I felt like I was turning the clock back 30 years yesterday when I was a guest at the Liverpool University Graduation Ceremony for Law Graduates at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall. So I donned the cap and gown along with the Presidents Jewel - felt a bit self conscious to be honest – and joined the fun.
I have mentioned before about those moments when you recall why you went into law in the first place. Well there was certainly such a moment when Mrs. Gee Walker was presented with her Honorary Doctorate for the anti-racism work of the Anthony Walker Trust. Few of us in Liverpool can forget the terrible events in July 2005 when Anthony was the victim of a violent racist murder.
His mother, Gee Walker, subsequently stunned the world by saying that on the basis of her Christian faith she forgave the killers. She repeated that in her acceptance speech yesterday. She has also worked tirelessly through the trust named after her son, to combat racism. She is an inspiration to us all.
What was particularly moving was when she said that Anthony had wanted to study law and so this could well have been his day rather then hers. Her advice to the students was - “I encourage you to get better in life – don’t get angry, don’t get bitter.”
I have to say that I was glad that I was there.
After Mrs. Walker we had the main graduation ceremony. Normally this is just a flow of name after name after name as each graduate has their moment. But on this occasion I couldn’t help thinking what the future holds for them. There must have been over a hundred students embarking on their new life in the law. And it is not going to be easy. They have huge student debts. There is a shortage of training contract and pupilage places and there is the abolition of the minimum salary which means that after all the hard work, those who find contracts, could work for a pittance for two years.
It is far harder for this generation of young lawyers than it was for us. The students I saw were clearly from a cross section of society. How long that remains the case is uncertain. We could end up back in the days when only the children of the wealthy end up as lawyers. That cannot be good for society.
But then it was also clear that this was a strong group of intelligent and hard working young people. So they are the future of the law and I am confident that they will have the strength and imagination to deal with all of these hurdles.