What Made Me a Legal Aid Lawyer?

AuthorGeoffrey Bindman
Publication Date01 Sep 2002
ISSN: 0263-323X, pp. 510–20
What Made Me a Legal Aid Lawyer?
Geoffrey Bindman*
This article is a contribution to the occasional series dealing with a
major book that influenced the author. Previous contributors include
Stewart Macaulay, John Griffith, William Twining, and Carol Harlow.
The honours school of jurisprudence at Oxford was not the fulfilment of a
burning ambition to understand or even to practise law. I entered it
fortuitously as a safe option for an unformed personality without any
particular ambition. Having got to one of the sleepier colleges by showing a
modest aptitude for the classical languages I chose what promised to be the
easier Roman law subjects, then occupying a quarter of the whole syllabus. I
recall that there were nine ways to free a slave and a form of action called
condictio on which the leading authority wrote in untranslated Italian
(Riccobono is the name that comes to mind) but little else has survived and I
now regret that I did not have the foresight to choose the doubtless more
demanding but more relevant international law option.
My father practised medicine in a largely mining community in the north-
east. I failed him by rejecting his profession but hoped for redemption by
following some of his friends who in his eyes had achieved glamour at the
London Bar. I joined Gray’s Inn with which my only contact for the next
three years was the quaint but cheerful ritual of dining in its hall three times
every term.
My career settled, I was free to concentrate on the joys of student life. I
enjoyed the intricacy and analytical challenge of academic law but I cannot
recollect any sense of vocation. Encouragement to stay a fourth year to do
the post-graduate BCL and later a fellowship at an American law school
made me think of an academic career but no offers came. Worry about the
cloistered and artificial life at the Bar coincided with an invitation to join a
ßBlackwell Publishers Ltd 2002, 108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JF, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA
* Solicitor, Bindman’s, 1 Euston Road, London NW1 2SA, England
I wish to thank Kirat Nagra, Cardiff Law School, for his research endeavours in the
preparation of this article.

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