Going, Going, Wrong - Gavels & the English Legal System

judges - not auctioneers

Image found here.

From Legal Blog Watch:

No Gavels Allowed! Picking Better Stock Images for Your Law Firm Website

On Lawyerist, Karin Conroy has an interesting post pointing out that, while certain types of stock images seem like likely fits for your law firm website, it is time to let some of the most clichéd images rest in peace. The wrong stock images, Conroy writes, "can ruin an otherwise great website by making it look generic, while creative and customized stock images can evoke emotion and support your messaging and branding."

That’s an interesting marketing point, I guess, but as far as English law and gavels are concerned, there’s a much more crucial issue at play. As hard as it is for some people to grasp, the judiciary in the English legal system (at any level) simply do not use gavels, despite what you might have seen in Coronation Street etc.  
Eye rolling smile

Heck, even the spam-linking ‘Manchester Solicitors’ commented on legalblogwatch that ‘judges aren’t auctioneers’.  (See, I give you some credit guys, but I’ll continue to remove your pesky spam-link-comments on Law Actually just as fast my little fingers will allow!!!)

Still, pictures of gavels are a very common sight on websites for firms offering legal services based in England and Wales – particularly personal injury ones.  I guess it’s one of those little fallacies that those who know better have become desensitised to.

But does this even matter? Is my pointing this out just an exercise in pedantry? If the average Joe Shmoe, rightly or wrongly, associates members of the judiciary and legal professionals with gavels, why wouldn’t designers and publishers make use of stock images depicting them? Of course, they could try and come up with something original. But lawyers aren’t really known for their originality. Plus, gavels are far less prone to embarrassing misinterpretation than other paraphernalia associated with the legal system - say a pair of handcuffs, for instance.

Be right back


  1. Polaris (missile)17 March 2011 at 16:22

    It's an interesting point. I, like most of the general populace, just assumed that gavels were in use because that's the stereotype perpetuated by the media. It's also a nice metaphor of a swift, final judgement. But it does beg the question - is it better to be faithfully accurate, to give your audience exactly what they want? Is a potential client really going to be put off by the revelation that the hammer won't fall at the end of their trial?

  2. It's all the US legal drama that we watch! I wonder if it is as dramatic in courts there as they show on tv.

  3. Andro - of course it is. ;-)

    The length of Ally McBeal's skirts were a testimony to that (and that was in the mid-nineties). God knows what she'd roll up in now! ;-)


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