Features Australia

Lefty lawyers, Part 2

13 July 2019

9:00 AM

13 July 2019

9:00 AM

Last week I noted that the lawyers of today, as a class, are a lot more left-leaning and politically correct and invested in the outward trappings of social justice virtue-signalling than they were five, four or even three decades ago.

And I traced this back, in part, to the capture of law schools across the Anglosphere by the left side of politics.

Law schools today in Australia, Canada, the US, Britain and New Zealand are veritable factories of monolithic orthodoxy – for instance, they are pro-refugees to an extent that the nation state is almost considered evil. They revel in what are barely disguised affirmative action policies, often travelling under the aegis of ‘diversity’ concerns. They are pro any and all choice and for full-blooded autonomy in the sexual realm (though interestingly far, far less so in the economic realm, the odd libertarian notwithstanding, and interestingly, too, inclined in some ridiculous and palpably false way to portray universities as, implicitly, greater hotbeds of sexual harassment than elsewhere). They are pro key decisions being made by unelected judges rather than their democratically-elected MPs.

They are instinctively against the military and big government when it comes to national security but whole-heartedly for it when it comes to welfare, multiculturalism spending and spending on universities (though not by the benefitting middle class students themselves, heaven forbid). They don’t see Western civilisation as being the best that has yet evolved (as I do), with some even seeing it as just about the worst.

And they bring to the table a very enervated and emasculated view of free speech; one that is hedged about and qualified by seeing all sorts of admittedly real harms related to people being offended and insulted as important enough to trump (what I would say are) the far more consequentially important benefits both of limiting what governments prevent us from saying, thereby stopping Orwellian over-reach, and of promoting a sort of wide-open cauldron of competing ideas. Such ideas, some hurtful and distasteful (a price worth paying, say I), are where the truth is far more likely to out than when some centralised, bureaucratic government decides what it will be; and attempts to impose that on us via sanctions for speaking beyond its view of the Pale.


That precis, obviously, amounts to a sweeping generalisation. Quite as clearly there are individual exceptions to be found, more at some law schools and universities than others. But where you almost never find such exceptions is in the upper echelons of university administration. Leave aside that for some unknown reason Australia’s top university administrators are basically the highest paid in the world, and that the level of administrator to in-class lecturer and researcher is about 2:1 – yes, the admin is running the shop!  But leave that aside.  A larger problem is that the VCs and DVCs themselves overwhelmingly agree with that above catalogue of lefty shibboleths. We know this because we can see university policies and lack of action and infer this.

So it is astounding to me, or was, that when Liberal/Coalition governments come into office and turn their minds to universities who do they seek input from?  Yep, you guessed it. They ask VCs and other top uni people who have absolutely no problem with the status quo – save an ongoing grumble about not enough Commonwealth funding. Why would they ask them? Are they completely stupid? (Don’t answer that.)  Of course this is in keeping with the right side of politics around the Anglosphere on just about everything. They don’t fight to win. The Left appoints fellow travellers to, well, every position going. The right plays nice.  They don’t reward those who share their beliefs, not in any thorough going way. (Witness George Brandis and many of his appointments to the HRC and the High Court.) Let’s put it no higher than this. Want to know why people voted for Trump? It’s in part because the other Republicans were so uniformly useless, weak, pusillanimous and unwilling to fight. (And on that topic, all the criticisms of Boris Johnson in Britain wholly miss the point – people for Brexit, people like me, now don’t care about anything other than picking someone who will deliver, which for Boris is only a 50-50 possibility but the best the Tories can offer.)

At any rate, the Libs have been useless on universities in this country, from Abbott through Turnbull to Morrison.  And that means law schools will continue to turn out a lawlerly caste that leans left, a good deal more left than the voting population at large.

Then there are the lawyers and law firms. In my native Canada the lawyers refused to accredit an overtly Christian, private law school and the Canadian Supreme Court (in the TWU case) said that decision was reasonable and upheld it – giving the lie, if it were needed, to the idiots (some in the Liberal partyroom) who think some sort of rights-related provision in favour of religion will help against anti-discrimination laws – it will only give more power to judges. Look, force most judges to pick between equality concerns and religious freedom and the record around the world is plain for all to see. The former will win.

Or look at what is happening in the province of Ontario (about 15 million people, Canada’s largest by far). The main lawyers’ organisation there, the Law Society, a few years back imposed a sort of ‘say how you are advancing diversity/equity/PC causes’ type Statement of Principles (SOP) clause that was mandatory to answer. Astounding! Dissenting lawyers were afraid to take it to court as they knew the top judges (remember their inclinations, see above and the TWU case) would uphold it. So they last year organised a slate of anti-SOP Bencher candidates. Refreshingly they did well, though not yet sufficiently well to overturn this.

Or talk to top law partners in Australia. You’d be hard pressed to find one who would publicly go against the diversity mantras outlined above. In fact, and I find this incredible to relate, there are law firms now that let the HR departments have so much rope that they black out the law school from which job applicants are applying – as though all one’s high school grades, and hence which law school he or she got into, are irrelevant. And these law firms do this while senior partners advertise that they went to Harvard for their LLMs, which to be consistent ought to be no better than one from Arkansas State.

God it’s depressing.

God it’s more depressing that Liberal governments don’t fight on any front, ever, on any of this stuff.

Subscribe to The Spectator Australia today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Subscribe – Try a month free


Show comments
Close