When I stopped practising I unplugged myself from the local legal gossip network. I briefly plugged myself back in yesterday, and it's as if I hadn't been away, with more stories of redundancies and firm closures. I suspect that these are not just hard times, but that they may be the hardest of times that the high street practitioner has ever had to endure. What is worse, there seems to be every reason for pessimism, with further challenges ahead such as the virtual abolition of legal aid for private family law work. Quite what things will look like in a few years' time I don't know, but it seems increasingly likely that the local provision of legal services will never be the same again.