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Legal Week: Straw will not let judges return to private practice (see footnote relating to Mr Justice Laddie, Judge for the Shell/Donovan trial)

Author: Claire Ruckin
Published: 05/11/2007 12:46

The convention banning judges from returning to private practice will remain in place after the Government today (5 November) issued its long-awaited response to a consultation paper on the controversial subject.

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Jack Straw, said lifting the prohibition would not increase diversity in the judiciary and that the ban would therefore remain in place.

Whitehall launched a consultation paper on the subject last year and had been expected to issue its response in March 2007, with subsequent delays coming as the Government examined safeguards to prevent abuse of any relaxation in the rules.

The paper received responses from 25 organisations, with the Law Society and City of London Law Society Litigation Committee among the bodies coming out in favour of an end to the ban.

City law firm Herbert Smith also backed the proposal, saying it considered the prohibition a major obstacle for younger applicants that wished to serve in a salaried judicial capacity but did not want to close off future career options.

However, the top 10 UK practice raised doubts in its submission that a reversal of the ban would improve diversity on the bench.

Six bodies voiced their opposition to the mooted change, including the Bar Council and the Judges’ Council, which convened a working group, chaired by Lord Justice Pill, to discuss the issues.

Announcing his decision, Straw said: “I do not believe there is sufficient evidence that this would achieve a more diverse judiciary and that therefore the arguments against this change outweigh those [in favour].”

The news comes with a handful of former judges having already moved into consultancy roles in private practice. In 2005 Patents Court judge Sir Hugh Laddie controversially quit the bench to take up a consultancy role with specialist intellectual property outfit Willoughby & Partners, while the former Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, joined Blackstone Chambers as a senior mediator.

The issue came under the spotlight again in July when Mr Justice Peter Smith was referred to the Office of Judicial Complaints after refusing to stand down from a case involving an Addleshaw Goddard partner weeks after Smith had been in negotiations about a move to the national firm.

The decision comes despite a Legal Week poll last year which found that almost three-quarters of senior business lawyers in the UK were in favour of lifting the ban on judges returning to private practice.

Comment by Alfred Donovan

The Shell Smart trial in June and July 1999

This was High Court litigation in which my son John Donovan was the plaintiff and I was a defendant in a Counterclaim brought by Shell.

In May 2004, I wrote to the then Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, complaining that the trial Judge, Mr Justice Laddie as he then was, had failed to disclose a connection with Tom Moody-Stuart, the barrister son  of Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, the Group Chairman of Royal Dutch Shell at the time of the litigation. There was personal animosity between us and the Moody-Stuart family which culminated in correspondence with Lady Judy Moody-Stuart initiated by her. In my letter to Lord Falconer I alleged that the Judge displayed a blatant bias in favour of Shell. By coincidence or otherwise the Judge resigned in 2005 and joined an IT law firm which for some years has claimed Shell as a client. We discovered that Professor Sir Hugh Laddie, as he is now known, has been a long term friend of Tony Willoughby, senior partner at Willoughby & Partners/Rouse Legal. This was another Shell related connection undisclosed at the time of the trial.

The letter to Lord Falconer and its sister non-profit websites,,,,,, and are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia feature.

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