Deputy Vice Chancellor fellow graduates ladies and gentlemen
I am truly overwhelmed by being given an honorary Doctor of Civil Law by my university, Durham.
Thank you for this special recognition. Surrounded by such exceptional people.
When I was an undergraduate reading law it was compulsory to study Jurisprudence in our third year and lectures were given at 9am every Thursday morning when Prof Dowrick Head of Dept told us that in our future lives we should remember this time each Thursday to think about why law is important and what is its purpose in society. Well its Thursday – I ‘m thinking about it!
As you heard, I followed a career in law as a solicitor and then as an elected independent member of the City of London Corporation. In both capacities I hope that I kept the relevance of law uppermost in my mind promoting good governance and the supremacy of legal rights; applying this in my professional work and with the businesses that the City encompasses and in the international engagements that it relishes. I have sought to keep the watchword as to the importance and impact of Law and the responsibility that it brings. Law has very truly run through me like lettering in a stick of rock.
That impact can be no better exemplified than with the City of London’s reputation as a global financial powerhouse which rests on principles such as “my word is my bond” and also relies on the legal underpinning of contracts, the resolution of disputes and London’s international renown for the integrity and independence of our judiciary.
Law is important. Legal services contributed £34 billion to the UK economy in 2022. Parties from some 78 countries use the UK’s commercial courts for litigation. The UK ranks second only to the USA in provision of legal services worldwide. The law matters.
This import is often glibly termed the Rule of Law – frequently this term is used by non-lawyers AND might I suggest it is too often lauded by politicians and businesses and used as a smoke screen for political expediency. We need to distinguish between the rule of law and rule by laws. The sovereign right of parliament is to make law. This does not preclude the independent judiciary who must apply the rule of law to ensure the democratic safeguards of individual rights and freedoms. THAT rule of law is fragile and whilst I refer to the beneficial financial impact on our economy; the rule of law is the set of principles by which we are governed and can never be purchased or sold.
So I truly believe that Lawyers have an exceptional opportunity to do well in society and also to do good. Remembering the motto of Van Mildert College that I took into my own coat of arms Sic vos non Vobis – we should act in all things not for ourselves. I commend that thought to you for your Thursdays and every day.