to the Royal Courts of Justice, I will remember the profuse wisteria that covers the corner of 12 New Square in spring, and the late summer scent of figs from the tree trained against its wall.
The raised design of the fountain is intended to partially hide parked cars from view. If only the Inn would get rid of the cars instead! The Jubilee fountain is not quite as controversial an addition to Lincoln’s Inn as Centre Point is to London. But one positive feature is that it’s an invariable reminder of the wisdom of remembering to “spend a penny” before going over to court.
A Monday morning in Newcastle for professional commitments — the perfect opportunity for a weekend in Northumberland, leaving suit and laptop at a hotel in Newcastle, taking a backpack on the south Tyne railway line to Haltwhistle, and walking a short stretch of Hadrian’s Wall on the first day of spring 2018, a series of pleasures only slightly marred by struggling with tiresome software updates once reunited with my laptop.
Assiduous legal blogger Gordon Exall keeps track of judgments with memorable opening lines. Which law student of the future will not remember the case of Prick v. Prick  EWHC 776 (IPEC), published in April 2018, which begins:
This is a dispute between a tattoo artist and a retailer of cacti about the use of the trading name “PRICK”
I wrote a blog about the case — it isn’t a field I practise in, but cases about words and their meaning always interest me, and I don’t live very far from either business. A canalside stroll took me to the Prick cactus shop — I lacked sufficient courage for the tattoo parlour.
The London Legal Support Trust’s annual London Legal Walk to raise funds for law centres is an event that has become larger and more high-profile every year, supported by many law firms and individuals, including some of the Justices of the Supreme Court. This year, the starting point in Carey Street even had a “dog bar” with bowls of water and dog treats for the many four-legged friends who had come along.
In the long midsummer evenings, drinks on the terrace of an office in legal London, in the background, the south bank of the Thames, the distinctive Oxo Tower dwarfed by a new tower of bulbous glass under construction nearby.
Long weeks of heatwave and clear skies ended, with relief, but frustration for everyone who hoped to see the lunar eclipse on the evening of Friday July 27 2018. The same bulbous glass tower as in my June photograph is less objectionable here, behind the Millennium Bridge and silhouette of eclipse-watchers on the bridge, and the lights on the river. Below us, on the foreshore, the river left its fragments of past lives in London for a mudlarking walk some other time.
At the end of a long day’s mediation in an office in the City of London, amongst the empty chairs and desks of the building across the road, a glimpse of a small teddy bear, or is it a rabbit? — like a tiny hostage on the corner window sill on the left. An incongruous but homely object of feeling for anyone who has arrived in an office building with the receptionists in the morning, and left after the cleaners have gone home at night. At least the toy hasn’t been left in one of the rooms with motivational quotes superimposed on the glass of the window — from the other side of the street, a meaningless jumble of GNIRIPSNI and ESOPRUP. At this year’s Chancery Bar Association conference there was a lively discussion about changing the culture and expectations of mediation away from this, and towards conforming with ordinary office hours, of at least attempting to. Despite being a highly nocturnal person, I can see the good sense of this.
Over the summer, purely to satisfy my long-standing curiosity, I started to research the life of Mary Cathcart (born Mary Unwin in 1844), who has had some slender legal posterity, in the judgment in Re Cathcart  1 Ch 549 and the modern rules of the Court of Protection. Mary’s husband unsuccessfully petitioned “in lunacy” for her to be judged of unsound mind and committed to an asylum, and the court had to rule on the extravagant costs of this exercise. Evidence on lunacy petitions was limited to the three years before the petition, so the published law report revealed only a fragment of her life. Through various archive resources, I have been able to discover all of its recorded significant, and largely sad, events, from the sudden death of her father in a riding accident in 1846, to her being a victim of an anonymous threatening letter in 1881, and her own death in a lunatic asylum in 1922. The image above is of the Chancery pleadings in relation to her father’s intestate estate, in which she was made a ward in Chancery in 1848 to protect her substantial fortune until she reached the age of 21. My research has also taken me deeply into the lives of her ancestors, and the origins of her fortune, which have revealed the fascinating story of her great-grandfather, James Unwin, his friend Edward Wheeler, captain of a warship in the Georgian navy, who died in action at sea in the Seven Years’ War in 1761, and Fanny Stephenson, the woman they both loved, and whose portrait was painted by Gainsborough and delivered in 1771. I am hoping to continue my research and write it as a book, rather than the 3,000 word blog post which is all I at first thought there would be to write.
As I walk around legal London I think quite often about both James Unwin and Mary Cathcart, who would have known the same streets well. They were both types of people I recognise. James the brisk, clever lawyer, entrusted with secrets by his friend Gainsborough and many other men, and Mary the obsessed litigant in person, burdened by documents and entangled in process, in lonely pursuit of justice. James had an absorbing and satisfying professional and social life, as a busy and well-connected attorney in the 1740s and 1750s, in Tooks Court, off what is now Furnival Street, but was then called Castle Yard. Mary frequented the then-new Royal Courts of Justice in the 1880s and 1890s, becoming well-known as a “lady litigant” in person, living in a hotel in the Strand, and enjoying none of the status or conviviality that her ancestor did. But whatever the rewards of James Unwin’s professional and personal life, it’s salutary to remember that in early 18C legal London, condemned prisoners were still taken along High Holborn from Newgate to Tyburn to hang, and abandoned infants dying in the gutter were the spur to Thomas Coram’s establishment of the Foundling Hospital.
One of the legal stories which briefly dominated the news in October, was Lord Hain’s use of Parliamentary privilege in the House of Lords to name an individual whose identity had been kept anonymous by an interim injunction in a judgment of the Court of Appeal, ABC v. Telegraph Media Group [2018 EWCA (Civ) 2329. The issues in this case aren’t directly within my field of practice but are of general public interest, and the British Institute of International & Comparative Law had arranged an event with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Rule of Law to discuss the use of Parliamentary privilege, which I was hoping to attend.
After an hour waiting in the security queue to enter the Houses of Parliament, this became impossible. This was disappointing, in itself, and as an experience of the accessibility of the state to its citizens, and modestly inconvenient to me — far more so for anyone in the many hundreds of people also waiting in the queue who might have had further to travel or had more burdensome work absence or childcare arrangements to make.
The only consolation was the beautiful light and sky of a day of Indian summer.
In Sydney, on holiday in Australasia, with Abigail Sheppard, with whom I was at law school in England, but who now lives and works in Sydney, and Dom Hogan-Doran SC, who has chambers in Sydney and in Adelaide. We had coffee in Sydney in a place close to the courts that has a similar atmosphere to the Pret a Manger on the ground floor of the Rolls Building in London — busy lawyers and their clients on their way to and from court appointments — a salutary reminder of home at the end of a long break.
A personal image and note for the end of the year — my lovely niece, who turned 18 in December, now an adult, with all the many images and memories I have of her as a child disappearing into the past as if into a looking glass. Not an aspiring lawyer, but a natural scientist, here she is looking brightly towards the future in uncertain times.