Updated 11 July 2018

The concept of the lawyer as “a man of affairs” is more or less lost from legal education.

It used to be that in any town big enough to have lawyers the local lawyers would be helping to set up and run all kinds of businesses and companies, develop land, build roads and canals, set up building societies and banks, take a keen interest in local politics and charities and schools, and generally helped to run the town. The lawyer knew which accountants and builders and architects were effective and which to avoid.

We not only knew how to do all these things, we actually did them as part of our civic duty – and sometimes to make money. If something needed doing, the lawyer knew who was likely to be willing to invest in the project and what their motivation would be.

The “man of affairs” might also know how to channel money to a rich man’s illegitimate child or how to reach a binding legal settlement where someone’s mouth would be “stopped with gold”.

In many parts of the former colonies there were “remittance men” who were paid a regular monthly amount to stay out of the UK – usually from a trust fund administered by the family lawyer. These days law students can qualify without the “man of affairs” concept being even mentioned.