If you have come with me so far, you might like to know that we are now about halfway through the exhibition. There is still so much more that I want to show you, but like a real exhibition it isn’t supposed to be a history of everything, just a few things that tell a story, and which I hope may help to affirm your stories too.

The corridor was unmistakably institutional – long, not terribly well lit and with a hint of “only be here if you are meant to be here.” There were names on every solid brown varnished door, sometimes two names; but only small square windows to permit just a glimpse of the offices behind them. There was also the smell of floor polish hanging in the air above the worn parquet tiles, and every echoing step I took was triggering memories of school days at the start of term. The place felt solid and faded but not neglected. It was a place where budgets would be spent on higher things than colour schemes and soft furnishings. I was a little nervous to be so deep inside this world-renowned university, because the small boy from a small town that still thrived inside me was about to have a cup of tea with an eminent Professor with a national profile.

For a few months I had been reading Richard Moorhead’s blog on Twitter and posting occasional comments back. In those days social media was a gentler place to spend time. Discourse was polite, amusing, supportive and often very kind. It had little of the angry, indignant, positional impatience that would overwhelm the space later.

I used to love the conversational threads that evolved on Twitter and the sense of generosity in them, whether they were serious themes or flights of whimsical nonsense. Richard was a generous Twitter correspondent, often taking points and debating them, and often contributing to posts others had made with care, clarity and humour. Twitter, then, felt like a safe place for me to be in my quietly introvert, non-academic, not-a-lawyer-anymore, softly spoken way.

Richard’s writing has a wonderful quality to it. It sits in that place where it is both authoritative and sharply focussed but is not condescending or self-regarding. He somehow separates ego from evidence so that it is the argument that matters, but then he still wraps everything in a generous, accessible tone to welcome everyone to share in the thoughts he has so carefully laid out.

Reading his work on lawyer ethics, I knew I needed Richard to be part of my leadership work. And so, in that way of a shy teenager plucking up the courage to ask a girl to dance at the school disco, I wrote to Richard asking if he might meet me to discuss an event I was putting together. To my delight (and very unlike all my school disco rejections) Richard suggested we meet at UCL when I was next in London. So, here I was, two-thirds of the way down the corridor leading to his office and about to knock on his door.

In all the years following our first meeting I have grown to love his work even more. Of all the lawyers I have met, he has influenced my thinking on the role of lawyers in business and in society more than anyone. He is an evangelist, a teacher, a fearless challenger of settled and complacent orthodoxy, and above all he cares.

His work on the Post Office Scandal is typical. He has relentlessly and restlessly searched for the truth of what happened. He has sifted through the small evidential details that most people would have walked by. He has never shirked from posing the direct and uncomfortable questions that must be asked and answered. And I know he will not stop. Like Richard, we should all care now to respect the needs of those poor souls so calamitously treated by lawyers and executives who had the power and influence to behave better.

His approach is to painstakingly reveal the detail of his discoveries, like a legal archaeologist carefully brushing away years of accumulated mud to reveal an elaborate mosaic of half-truths, misconceptions, lies and incompetence. Richard cares about the detail, but it is far from being just an academic exercise, he cares about the people too. There is a picture in one of Richard’s presentations of Noel Thomas, an Anglesey Sub-Postmaster jailed and ruined for a made-up crime. The picture is of Noel, taken outside the High Court in London following the hearing that cleared his name, and it reminds Richard of his dad. It’s the jumper and jacket that does it, and every time Richard speaks to this slide there are tears in his eyes, as there are now in mine.

I am glad Richard cries because it makes the work more real, and it matters even more as a result. Real life isn’t scenario planning in glass towers and boardrooms, and the truth isn’t a commodity to be bought by the powerful and the wealthy.

Richard has taught me that if we truly care then we should feel uncomfortable with the great responsibility of our work. He urges us, deliberately and self-consciously, to do the right thing in our words, behaviour and actions. He has made me realise how blessed we are to have the talent and the opportunity to make our difference. He has also shown me that if we do not care about the people, then what is the bloody point.

When I tentatively knocked on Richard’s office door, I had no idea I would be stepping into such a rich and vital world of colours and challenge, of ideas and questions, and of the urgency needed to hold back waves of complacency and privilege. He has made my work feel more important and purposeful, but most important of all, Richard has become a dear and precious friend.

As we move on from here, the image I want to leave you with in this part of the exhibition is of an empty picture frame, because sometimes it isn’t the picture that matters the most, but the frame. Are we mindful, I wonder, of how we frame our advice? Are we curious how we collude with circumstances to create a plausible escape-lane for our decisions? Do we prefer to be seen as a cheer-leading business partner or as an independent critical friend? Do we therefore over-rely on the artfulness of the frame so that our blind eye can face the uncomfortable truth without seeing it and flinching?

Generations of lawyers have been force-fed a diet of finding a way to fulfil their clients’ wishes and of never saying no. This might be part of the way we feel we should frame our job, but it is by no means the most important part. It is never our job to ruin Noel’s life with our fine arguments and clever strategies.

Doing the right thing has never mattered more, and while it is a shared responsibility with everyone who has power and influence, there is no hiding place when a lawyer is on the wrong side of history. I am therefore forever grateful to Richard for his capacity to illuminate and help us shape our ethical frame.

I am also grateful for the chance to discover that Richard once lived in rural Worcestershire where his mum and dad ran a pub in my village. It is a strange but warming thought that his dad probably served me my Friday night pint, and even that the student Richard might have been there on some of the evenings when I was questioning my purpose as a lawyer with a quiet ale.

Through my friendship with Richard, I met his dad again in more recent times. He was a man whose values and frames could not have been more clearly defined, and who could not have been more proud of his brilliant son. I then had the sad but enormous privilege to attend his funeral. I tell you, I feel connected to Richard in so many ways that go far beyond our work, and I am blessed to know him.

All this began with me sitting in Richard’s office in what might be kindly described as a county court waiting room chair, sipping scolding hot weak tea from plastic cup and quietly telling him of my hope that he might be part of my leadership event.

As we leave this part of the exhibition I have a request of you – please think about the frames that you use and not just the pictures of your life. Please also read about Noel’s story to understand the grace and dignity of this man and his family. It is so important that those of us with privilege and power never lose sight of our duty to do the right thing.

Please know as well that knocking on a door on a dimly lit corridor will sometimes open onto a place of blessings that we could never have imagined would be possible.

To be continued.

Take care Paul xx