Educated at Trinity College, Glenalmond, and Queens’ College, Cambridge, Charlie Falconer became a flatmate of Tony Blair when they were both young barristers in London in the early 1970s. They had first met as pupils at rival schools in the 1960s. While Blair went into politics, Falconer concentrated on his legal career, becoming a Queen's Counsel in 1991.
In May 1997 Blair became Prime Minister and Falconer was made a life peer and joined the government as Solicitor General. In 1998 he became Minister of State at the Cabinet Office, taking over responsibility for the Millennium Dome after the resignation of Peter Mandelson. He was heavily criticised for the failure of the Dome to attract an audience, but resisted calls for his resignation.
He joined the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions as Minister for Housing, Planning and Regeneration after the 2001 election and moved on to the Home Office in 2002. At the Home Office he was responsible for criminal justice, sentencing and law reform, and annoyed some of his fellow lawyers by suggesting that their fees were too high.
In 2003 he joined the Cabinet as the first Constitutional Affairs Secretary. The post took over many of the responsibilites of the Lord Chancellor, the Welsh Secretary and the Scottish Secretary. Falconer remained Lord Chancellor while the process to abolish the office was started, but announced his intention not to use the Lord Chancellor's power to sit as a judge. The replacement of Derry Irvine, Blair's mentor, with Charlie Falconer, one of his best friends, gave Blair's opponents a further opportunity to criticise the role of "Tony's cronies" in the government.