The Rt Hon. Sir Brian Leveson

Sir Brian Leveson

When I had the honour to be elected Treasurer of an institution of which I had been a member for over 50 years, I felt real pride and looked forward to a year that I could use to advance the support and guidance that we provide for students. I also wanted to increase engagement with members, many of whom may not have been in the Inn since their Call to the Bar, and to encourage Masters of the Bench to do more. All this would be on top of pursuing the plans of my predecessors – support for the ICCA course (which has been so successful in causing a general reduction from all commercial providers in the cost of qualification for the Bar), the Ashley Building project, the Paul Jenkins Scholarship and many more. A number of former Treasurers told me how this would be a ‘fun’ year – the ceremonial, the events and all that makes the Middle Temple such a vibrant institution. The prospect certainly appeared very exciting. The first few weeks fulfilled every expectation: the Normanton Dinner, Master Greenwood’s Reader’s Feast, the lecture by Sir Andrew Parker, then Director General of the Security Service, were superb. I cannot, however, pretend that the words ‘fun’ or ‘exciting’ describe the weeks that followed.

I have certainly contributed to the Archives of the Inn because there have been a large number of ‘firsts’. The first virtual Cumberland Lodge (along with virtual advocacy training delivering every single qualifying session that our students required). The first virtual Parliament (attended by a record number of Masters of the Bench, including a number joining from overseas); the first virtual Bench Call of eight recently elected Benchers, two of whom were called without having to travel to the UK to be ‘Benched’. The first virtual Call to the Bar: a very small number consequent upon the delay to what I called Bar Finals. Committee meetings of every type conducted over StarLeaf have been the only way forward and I have no doubt that, for the future, at least some ‘virtual’ attendance will become the norm: for those not practising at a court near the Temple, attending a meeting has been impossible except by telephone (always unsatisfactory). It is now not only possible but entirely straightforward.

Meanwhile, the Inn has had to deal with many other problems. The challenges facing the Bar (particularly the publicly funded Bar) cannot be overstated; they are potentially disastrous. The Deputy Treasurer, Master Andrew Hochhauser, has described the way in which we have tried to deal with the issues which fell to be addressed. But the short and medium-term planning merely sets the background to the long-term issues not only facing the Bar but also, as a consequence, the Inn. It is entirely realistic that many chambers will seek to learn from the enforced practice of working from home and reconsider the extent to which they need the rooms they presently occupy in the Temple. Yet the Inn depends on its rental income to support its education, its students and its premises. In addition, the Bar and the Inn have to help those who intended to practise but whose pupillages and careers are now threatened by the consequences of the collapse of all but a very few areas of work. These are the problems that we will continue to face.

Quite apart from the pandemic, the Inn has had to face a different challenge. Shortly after I started Guy Perricone, our then Under Treasurer, told me of his intention to retire. For over seven years he has demonstrated unremitting dedication and deep affection for the Inn. He has solved problems before they have become apparent and worked behind the scenes with the interests of the Inn at the heart of all that he has done. Throughout the pandemic, he has continued to do just that. I add that we have not said ‘goodbye’ to Guy. I am delighted to report that at the final Parliament which he attended he was elected an Honorary Bencher. I hope that we will continue to see a good deal of him.

Meanwhile, however, we have had to undertake the task of finding someone to take his place. Some said it would have to wait for the pandemic to be over so that we could interview face to face. In fact, we carried on. Over a period of eight days, entirely virtually, the short-listed candidates met and conversed with the four directors, they each chaired a staff committee discussing a challenge to the Inn made up for the purpose. All the candidates had one-to-one meetings with me and, finally, they faced an interviewing panel which included an outsider with experience of running a substantial institution. The Inn is delighted to welcome Mrs Victoria Wallace, DL, who was previously the Chief Executive at Leeds Castle and then Director General at the War Graves Commission. She and Guy ‘doubled up’ for a week and she has been at the helm since Monday 13 July 2020. She is already bringing her experience to bear on the Inn’s affairs and we wish her well.

Looking back over past Treasurers’ columns, much has been said of the enormous effort made by all who work for the Inn. This year, I would like to underline how much we depend on all the staff, but I hope it will not be taken amiss if I mention by name the four directors, in order of their length of service to the Inn. The Director of Estates, Ian Garwood, has been with the Inn for an incredible 41 years. Guiding the Inn this year through rent reviews and then dealing with the pandemic has underlined how well respected by all with whom he has to deal. Colin Davidson, Director of Membership and Development, took on Events again on an interim basis, just as the Inn effectively closed for business. He has been employed by the Inn for 32 years and, among other things, edits this magazine. The Director of Education, Christa Richmond started some 25 years ago and, following lockdown, has overseen the delivery of our education programme and all scholarship and other interviews online. Finally, the Director of Finance, Andrew Hopkin, has been with the Inn for 23 years. He has had the unenviable task of visiting and revisiting our financial position and budget as events have unfolded in almost real time. Over 120 years of service to the Inn is a truly remarkable testament to four remarkable people. We owe them a great deal and we owe them (along with the entire staff of the Inn) our thanks.

I conclude by returning to the difficulties that we have faced this year. Quite apart from the pandemic and its consequences, there has been the need appropriately to respond to the Black Lives Matter movement and other world events. I would like to thank the Deputy Treasurer (Master Andrew Hochhauser), the Deputy Treasurer Elect (Master Maura McGowan), the Chairs of the Committees and their members, all of whom have helped to address the challenges of the year. I would also like to thank all who have given so readily of their time to assist with education and interviews remotely thereby ensuring that we do our best for our students and minimise the disadvantages that they suffer as a consequence of the necessary restrictions imposed upon us.

Middle Temple Wine