Even by the low standards of English lawyers, the men and women who run the Law Society have behaved like shameless hypocrites. Instead of confining themselves to offering professional advice, they set themselves up as Islamic theologians.
In a practice note on Sharia-compliant wills, the Law Society advised the 125,000 solicitors in England and Wales to urge Muslim clients to discriminate against women, non-Muslims, adopted and ‘illegitimate’ children.
‘Male heirs [should] in most cases receive double the amount inherited by a female heir,’ it said, and ‘non-Muslims may not inherit at all’. Likewise ‘illegitimate and adopted children are not Sharia heirs’ and should not be left a penny.
The Law Society was not upholding the old Common Law principle of ‘testamentary freedom’ – that we are free to dispose of our wealth as we please, however eccentric our decisions may seem to our friends or children. On the contrary, it took it upon itself to uphold one version of Sharia (it never said which reactionary cleric provided it) and told lawyers to instruct Muslim clients, who may be weak or close to death, that the Law Society’s was the holy way to dispose of their property.
A century ago, one could have safely assumed that lawyers who treated women and illegitimate children as second-class citizens would have been conservatives. I was fascinated as well as repelled by the Law Society’s behaviour because it showed how the world has been upturned. Today supposed liberals replicate the prejudices of yesterday’s Tories.
Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, ‘chair’ of the Law Society’s Equality and Diversity Committee, gave every appearance of being a decent feminist. Shocked that fewer women than men were taking home seven-figure pay pots as partners in wealthy law firms, she marked International Women’s Day with a ‘speed networking’ get-together in the City for women lawyers whose talents were being ‘woefully underused’ by the prejudiced male establishment.