The Law Society’s view of good practice

The Independent also reported on the matter of the Law Society’s guidance on Sharia-compliant wills and the reactions to same. At the end it gives the Law Society’s take:

The new guidelines are one example of the practice notes that the Law Society issues for the use and benefit of its members.

These documents represent the Law Society’s view of good practice in a particular area. Lawyers are not required to follow them, but doing so makes it easier for them to account to oversight bodies for their actions.

The Law Society has an article on its website blaming bad journalism for being all wrong about the Law Society’s guidance.

Law Society president Nicholas Fluck has attacked as ‘inaccurate and ill-informed’ press reports that the Society is promoting sharia law.

He was speaking after campaigners for secularism called for the withdrawal of a practice note advising solicitors to draw up wills in compliance with Islamic law.

Fluck said: ‘We live in a diverse multi-faith, multi-cultural society. The Law Society responded to requests from its members for guidance on how to help clients asking for wills that distribute their assets in accordance with sharia practice.

You know – as soon as you hear someone say that, check your wallet and your genitals and your rights. As soon as people start talking about living in (and thus owing deference to) a multi-faith society, they have shoved women out of the picture. As soon as you make multi-faith determinitive of what needs to be obeyed, you have handed the whole thing over to men. It is only a tiny minority of a minority of religions that allow women to be clergy and thus have an equal role in making and interpreting the rules. Most religions do the very opposite of that. Once you set “faiths” up as the arbiters, you have amputated women’s rights. Period.

So that’s half the population excluded. So people who live in secular democracies don’t owe those “faiths” any deference. We don’t. They operate in terms that are wholly illegitimate to people who have grown up with equal rights.

Charlie Klendjian, secretary of the Lawyers’ Secular Society, called for the note to be withdrawn.

‘By issuing this practice note the Law Society is legitimising and normalising – or at the very least being seen to legitimise and normalise – the distribution of assets in accordance with the discriminatory provisions of sharia law. This is a worrying precedent to set.’

I hope the Law Society isn’t dismissing what Charlie Klendjian said as “bad journalism.”

Maajid Nawaz did an excellent response to the “guidance” on Twitter.

Maajid Nawaz @MaajidNawaz

Yes,law hasn’t changed&there’s bad reporting.But why’s UK @LawSociety giving advice that discriminates against people like my Muslim mother?

So, to those patronising elements within UK @LawSociety please kindly stay the hell out of our religion. It’s called secularism, stupid

By assuming medieval interpretation of Islam is more authentic, UK @LawSociety betrays progressive Muslims …@LawSecSoc

Wondering what fuss is about? Here’s @TheLawSociety deciding medieval Islam is more authentic than contemporary forms …

Discrimination in wills is legal. But it’s not the business of @TheLawSociety to interpret Islam in a medieval way& advise on discrimination

We will not tolerate @TheLawSociety or any UK public body deciding on what ‘authentic’ Islam is. We Muslims do not have a clergy #secularism

Secularism, ok? The Law Society should be secular. That’s not asking much.



  1. chigau (違う) says

    If the reporting is bad and inaccurate, the Law Society should make a press release explaining their position.
    Using small words and short sentences.
    So we proles can understand.

  2. johnthedrunkard says

    Wouldn’t it be lovely if non-medieval Muslims actually engaged in active opposition to the medieval ones? It isn’t a difference in kind from the way ‘mainstream’ Christians passively support the Phelpses and Maciels.

    When religion gets ‘special’ treatment, the banana peel is dropped at the top of the staircase.

  3. ratel says

    The law society has an obligation to help protect its members from committing malpractice. The law society is not suggesting that giving away your possessions in accordance with Sharia law is not sexist, bigoted, and ignorant. However, if a client wants to give away his or her possessions in a manner that is sexist, bigoted, and ignorant that is his or her right. This is about an individuals right to determine how he or she would like his or her estate distributed. If individuals want their estate distributed in a particular sexist, bigoted, and ignorant way then it is an attorneys job to make sure that the estate actually gets divided up in said particular sexist, bigoted, and ignorant way. Failure to ensure that the clients wishes were honored could expose the attorney to significant malpractice liability and it is part of the law society’s job to help protect its members from this risk.

    It might be good public policy to dictate how all estates are distributed or even to institute a 100% estate tax but as long as individuals are permitted to decide what happens to their estate then lawyers should have assistance in helping them accomplish their goals no matter how personally repugnant the attorney may find the goals.

  4. says

    But that still doesn’t mean the Law Society has to or should give guidance on doing that in accordance with Sharia. That’s not their job. That’s up to the client and/or the client’s chosen cleric or “scholar.”

  5. says

    Furthermore, everybody who has commented on this – including me – has said, “obviously the client gets to decide how to leave the assets.” Actually, I’ve learned, in law that’s not quite true, hence wills can be contested. But anyway everybody has stipulated that point; that’s not in dispute.

  6. Bernard Bumner says

    The Law Society is apparently responding to the requests of its members for guidance. I can’t help but feel that underlying this controversy is the idea that there are no muslim lawyers in the Law Society already drawing up Sharia-compliant wills. As distasteful and damaging as these wills are, the body exists to represent and protect its members and to protect their clients from receiving poor legal services which would put them at odds with the law.

    If the Law Society provided guidance based exclusively or mainly on doing social good, then scumbags would never receive proper representation, and that would also be a travesty.

  7. cjcolucci says

    Knowing nothing about English law of wills, I can say this much. Under sharia law, one is, in general, supposed to leave more to sons than to daughters. So, at least, I have been told by people whose expertise I have no reason to doubt. If a Muslim client came to me and asked me for a will that would distribute his assets among his children according to sharia law, I would have no way of knowing what to do without consulting someone competent in the area. But if he came to me and said he wanted to leave $X to his daughter and $2x to each of his sons, I would know how to do that. It would be perfectly legal as a matter of US law. That my client’s reason for wanting to distribute his assets this way was his understanding — correct or not — of sharia law is neither here nor there. He is allowed under US law to distribute his assets this way and if I take him on as a client — and my own views of how he should distribute his assets, or whether he should be a Muslim at all, are not reasons I should not — I am allowed to effectuate his lawful (by which I mean lawful under US law) wishes. If some bar association happens to give me a primer on what sharia law requires, I should be grateful for the guidance. At the very least, I have learned something new and interesting. At best, it may help me understand and effectuate my client’s lawful (per US law) wishes better.

  8. opposablethumbs says

    Of course a misogynist has the legal right to dispose of their estate according to their misogyny. But for it to be possible truthfully to tell a widow or daughter that the will stipulating they were to get half or less of what their son or brother got “was drawn up in accordance with UK Law Society guidelines” is at the very least a disgrace and something the Law Society should be profoundly ashamed of.

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