The legal landscape in the 90s

This is one of a series of five posts, collated into an eBook to celebrate Sellick Partnership's tenth anniversary in the legal recruitment sector.

The series details how the legal sector has changed in the past three decades, how it will continue to change in years to come and profiles those at the heart of the matter – the solicitors themselves.


The 1990s: a decade that saw the world as we knew it begin to change beyond recognition. How could it not, when in just the first 12 months of the decade Nelson Mandela was released from prison in South Africa, Iraq's invasion of Kuwait brought about the Gulf War, and Tim Berners-Lee put the finishing touches to his proposal for the World Wide Web?

Such change naturally had a huge impact on the legal sector, too. To celebrate our tenth anniversary of supporting legal careers at Sellick Partnership, we’re taking the chance to get nostalgic and looking at exactly how the sector has evolved in recent decades, with the help of the anecdotes and memories of solicitors who have been there and done that. Let’s get started, with the 1990s...

Family Law and adultery in the spotlight

"I did not have sexual relations with that woman". One of the most famous soundbites in political history was uttered by a defiant Bill Clinton in 1998, at a time when adultery, divorce and family law had already experienced a prolonged spell in the spotlight.

That iconic sentence, of course, formed the core of his denial of accusations of an affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.However, questions about the alleged affair continued to follow him around, and he eventually admitted to having an 'inappropriate' relationship with Lewinsky.

The whole matter left onlookers debating the formal definition of 'sexual relations' and provided the “Average Joe” with an insight into the levels of scrutiny required when dealing with divorces from a legal perspective.

Six years earlier another, high-profile extra-marital affair sent shockwaves around a nation - this time, it was in the UK. This time, it involved the Prince of Wales.

It was rumoured as early as 1984 that Prince Charles and Princess Diana had been growing apart, but it wasn't until 1992 that the 'Camillagate tapes' - secret recordings of phone calls between Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles were published by The Sun newspaper. Three years later, in a Panorama interview, Diana revealed that she had committed adultery with army officer James Hewitt. Charles and Diana eventually divorced in 1998, after the Queen had publicly advised them to formally end their relationship.

Another relationship that brought family law into the public eye was the landmark White v White case in 1996. Previously, divorce cases tended to always favour the man in the relationship, and up until Pamela White appealed the result of her ancillary relief proceedings, the same was true in her divorce from husband Martin.What's more, in the 80s and 90s,more emphasis had been placed on the importance of needs and reasonable requirements of each party, rather than a fair division of assets.

Mr and Mrs White had shared net assets of £4.6million, of which £1.5million belonged to Mrs White. However, all assets were jointly owned. Despite that, the judge awarded her a lump sum of £800,000, ordered her to sign away her property rights and left Mr White with their business and land. She took the case to the court of appeal, stating her belief that the judge had failed to give adequate weight to the extent, diversity, duration and value of her contribution to the partnership.She was eventually granted £1.7 million, leading to the House of Lords upholding the decision of the Court of Appeal. The ruling brought about a change in direction in family law, as industry heads claimed the law on a needs basis was not in keeping with recent changes in society.

Don't rave on

Rave culture, which gripped the nation in the 1980s and 1990s and saw thousands of revellers gathered in a remote location for a party spanning several days, came crashing to a halt with the passing of a controversial piece of legislation in 1994.

As Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher closed her grip on so-called football hooliganism and the acid house scene towards the end of her time in office, young people who united through a love of dance music - and in the majority of cases, illegal substances - were forbidden from gathering in open air spaces in a group of more than 20 as part of the unpopular Criminal Justice and Public Order Act.

This legislation made it illegal for groups of people to meet in remote locations and listen to amplified music (which was described as "the emission of a succession of repetitive beats"), while any police officer who believed that such an event was being planned would have grounds to remove them from the land.

Take a look at the other instalments in the series to see how the following decade changed the legal landscape even more. Alternatively download the eBook “The Legal Sector: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”.



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