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The unearthly appeal of the rule of law

Alan Larkin reflects on the theatre that is family law, where chaos forever attempts to disrupt the orderly framework of the law

15 April 2019

A few weeks back, a corporate solicitor gave me a look that betrayed, just fleetingly, mild disquiet, perhaps even pity, at finding that my legal practice lay in family law. 

It chimed with similar looks of alarm and, if I’m honest, sometimes disdain, from legal peers over the years.

So, why does family law elicit this occasional reaction and how did I, the most unpromising of lawyers, end up in this space?

“Philosophy will clip an Angel’s wings”, according to Keats. Like many others in the Romantic movement he had little truck with the rational, scientific empiricism of the Enlightenment. 

Beauty was truth and truth beauty. Why dissect and atomise the enduring qualities of nature, the mysteries of the spirit?

For Keats, the head and the heart were mutually exclusive jurisdictions and he prayed that they remain so. 

English was my first degree. I then crossed the Keatsian border smuggled onto a law conversion...

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