Last week a "Flash Mob" demonstrated outside the offices of that well-known law firm, Carter-Ruck.
I know at least a couple of people who went along to it. However, I see the protest as misconceived.
The people who should have been protesting outside those offices were Trafigura executives, for they may have something to protest to Carter-Ruck about.
And the Flash Mob in turn should have been protesting outside the head office of Trafigura, or the lawcourts, or Parliament.
For, although it is always important to blame and criticise lawyers, it is also important to blame lawyers for the right things.
I know many liberal and critical thinkers who suddenly become thoughtless and lazy the moment they realise they can blame lawyers.
This approach may be satisfying and fun, and usually prompts an easy laugh, but it is not an example of liberal or critical thinking.
First, for every lawyer one wants to blame, there is a client. In this relationship, the lawyer is not necessarily passive, and one can indeed imagine the crafty lawyer leading a client on in a misconceived direction. But, the ultimate position is the same: a lawyer carries out the instructions of the client.
And here we must note that Trafigura is not a shrinking and impressionable litigant in person; it is a multimillion pound international corporation. Even if Carter-Ruck were able to provide options and tactics which Trafigura executives and in-house counsel did not think of themselves, Trafigura knew exactly what it wanted to achieve.
Second, for every legal manouvre one disdains, there is the law. Again, this is not to say that the law is entirely prescriptive. The crafty lawyers by definition know how to craft the law. But a lawyer and client can only get away with what the court will let them, and it is the court that enforces and applies the law, and not the lawyers.
And it is here we must note that (to my reckoning) at least three different High Court judges upheld the superinjunction granted in respect of the now published Minton Report. In obtaining this injunction, Carter-Ruck were presumably carrying out their client's instructions and ensured their client had whatever protection of the court's jurisdiction which their client was (it would appear) entitled.
The known unknown in all this is the exact legal advice which Carter-Ruck gave to Trafigura. For clients, especially those with determination and anxiety, can go flatly against legal advice.
So, because of this sometimes triangular relationship between lawyers, clients, and the law, it can sometimes be difficult to identify the exact target for blame in any given legal controversy.
If Carter-Ruck had not acted for Trafigura in this matter, I can immediately think of a dozen other law firms that would have done.
So why should Trafigura executives perhaps go and protest outside the offices of Carter-Ruck? Especially as it may well be that Carter-Ruck advised against a course of action, and their client instructed them to do it anyway.
Well, it does rather appear that Carter-Ruck, in carrying out their client's instructions, were tactically outwitted and wrongfooted all through the Trafigura affair by The Guardian.
And a basic rule of UK media litigation is not to be outwitted and wrongfooted by The Guardian.
But is it my suggestion that lawyers are never really to blame?
Are lawyers merely servants, who are only carrying out orders?
And, are they to be criticised only if they are incompetent in executing those orders?
It was contended on Twitter this week that only carrying out orders is the Nurembourg Defence and that lawyers accepting instructions are in the identical moral position.
(My immediate rejoinder to this was that it actually took lawyers of the great calibre of Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe and Sir Hartley Shawcross to destroy those defences when they were spuriously employed. Indeed, it was watching footage Maxwell-Fyfe's destruction of Goering in cross-examination that first made me want to be a lawyer.)
I do not accept that the moral positons are identical.
Within a liberal democracy, where there is the rule of law, every party to any legal case is entitled to legal advice and representation. This even includes the Crown being properly advised and represented when prosecuting sensitive criminal cases; it even includes international oil firms and chiropractic associations.
Any person - human or corporate - in a liberal democracy is entitled to the protection and enforcement of whatever legal rights they may have. This is the fundamental right of access to a court and as such is a neccessary component of the principle of justice.
(This principle may not have the same application under a totalitarian regime, where there is no democracy or rule of law, and so counter-examples from such regimes do not logically diminish this principle.)
And the complexity of both substantive and procedural law means that the right of access to a court is meaningful often only if a person has legal advice and representation. The person may not want such advice or representation, but they are entitled to have it.
In a liberal democracy, it is not for lawyers to decide whether a person has effective access to a court for determination of their rights and obligations.
All this can be perhaps illustrated by a recent example.
Someone [K] was accused of a very serious matter; it was a health and safety issue. In confidence, so as to properly prepare their defence, [K] went to some specialists for advice, which is entirely proper. One specialist provided an adverse analysis on incomplete information; but many other specialists did not. Clearly that one adverse but provisional report would, if published and loudly publicised, prejudice any trial of [K]. And so lawyers were rightly asked by [K] to prevent publication of this confidential report so as to ensure that any trial of [K] was fair.
There is perhaps nothing that unreasonable in any of this; but this is actually one way of characterisng the Trafigura affair.
In a liberal democracy, if the role of lawyers is to advise and represent their clients, the role of the media (including bloggers) includes ensuring that matters of public interest are put before the public; but it is not for the former to do the work of the latter.
The legal profession is to blame for many things, but not for everything.
It was not a lawyer that dumped toxic waste and wanted no one to know. It was not Carter-Ruck that granted and upheld the superinjunction, but the High Court applying the law as it currently stands on at least three occasions.
Don't be fooled by those who will encourage you to concentrate on the moral role of the lawyer in such matters; think critically, and you may find it a little more complicated than that.
As always, no purely anonymous posts will be published: always have a link or a name. And no unlawful stuff...