30.12.06

Day 63 (week 13): The tape

True to the spirit of any disinformation campaign, today I actually told BusyBody something that was not only true but also highly unlikely. Not only will this bolster my other claims when she realises its truth but it will also serve its primary purpose of completely winding her up. Simply told her what the Head of Chambers had said to Worrier about her sex discrimination claim.

I also told her that Worrier had taped the conversation just to really get her going.

29.12.06

Day 62 (week 13): …and another

I asked BusyBody what she thought of the Boss today. In fact I went so far as to whisper that he’s told me in a drunken moment and in the strictest of confidence that he quite fancied her.

Not true.

28.12.06

Day 61 (week 13): Another bluff

Chambers was eerily quiet today. Two clerks were in and probably about three barristers in addition to myself and of course, who could ever forget, BusyBody. We went out for lunch in festive spirit and I have to admit that when she’s not trying to organise everybody, she’s actually quite nice. Maybe she should just calm down a bit and stop marching round chambers like she owns it. Wasn’t going to suggest anything like that though. The more she busies around everyone the better as far as I’m concerned. In fact I told her that I’d applied to be on two Chambers committees just to try and encourage her to do the same.

Of course, I haven’t really applied to anything of the sort.

23.12.06

Day 60 (week 12): Holidays for some

Everyone is packing up today. Almost all of Chambers will be away over the Christmas period including two of the pupils. Annoyingly, TopFirst has managed to scrape a week away and still enhance his reputation since he is to be best man at the wedding of a friend of his who just happens to be the son of a judge. Worrier decided to take a week off after she found out about her complaint being dismissed. Nothing to lose any more for her, I guess.

22.12.06

Day 59 (week 12): Boss away

The Boss has now gone off on his expensive holiday in Barbados. “Should keep Her Indoors happy” he said as whisked out of Chambers this morning. He’s away now until 8 January. You might think that meant Pupil freedom but sadly this has turned out not to be the case. Not only has he left me about 20 sets of papers to plough through but he has also asked another barrister to check that I “have enough to do”. So much for Christmas spirit extending to pupils.

21.12.06

Day 58 (week 12): Complaint dismissed

Worrier came to see me today and asked if I had time for a drink after work. Of course I did.

It seems that her complaint was dismissed. Quelle surprise!

One pupil down, two to go.

20.12.06

Day 57 (week 12): Hard discs

The Boss received a letter today from the solicitors in the case involving the accident on the ship. If you remember he had forged Chambers’ records to show that he had sent the papers back before the limitation period came to an end so that he could get out of any blame for not ensuring that the case was issued in time. The letter sought formal pre-action disclosure of Chambers records. It also sought access to Chambers’ hard disc.

The Head Clerk came in for a chat and said that given that we had nothing to hide, there was no reason why we would oppose this. The Boss was in an impossible position and was forced to agree. It sent him into somewhat of a panic, though. He made a couple of calls made to an IT friend of his as to whether a computer expert would be able to find out that the records had been changed retrospectively. The answer was that it was unclear. It depended upon the exact computer system and most importantly upon how thorough the tests were on the hard drive.

Whilst it left the Boss uneasy, I was in no doubt. The computer expert would find the fraud. I was naive even to have been a passive accomplice. However, on balance I decided that the Boss would not mention the fact that I knew about it. Involving one’s pupil in a potentially criminal act would only exacerbate his already precarious position.

I will therefore sit tight.

19.12.06

Day 56 (week 12): Chambers’ gossip

Inevitably there was going to be some scandal after Thursday’s party. However, as far as I know, it didn’t involve the Boss and BusyBody. Instead, two members of Chambers who are about fifteen and five years’ call (ie post-qualification) respectively came out publicly as a couple. Not in itself a big deal you might think. However, when you bear in mind the fact that the woman of five years’ call also happens to be the Head of Chambers’ daughter and the man of fifteen years’ call is married to one of the administrators then things get a little trickier. Talk about incestuous.

16.12.06

Day 55 (week 11): Vexatious litigants

Thankfully not too much of a sore head this morning as I left strategically when they all starting moving off for dinner. Old Ruin was in this morning regaling about Chambers parties passed. Many’s the scandal that has been revealed on such occasions. Still awaiting on the gossip from last night unfortunately.

I told him about our case on Wednesday with the litigant-in-person which raised a smile. He started telling me about the more specialised issue of vexatious litigants. Apparently when litigants-in-person get particularly bad the government eventually, through the office of the Attorney-General takes that person to court and gets an order styling them a vexatious litigant. What this means is that after that they can only bring an action with the permission of a judge. This is so that the judge can cut off any frivolous or vexatious claims before they even get started. Pretty hard to get to this stage though. Our man on Wednesday is not even near. He’d have to be suing perhaps the judge, the barrister, maybe even the pupil, the solicitors and say a dozen members of the council before it would even be considered.

Don’t like the sound of that.

15.12.06

Day 54 (week 11): Chambers’ party

Just got back from the Chambers’ drinks party. The annual knees up for members of Chambers to entertain the clerks and administrators (of which in total there are ten people). I was there simply to serve the drinks as were the other three pupils. The most interesting thing about the evening was seeing what each of the spouses were like. Also seeing which of the spouses did not turn up. Notable in this respect was Mrs Boss who, I was told, had a cold.

It was held in Chambers’ large meeting room and for two hours there was free flowing champagne and canapés provided courtesy of Marks and Spencer this afternoon. For just a short space of time it was almost as if everyone forgot their petty differences, of which I have already discovered, there are many. However, a few glasses later and the cliques started to re-form into the corners of the room, with each deciding on a different destination for food. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s that everyone is self-employed and just a bit more independent than average. Maybe it’s the fact that they are outspoken for a living. Maybe it’s the same everywhere. Whatever the reason, by all accounts I have heard so far, barristers’ chambers are rife with gossip, intrigue and clashes of rather larger than life personalities.

The Boss spent quite some time talking to BusyBody about how she was enjoying pupillage as she quietly sipped away on the champagne in between rounds of serving. As for TopFirst, predictably he wasn’t drinking. Says he’s on a detox. More like a de-life. There seems to be no chink in his armour at all. Worrier is almost finished and BusyBody is likely to annoy just about everyone except the Boss. However, TopFirst is going to be more of a problem and may need a little more thought.

14.12.06

Day 53 (week 11): Litigant-in-person

Today the Boss had an interlocutory hearing, a small ten minute affair where the court makes directions as to how the case should proceed. Well, that’s how long it should have taken were it not for the litigant-in-person on the other side. This is the polite name for someone who is not legally represented. Occasionally this can be for the very best of reasons such as lack of funds. More usually it’s because the litigant has either been unable to get a firm to represent him or because he has parted company with them. This might be due, for example, to him sacking them or because solicitors get sick of the trouble he is causing or perhaps stumble on a difficulty which until then he has successfully hidden from them. Whatever it is, by and large litigants-in-person are trouble. Or so the Boss explained to me in some detail before going off on this case.

For once, he was proved right. From our arrival at Bromley County Court, it was clear that the litigant was bristling for a fight. The Boss had had some experience of such litigants and told me that it was wise to say as little as possible to them beforehand. Otherwise, he said, you risk finding whatever you said being twisted into a professional conduct complaint. He said this with such conviction that it made me wonder whether he was speaking from personal experience. The litigant also smelt slightly of alcohol which for eleven in the morning did not bode well. So, after brief unpleasantries between the litigant and the Boss, we all marched into court.

The dispute was a simple one. The litigant accused his local council of ‘harrassment’. The council, represented by the Boss, denied the allegations. In addition, they said that in any event even if what he said were true, it did not amount to a cause of action which would result in damages. The file of papers was massive and packed full of handwritten letters from the litigant himself. Lots of capital letters, underlinings and exclamation marks as if he felt that the world would not listen to him unless he made more of an effort. His written ramblings were at times incoherent and this was reflected in the submissions he gave to the judge. It was clear from the start that the judge had the measure of this case and was simply going through the motions for the benefit of the tape. He was well aware that this sort of litigant was exactly the sort of person to take what he said straight to the Court of Appeal. He therefore listened carefully to the litigant’s submissions for one and a half hours. He then looked at the Boss and having told him that he did not need to hear from him, refused the litigant’s request to put off the case for six months whilst he gathered more evidence. Instead, the trial was listed for February.

The sad thing is that the whole thing appears to have started with a genuine grievance. The council sent him a letter claiming that he had not paid his council tax. This was sent to him in error and was meant for someone with the same surname further down his street. It took several letters from the litigant before the council accepted this. In the meantime, he had got it into his head that he should be compensated for the stress that he had suffered in dealing with this. The problem at this stage of the case was that the council had now racked up over £20,000 in legal fees defending it and so the litigant had dug himself into a hole. Even if he gave up now, he would never be able to pay such a bill and therefore he almost had nothing more to lose as it were by fighting on.

And so it was that another story of human misfortune triggered a legal case which would eventually find its way onto the Boss’ desk and contribute to the lifestyle to which he had by now become accustomed.

13.12.06

Day 52 (week 11): ‘Research’

BusyBody was back again today. I’m not even sure if she’s started flirting back. Stayed about an hour doing more ‘research’ at OldRuin’s desk. I gave the Boss fifteen minutes before he mentioned the Ferrari. He did it in ten.

12.12.06

Day 51 (week 11): Small Claims Court

Went to watch a small claims case today in Willesden County Court. Not exactly the most salubrious of surroundings but the court was even worse. All the cases for the whole day had been listed at 10.30am on the basis I assume that a lot of people simply weren’t going to turn up. This may well be convenient to the judges but it meant that it was mayhem in the waiting room with barristers all clamouring to get in (and therefore out) first. The usher had clearly heard it all before with promises of “We’ll only be five minutes” and “It’s all been agreed” being met with raised eyebrows and a rye smile.

The number of barristers crowded into this small place was to say the least unpleasant. This was made even worse by nervous litigants all standing around in the same area. Opposing sides staring each other down. Inevitably this led to some small outbreaks of trouble and the guards had to eject at least two of the parties for disorderly conduct.

My barrister was about half way down the list and our case didn’t get on until after lunch (quite a good greasy fry on the road back to the station). Tiny case, more a squabble than an argument. What the judge called (thinking himself a wit) “A classic county court action between two stationary cars”. He was right though. Barristers on either side each only getting around £100 each which after their train fares and their contributions to Chambers’ rent probably left them with around £60 for a whole day in Willesden.

My barrister won almost just by shouting louder than his opponent. I was surprised that the District Judge allowed him to get away with it, but there you go.

9.12.06

Day 50 (week 10): The complaint

Worrier put in her complaint yesterday. News of it reached me by mid-afternoon. Once again, whilst I was supposedly making the coffee, I overheard one of the more senior barristers in Chambers telling the Boss about it. Specifically heard the word “foolhardy” and later, “Well, on her own head be it.”

A good start to the weekend.

8.12.06

Day 49 (week 10): Solicitor party

Tonight was the first in a series of Christmas parties. This one was held by a firm of solicitors who give a lot of work to Chambers. I had been invited along by the Boss in the afternoon as he was feeling in a generous mood having made another of his last minute settlements (brief fee for tomorrow’s now defunct hearing: £4,000).

If the relationship between senior clerk and barrister is a complicated one, that between solicitor and barrister is simple. Barristers are self-employed and in a highly competitive market. Solicitors do the hiring. Barristers are desperate for the work. Solicitors have it to give out. Solicitors dangle their work in front of the barristers just as you might dangle a ball of wool in front of a kitten. In the same way, they may just as easily take it away at the last moment. Just for fun. To watch the barrister chase. Bring him down a peg or two. Then, when all his pride is lost, he is rewarded with one of the cases.

Now I accept that this may not always be the case but it certainly seemed like that tonight, watching the way the barristers fawned over the solicitors at the drinks party. It’s a game. The barristers know that but they can’t seem to control their professional paranoia. The fear that one day, no matter how successful they are now, it might all disappear. The cases might stop. That they’ll be left with nothing. Stuck in trheir ivory tower with nowhere left to escape.

7.12.06

Day 48 (week 10): Over the edge

Today Worrier wanted a final chat before embarking on any course of action in relation to her sex discrimination allegations. Over lunch she explained that she had thought very carefully about what I had said and was in agreement that the best place to pursue it was through Chambers. However, she was concerned that if she presented it to the Head of Chambers she might not get a fair hearing.

I had known full well all along that to make such a complaint would be professional suicide and now I had her standing on the edge of the cliff asking me whether she should jump. Asking her competition. One of the three other contenders for the prize of tenancy at the end of the year. Should she jump? Of course she should as far as I was concerned. However, just to make sure, I pushed her by reminding her again that if she did nothing now, it could later be held against her if things got any worse. This was indeed a winning argument and over the edge she went.

The only question then was to whom she should make the complaint.

I suggested she start with her pupilmaster.

6.12.06

Day 47 (week 10): The Senior Clerk

It’s a very strange relationship that of barrister and Senior Clerk. On the face of it, the barrister pays rent to Chambers and Chambers employ the Clerks so strictly the barrister is the employer. However, you’d never guess it to watch the Boss and his Senior Clerk in action. For all the Boss’ arrogance and pomposity, he is humility itself when the Senior Clerk walks through the door. This was particularly apparent when the Boss had another visit this afternoon. Apparently the number of barristers hit has now risen to five plus the Boss. The Senior Clerk asked him what he planned to do about it, if anything.

The Boss said that he had considered ignoring his duty of confidentiality to his solicitor client and anonymously leaking the information to his lay client. However, if he did this it was highly likely that eventually his own misconduct in the conference would come to light and therefore on balance he had decided that he would do nothing. For once, the spineless option was probably the right one in all the circumstances. The Senior Clerk commented that realistically it was unlikely that something like this would stay quiet forever. However, he obviously didn’t want to interfere in professional conduct issues and therefore left it at that.

5.12.06

Day 46 (week 10): Clerk network

The Senior Clerk wanted a word with the Boss this morning. He’d been ringing around the Clerk network and it seems that the solicitor from last week who is taking a share of his client’s money has pulled the same stunt on at least three other occasions with barristers in three other Chambers. All have faced the same professional conduct difficulties.

The Senior Clerk said he’d keep him posted as to any other developments and in the meantime the Boss should decide what he was going to do.

2.12.06

Day 45 (week 9): Cringe

Today the Boss announced that he’d just bought himself a Ferrari,
“Got a lot of grief from the trouble and strife, you know over this one. But, hey, I’m worth it.”

Hey, you’re not.

Cringeworthy, sickly mid-life crisis at its worst.

1.12.06

Day 44 (week 9): Off the case

The Boss received a call from the Head Clerk this morning telling him that he’d been taken off the case which he had had the conference on yesterday.

The Boss is starting to get a little jittery. He rang the Bar Council anonymously this morning to look into his professional position. It seems that he should probably have considered withdrawing from the case at the moment he heard that such an arrangement was in place. At the very least he should have stopped the conference so that he could consider his position further before continuing. By not doing so he has left the client with the impression that the arrangement is perfectly legal.

The person at the Bar Council went even further than this though and suggested that the Boss himself may have been the victim of a wider scam perpetrated by the solicitor. By contriving the situation the Boss found himself in the solicitor took a calculated risk that the Boss would at worst say nothing, leaving the solicitor with implicit approval for his scheme from an eminent barrister.

I almost felt a little sorry for the Boss. He was truly between a rock and a hard place at this stage. Not to say anything to the client would leave him with the wrong impression. It would also leave the Boss implicated in the deception as well as leaving him open to a complaint in the future. However, to say anything whatsoever to the client would mean that he had contravened his duty to his solicitor client and expose the conflict of interest. Furthermore, his duty of confidentiality to his solicitor forbade him from putting in any sort of complaint or raising an investigation.

As far as he could see, all he could do was to sit tight and hope the client didn’t spot it. Then at least he’d be alright even if the client was then over £165,000 down.

Sometimes professional rules can have strange consequences.

30.11.06

Day 43 (week 9): One third of the damages

Today I watched the Boss stumble into and around a conflict of interest. We were sat in a conference in Chambers with the solicitor and client. The client was claiming around half a million pounds following a lifting accident at work. The client asked the Boss how much he would get in his pocket if the case settled for half a million. There was an awkward pause by the Boss as he exchanged glances with the solicitor. The solicitor then piped up with the following:
“Well, as you know, we have a contingency agreement that we will be paid one third of your damages so you will get to keep two thirds which would be just over three hundred and thirty thousand pounds.”

I almost jumped out of my seat. Even pupils know that taking a share of the damages are illegal in cases such as this. Furthermore, the solicitor would be getting his usual costs paid by the other side as well. A fast one was well and truly being pulled and I wondered whether this was because the solicitor assumed that this client was unlikely to understand this due to his lack of formal education. Even the Boss looked a little uneasy and simply commented that any costs arrangements were between the client and his solicitor and all the Boss could do was to advise as to what the client would get before that point.

At the end of the conference when the client had gone and I was supposedly making coffee for the Boss and his solicitor, I overheard the following conversation:
“You do know that contingency fees are illegal?”
“No.”
“Well they are. I also think that puts me in a difficult position. If the case goes any further, I would be bound to advise the client of this fact. Indeed, many people might say that I perhaps should have advised the client of that today or at the very least to have withdrawn from the case on the basis of a conflict of interest at that stage. So, either you’ll have to change the agreement or I will have to withdraw.”
“OK. Thanks for telling me. I’ll look into it.”

29.11.06

Day 42 (week 9): Wigs and gowns

Today the Boss and I went off to the High Court to get the stamp of approval on a consent order following a settlement. Given that it was a final hearing, we both had to put on the wig and gown which, for me, was the first time that I had done this in court. I have to admit some to some degree of satisfaction as I straightened the wig and checked it all in the mirror. However, I couldn’t help reflecting how absurd the whole thing was. It simply acted as a symbol of how completely out of touch much of the legal world and in particular the Bar was with modern society. They may have been the height of fashion in Charles II’s time. They may also have helped keep the nits and other bugs away in the nineteenth century. But these days they only perpetuated an image of the Bar as being left in the past.

Still, for today I liked it.

28.11.06

Day 41 (week 9): The tape

Had lunch with Worrier today. She had had her morning meeting with the Head of Chambers and she had also made a recording although I didn’t get to hear it. Needless to say, he had discouraged her from making any formal complaint, even to him. He was sure it was something which could be sorted out informally with a word in the right ear. Two choice quotes which Worrier told me about were the following (as near as I can remember):

“I can assure you that I say this with the very best of intent for your career. Be very careful where you take this. A woman can get a name for herself for causing trouble which it becomes impossible to lose in such a small world.”

“I’m afraid Dear, you’re going to have to get used to the rough and tumble of the Bar. It’s only going to get worse once you’re in court and throwing insults at each other across a courtroom. To survive in this job, you have to be tough. I’m sure [the barrister she was complaining about] was only trying to help you.”

I agreed with Worrier that his reaction perhaps wasn’t surprising given the talk he’d given us at the start of the year. However, it was extraordinary given the nature of the complaint she was making. The choices were either to make a formal complaint to Chambers or alternatively to take it straight to the Bar Council and include the Head of Chambers. I suggested she should not over-step the mark and that perhaps it was wise simply to formalise her complaint with Chambers. She said she would think about it.

25.11.06

Day 40 (week 8): Showdown

The Boss was in a storm today. The Senior Clerk had been to see him. Seems the Senior Partner of the firm of solicitors who were doing the accident on a ship had been in touch. Was very concerned that the Boss’ advice hadn’t been received. Wanted to know every detail as to when it was sent out. The Senior Clerk was equally concerned although he couldn’t put his finger on it as there was no way of knowing that the records had been doctored. He was therefore left having to question the Boss straight out as to what had happened. The Boss was brazen in his lies it seems. Judgment, though, is reserved and this has left him more than a little tetchy to be around.

24.11.06

Day 39 (week 8): Raised eyebrows

Got an email from Worrier this morning. Apparently she has an appointment with the Head of Chambers for Monday morning. Should set the cat among the pigeons.

In the meantime, the Boss is definitely now flirting with BusyBody. Even OldRuin raised his eyebrows at me when the Boss made some comment to her today about what he’d heard about the work she was doing.

23.11.06

Day 38 (week 8): Sex discrimination?

Worrier came to visit today. Asked if I was free for lunch. Naturally, the Boss obliged and off we went to Chancery Lane. She wanted my advice. It seems that a particular member of Chambers has been picking on her. It started with him asking her to do a piece of work. When she returned it, he was highly critical and then asked for it to be done again. On returning the papers for a second time, he was even more critical. The conversation went along the following lines:
“When solicitors ask for your advice, they’re not asking for ifs and buts. They want an answer. Do you understand that?”
“Yes.”
“Have you always had problems being indecisive? Is it just in your nature?”
“No. Well, maybe.”
“How are you going to cope with court? You can’t afford to dither, you know.”
“I know.”
“Maybe it’s just a girl thing and I’m not quite getting it. Is that it perhaps?”
“Er, I don’t know.”

Anyway, she thinks she’s been discriminated against sexually and wanted to know what I thought.

Now, it seemed to me that he could certainly have phrased his comments more diplomatically but if you met Worrier, you’d know that he had a point although it certainly isn’t a girl thing. However, here was an opportunity I wasn’t going to pass up to damage a fellow pupil, potentially fatally. So, I told her I was quite shocked to hear that such things went on at all. Further, she should definitely not let it lie. To do so could in fact be counter-productive as the bullying may only get worse and if it did and she had failed to respond early on, her whole account might come into question.

It was clear that this was not what Worrier wanted to hear. In fact, all she wanted was a little reassurance. However, she’d come to the wrong person for that and by the time I was finished she was ready to complain to the Bar Council. I suggested that perhaps she might instead start with the Head of Chambers to show that she was not unduly escalating matters.

She thanked me so very much for all my help.

My pleasure indeed.

22.11.06

Day 37 (week 8): Tedium

Spent a whole day drafting a schedule of damages for the Boss. I have discount rates and multipliers coming out of my ears and I can honestly say that it has utterly bored me stupid. The worst thing is that the more successful you get it seems in personal injury, the more schedules you get to do. Seems a bit topsy turvey to me. Can’t imagine why anyone would strive to do more of these things.

21.11.06

Day 36 (week 8): Chambers’ tea

Since I have not yet described Chambers’ tea, let me now do so. It happens every afternoon at 4.30pm on the dot. Despite the fact that we are now all on email, each member of Chambers is called by the Clerks and told that tea is being served. Probably about fifteen people turn up each afternoon and it is always quite an occasion.

As a pupil, the lesson I learned very early on was not to speak unless spoken to and even then to keep it as brief as possible. You’ve basically got a room full of egos sitting around on their own personal highs, usually after a day in court. Lets them wind down before getting back to their families. Lots of victories to report and anecdotes to regale and if anyone at all interrupts them, never mind a pupil, then woe betide. This means that after a day of jousting they are all overly polite towards each other. Lots of “No, after you”s floating around add to a very peculiar mix.

Today, BusyBody learned the same lesson the hard way. She accidentally interrupted the Head of Chambers whilst he was lamenting times past. He obviously gave her the floor, ready for an immediate put down. All she was wanting to do was to mention the case she had been on that morning and how interesting she had found it.

After an awkward silence from everyone at the end of her little whimpering monologue, the Head of Chambers then said:“And that is why, Pupils should always be seen and not heard.”

18.11.06

Day 35 (week 7): Client conference

Had a conference with a client today. Contrary to the usual practice of clients coming to Chambers, the Boss and I trekked off to his home in Stratford as he is in a wheelchair. In fact, he’s pretty much unable to do most things and it was very sad. For once, I was proud of the Boss. I think even he was humbled by the client’s dignity in the face of extreme suffering.

The client had fallen from about twenty feet on a building site and his employers were being sued for failing to provide safety rails. It should be a pretty clear cut case but the insurers are inevitably saying it was partly his fault. Common sense and all that. It’s an expensive case. The client was 40 years old at the time of the accident earning some £25,000 a year. Not only is he losing earnings to age 65 but he will also need full time care for the rest of his life. Apparently there are technical arguments which we will be facing on this part of the claim. Anyway, suffice it to say that potentially it’s a multi-million pound claim.

This is a legal expenses case which means that the Boss will get paid win or lose. Hopefully this might bolster the Boss’ resolve. On the journey back, he did lament the fact that we could not work for a percentage of the damages as they do in the States.

17.11.06

Day 34 (week 7): Merry-go-round

Started learning about the personal injury industry today from the Boss. It seems that the food chain starts with the accident management companies chasing the client for the case. The solicitors then chase the accident management companies to pass it on. The junior barristers then chase the solicitors and then if its big enough the QCs chase the junior barristers.

An extremely expensive merry-go-round with the client in the middle not knowing where to turn.

16.11.06

Day 33 (week 7): Over-slept

Slept in this morning. Woke up in a panic at 9am with a sore head. Had been out until 2am the night before. Big mistake. It would be one and a half hours into Chambers and there was nothing I could do. Did I ring up and say I was ill? Or did I just tell the plain old truth?

Neither of these were going to take me very far and so I decided on a slightly bolder strategy. Phoned up the Boss and said that I was at Uxbridge County Court, taking a gamble that no-one was in the court today. Said I thought I was meant to be meeting [Blog] barrister there having had a note in my pigeon-hole about it on Friday. He said he´d ask the Clerks. Got a return phone call from one of the Clerks about five minutes later. He was clearly in a rush. Luckily Monday morning is pretty hectic and the last thing the wanted to be doing is holding an investigation into why I had ended up in Uxbridge. The clerk therefore simply apologised and suggested that I make my way back into Chambers.

Got in eventually around 1pm. Went off for lunch. Then left Chambers at 5pm. The Boss has been teaching me well.

15.11.06

Day 32 (week 7): Coroner´s Court

Had a Coroner’s hearing today. Very strange jurisdiction. A public investigation into an unusual death but with no real powers to do anything or generally to find anything of any great significance. Seems an expensive waste of time to me. Either way, this was one that not even the Boss could settle. He said beforehand,
“A successful hearing is one in which you say virtually nothing.”

And so he proved. His client was a lorry driver who had killed a motorcyclist. The only advice he gave beforehand was not to answer any questions about the accident in case he incriminated himself. The Coroner, a qualified doctor, asked all the questions and when it came to that part, he looked at the Boss and said,
“Will he be answering any further?”
The Boss shook his head.

That was the extent of his work in the Coroner’s Court. Verdict: accidental death. Back in Chambers by 3pm. Brief fee: £2,000.

14.11.06

Day 31 (week 7): Pomposity

Today I lost one of my friends and fellow pupils to the Bar. Met up for lunch and went to shake his hand and he corrected me.
“Barristers don’t shake hands with each other.”

You don´t say. We´d all had that pointed out on the first day of pupillage but I´d noted that it was a custom often not followed, particularly by members of the Junior Bar. Still don´t know the reason why it even exists. Perhaps it´s that they´re instruments of justice and therefore don´t partake in human courtesies. Perhaps it´s that they don´t need to shake hands as they all trust each other even without this little gesture. Really no idea save that it seems extremely pompous, particularly when the other person doesn´t reciprocate your extended hand. Happened to me with a senior barrister in Chambers and it made me feel very small indeed. Suffice it to say, that I wasn´t impressed by my friend.

"It doesn´t apply with friends, though.” I replied.
“No, it’s all of us. Same with MPs.”

It was true that MPs had the same custom but I didn´t see this as a reason for following it.

Next thing he’ll be addressing me as his learned friend across the lunch table.

11.11.06

Day 30 (week 6): Real barrister

Went off to court with a real barrister today. Not one like the Boss but one who actually enjoys having a fight. Who listens to his client and even has the odd professional standard up his sleeve. Straightforward personal injury trial in Wandsworth County Court. My barrister’s client tripped on a broken paving stone. Sued the council for not having mended it. It all turned on whether the council had done enough checks. The barrister on the other side made an offer at the start of the day and despite the fact my barrister was on no-win, no-fee and the offer wasn;t even that bad, he advised his client to reject the offer and to fight. He did and they eventually won. I was all up for celebrating but my barrister was professional to the end and simply went straight back to Chambers and started preparing his case for the next day.

In the meantime, the Boss set me a Skeleton Argument to do over the weekend. Trial on Monday and it should have been done by last Tuesday. True to form, he only looked at the papers this afternoon and given that he’s playing golf tomorrow there’s no chance of him getting into the case until Sunday. I therefore have to email over the Skeleton and any notes by Sunday morning at the latest.

10.11.06

Day 29 (week 6): Flirt

Pretty much back to normal now. The Boss is his old arrogant self and I’m making coffees and photocopying like nobody’s business. BusyBody’s been at her worst today. Sniffing around our room under the auspices of research. Supposedly using the law reports stored in the room. The Boss said she could use Old Ruin’s desk for these purposes. It’s clear she’s checking out what’s up.

Worst of all though was that the Boss seemed to be flirting with her.

9.11.06

Day 28 (week 6): Calm

I have to admit that to some extent I’ve been taking advantage of the Boss’ recent little difficulty though I’m having to watch that I’m not seen as taking the mickey. However, two hours for lunch and leaving at 5pm doesn’t seem unreasonable in the circumstances.

8.11.06

Day 27 (week 6): Sorted

Today the Boss has been dealing with the fallout from his plan. Well, to put it more accurately, dealing with the lack of fallout. As planned, he amended the entries on the system. Couldn’t have been easier apparently. It wasn’t designed to protect against corrupt barristers and so it was very easy to amend the records without any trace. The junior clerk then made the call yesterday. This morning, his call was returned from the solicitors and they were then put through to the Boss. I sat in during the call and heard the Boss’ side.
“I was just wondering how the case was getting on.”
“Oh. Didn’t you get my advice?”
“Oh. That’s strange. It was sent back in July. I can dig out a copy for you and fax it over after this call.”
“No. Not at all. It would be my pleasure. Very strange. Must have been a problem with the post.”
“Oh, by the way, I assume you’ve issued by now?”
“What? Oh, no. Oh, no. Did you not realise that limitation for cases involving ships is two years. I did mention it in my advice but to be honest, I thought you’d know that anyway.”
“Hmm. I don’t know what you can do at this stage. It’s pretty serious. I’d certainly suggest that you report this to your professional indemnity insurers and seek their guidance before doing anything further.”
“No, no. I’m sure it must have been the postage. I wouldn’t want you to start blaming your internal post.”
“Oh. It’s my pleasure. If I can help you further with this, please just ask.”

How worryingly easy it was. Makes you wonder.

7.11.06

Day 26 (week 6): Forget it

I’m not just suddenly getting paranoid, but it is perhaps understandable that I would be a little nervous given my last post. Therefore, just so you know and don’t try to work out who I am, let me tell you this. I have quite carefully kept out identifying details. I have also added a few inaccuracies just to waste your time of you did embark on such a fruitless challenge. Not that I’m particularly expecting anyone to be reading this anyway.

Just in case.

4.11.06

Day 25 (week 5): Faustian pact

Today I compromised myself. It is not the first and will probably not be the last given my initial impression of this mighty profession. But today I crossed a line that until now delineated the boundary between the bad and the wholly unacceptable.

The Boss arrived in this morning and put forward a solution: that I would forget that I had even seen the papers. He would then write a short advice and print it off for his own records dated July 2006. This would include a gentle reminder about limitation. He would then change the records in Chambers showing the papers had been returned in July along with the advice and a fee note. One of the advantages of giving members of Chambers full access to their own parts of the system. Come Monday, he will then ask the most junior clerk to phone the solicitors politely asking about the progress of the case. So long as he can show that the papers were not on his shelf, the responsibility then lies with the solicitors.

I have to admit that I was utterly shocked. The Boss explained that he’d had a misconduct issue in the past and that if this came out it could be the end of his career. Also, it was only a tiny thing. Just amending the records. Not a big deal and ultimately it would be the insurance that would pay up if anyone. Furthermore, the solicitors were in the wrong even if he hadn’t sent an advice. It was just an adjunct to their primary liability in any event. All not a big deal. Just making it all clear.

I have to admit that in the heat of the moment, I kind of saw this as a bit of an opportunity. I asked him how it might affect my pupillage.
“Only positively”, he replied.

The deal was done.

3.11.06

Day 24 (week 5): The return

The Boss was back today. OldRuin uncharacteristically was also around for the third day in a row. “Trouble and strife” was his only explanation. It meant that it wasn’t going to be easy getting time alone with the Boss without giving the game away. In fact it had to wait until mid-morning when Old Ruin popped out to the loo and I asked the Boss if it was possible to talk to him in private.
“You got a problem with [OldRuin]?” he asked in his usual arrogant and slightly bullying way.
“No”, I replied. “I think there’s a problem with one of your sets of papers.”
“Yeh, that they havn’t settled yet, I’m sure”, he chuckled to himself, clearly thinking himself very smart and witty. Quite the metropolitan, sophisticated cynic, I’m sure.
“I think you’ve missed limitation on one of your cases.”
“What do you mean? Which case? What have you been doing rifling through my cases anyway? What’s this all about?”

OldRuin then re-entered the room and I bowed my head. The Boss glared but said nothing more. Eventually, he very unsubtly suggested I might like to join him for coffee out on Chancery Lane. Old Ruin looked up conspiratorially. There was clearly something up as such a gesture was wholly out of character from the Boss.

Nevertheless, a few minutes later we were indeed headed off to a café down the main legal thoroughfare in London.
“So, what are you talking about?” he asked.
“Just what I said. Your papers for [Blogs] solicitors have passed limitation during the time that they have been sitting on your shelf. It’s an accident on a ship and you’ve only got two years.”

After a brief bout of Tourettes that shocked an old lady walking by, he started to think it through a little more clearly. True to form, his only form of defence was attack. “So what were you doing rifling through my private papers? You had no right.”
“I’m your pupil. That’s my job.”
“You were only to touch papers which I told you. There could be all sorts of confidential documents in there.”
“But you told me explicitly that I was to do as many of your sets of papers as I was able to do and that there was no need to ask you about them. Just to get on with it.”
“Well I didn’t mean go and cause this sort of trouble.”

By that point, I’d had enough. Even a pupil has a tipping point.
“I’m extremely sorry that you feel that way.” I said, raising my head and catching his stare. My sudden bout of confidence clearly unnerved him and he changed tack immediately.
“Well, anyway, I suppose I should also be grateful for you spotting it. What do you think we can do about it?”
“Well, we havn’t told the solicitors yet. That might be a start.”
“Who else knows exactly except you?”
“No-one.” I didn’t want to involve my friend from another Chambers and so left him out.
“Let’s sit on it today. I’ll try and think of a solution by tomorrow morning.”

And that was that.

2.11.06

Day 23 (week 5): No sign

By lunchtime yesterday, things did not look good. At all. The first dilemma was who to tell and when. The Boss was incommunicado. Did I call him at home. Would he actually be at home. I figured that knowing the Boss as I already did, there was at least a small chance that he was not at home. Did I phone his mobile and interrupt whatever he was doing? Or did I eventually just ask the Clerks, or even OldRuin who was in today.

I went for a walk around the garden in Gray’s Inn and took a few deep breaths. Maybe this was the opportunity I had been waiting for. Maybe I could help the Boss. One thing of which I was certain. I needed to give him a discreet head’s up without alerting anyone else.

I therefore left a message on his mobile yesterday afternoon. And yesterday evening.

And this morning.

But there has been no sign of him all day.

1.11.06

Day 22 (week 5): Big mistake

Boss still away. No explanation today. Just simply didn’t turn up. I could have gone to the Clerks and exposed the fact that he hadn’t even arranged anything else for me to do but on balance I wouldn’t have been doing myself any favours in anyone’s books. And this was an opportunity for the Boss to be owing me one. Even a small one. So to capitalise on this, I got stuck into one of his bigger sets of papers lying around his room. Not that he’d told me to pick them out but I figured he’d be grateful. The date the papers came into Chambers was back in June and the instructions sought a general advice as to the value of the claim for injury and loss of earnings. No urgency in any of the instructions and so although four months seemed a pretty long time in which to be turning around a set of papers, I could understand at least that they might not have been top priority.

So, I settled into them, gently getting a feel for the case. It involved an accident on a British navy ship back in September 2004. Looked pretty straightforward. In fact, liability appeared to have been admitted. Started writing the advice on the injury. Browsing the digital version of Kemp & Kemp, the main practitioner text for valuing injuries. Pretty straightforward and looked like a valuable claim. Loss of career in the navy due to the broken leg and the complications which had followed. Estimated value could even be as much as half a million pounds.

Worked on it until lunch and then went off to meet a friend who was also doing personal injury. Pretty relaxed day all in all. Got chatting and well one thing and another I mentioned the case. "Have you issued yet?" he asked. "No, why? No need at this stage. Might even settle and we’ve got until next September anyway."

"No you havn’t."

"What?"

"Limitation. It’s not three years when the accident occurs on a ship. It’s two."

"What?"

"No doubt about it. Had to deal with it in my first week in pupillage. Never knew before that but it’s definitely two years."

Oh.

31.10.06

Day 21 (week 5): Spineless

The Boss is spineless. He is a yellow coward of the very worst kind. He is a greedy, self-serving scum of the earth parasite who would even give his profession a bad name. He has so little spine that were it not for his starched barrister wing collar, I don’t know how he’d manage to stand up.

It was a criminal case today. They don’t settle. They are a matter of justice one way or the other. The Crown against a particular private individual The state enforcing the laws. The defender arriving and exercising the right to a fair trial. Innocent until proven guilty and all of that. Even plea bargains don’t exist in this country.

Or so I thought. However, I under-estimated even the Boss’ ingenuity in this respect. For once he was at court an hour early. Met up with the client for the first time (two minutes) then with the reconstruction expert (three minutes). Then he was off "to talk to his opponent". I tagged along despite his look of irritation at my doing so. However, in hindsight I realise that it would have looked suspicious if he’d actually asked me not to accompany him, again the usual practice. It was for this reason only that I was once again privy to what I am beginning to believe, no do believe, is a scandal.

The two barristers took themselves away from the rest of the crowd (save for me) and then started chatting. Turns out that the prosecutor used to go out with a particular member of our own Chambers who the Boss does not get on with. Well, that led to a good quarter of an hour’s worth of cruel gossip at her expense. Then it was down to business. "Any chance of reducing it to careless if we were to plead guilty?" "Unlikely, but I could run it past them. Why? Is that an offer?" "Well, I don’t have any instructions but I’m sure I could bring him round to see sense if that was on offer." "OK. I’ll make the call."

Ten minutes later, the prosecutor had called the file handler at the CPS who very reluctantly had agreed to reduce the charge, "in return for me buying her dinner this evening" he smirked. "It’ll give me the rest of the day off which I could do with, actually. Quite a heavy weekend. Just got back from skiing."

That was all the Boss needed. Straight back to the client. Explained the risks of putting this in front of a jury. "Notoriously unpredictable", he said. "Not that I don’t think you’ve got a strong case. You have. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been fighting. But if you can in any way manage that risk before you enter that courtroom, I think we at least have to consider it." The client was, to say the least, reluctant. He had been advised by the last barrister that the case against him was hopeless. "I entirely agree", the Boss said, as he stepped up his settle mode a notch further. "It’s why I would never advise you to pleading guilty to the charge made. However, even if there’s a ten per cent chance that you get yourself in front of a rogue jury – and I’m afraid they do exist – well. It’s your call and I wouldn’t like to seem like I’m trying to persuade you one way or the other…" "…However, if the charge were merely careless driving, the most you’re likely to get is a six month ban. On the other hand, a rogue jury and you’re possibly looking at packing your toothbrush."

This was simply beyond the pale. The man was innocent, of that I was absolutely sure. The other side’s reconstruction report was a shambles and I’m not surprised that the Boss’ opponent was prepared to reduce the charge. It shouldn’t even have got anywhere near the courtroom. I do not pretend to hold myself to the highest of standards and I do not think have the naïve illusions of the Bar that many people may possess. However, even discounting for my already jaded image of the profession, I was ashamed.

Needless to say, it settled. Client only got a two month ban, probably reflecting the fact that the Judge had also read the papers and didn’t think the client was guilty either. The terrible irony of this was that the client left the court raving about how great his "brief" was and how he’d recommend him to all his mates. And to cap it, the Boss left muttering sarcastically, "Yeh, because I so want to build up a criminal hack’s practice".

Back in Chambers by noon. Brief fee, £2,500. Boss away for the rest of the afternoon.

28.10.06

Day 20 (week 4): Information is power

Overheard TopFirst’s pupilmaster talking about him to another member of Chambers today. I was just about to enter their room when I heard them talking. Couldn’t help but listen. "Got him to look up a point on restitution the other day. Still don’t understand it myself but he came up with the answer. Got the prize for it in Cambridge apparently. Not that there’s exactly much call for that sort of thing around here." Then came the interesting bit. "You know his dad was a barrister for a few years." "Yes, I did hear something about that." "Caught with his pants down with a judge’s wife, apparently. No-one would instruct him after that. Knew that judges were always going to be finding against him." "Yes, heard something like that, too. Requalified as a solicitor or something, didn’t he?" At that point I heard one of the clerks coming down the corridor and had to make myself scarce.

All information is power.

27.10.06

Day 19 (week 4): Criminal case

Looks like I will get to see my first criminal case next week. The Boss appears to be the king of the returned brief at the moment and a privately paying road traffic prosecution just came through the doors. Causing death by dangerous driving. Essex businessman driving a Porsche gunning down Marylebone Road at seven in the morning. Knocks over a middle-aged man who obviously didn’t see him coming. Seems like a pretty good defence as the client was driving west with the sun behind him. The man crossing the road was obviously dazzled and was crossing some ten feet before the crossing. The main reason for the prosecution it seems is that there were skid marks on the road and although there is no proof, there is a suggestion that the client was speeding. In fact, it may well boil down to how well the two reconstruction experts perform on the day. Will be good to see the Boss finally fight a case.

26.10.06

Day 18 (week 4): Employment Tribunal

Finally, another court hearing with the Boss today. Actually an employment tribunal. I had been under the impression that the Boss didn’t do any employment work. I was wrong it seemed. He did a hearing (which settled at the door of court) about ten years ago. "It’s just like the small claims track. No real formal procedure. Just a free for all in front of a tribunal who know no better." Well, that was assuring.

Off we trotted to the salubrious surroundings of Croydon employment tribunal. The Boss was for a city worker claiming sex discrimination on the basis that she’d got a smaller bonus than her colleagues. Mysteriously, her former barrister had suddenly become unavailable for today’s hearing only yesterday. Hence the return of the papers to Chambers and their eventual arrival on the Boss’ less than busy desk. The claim was for £80,000 and at first glance at least, looked like a try on. No positive evidence on our part of any actual discrimination. Simply, the client had got less than the average. Further, the average bonus of the three other female employees had been slightly lower than the average of the thirty male colleagues. And? One of those three women had been well above the average. There was hardly a pattern.

Despite this, the Boss had blithely taken on the case on a no-win, no-fee basis. He’d spotted that the other side had made an offer of £10,000 to get rid of the case months ago and therefore once again assumed that it would settle at court.

He was right. £15,000 and the client was told that she was lucky to be getting anything. Overheard the other barrister telling the Boss that he was very keen to settle as he had a Big case starting tomorrow that he’d have to pass up if this one went ahead. No wonder they both seemed rather jolly as they went for a glass of champagne after the case.

25.10.06

Day 17 (week 4): Bluffing

BusyBody is really starting to get on my nerves. I have taken to offering my services to at least one new member of Chambers each day for an extra set of papers but for the last two days in a row, they have mentioned in passing that BusyBody had already offered but that they’d bear it in mind in future. Maybe she spammed all of Chambers with the offer. Maybe she’s been round each individually. Whatever it is, I hope she’s annoying those members of Chambers as much as she is me. I asked her whether she was busy at lunchtime. She replied that her pupilmaster was working her pretty hard. It did feel better hearing a straightforward lie, though. Something quite up front and almost honest in that approach. No attempt to try and muddy the waters and spin her activities in advance. Just straightforward denial. Anyway, we can both play at that game so I told her my pupilmaster was not giving me enough work and so I’d asked the Clerks if they could allocate extra.

24.10.06

Day 16 (week 4): Holidays

Holidays, it seems, are almost not an option for pupils. Kind of like a game of chicken where if one makes the call, the others may follow. However, no-one is prepared to break ranks and go for booking some time out in case they somehow give the impression that they are not desperate to be taken on. Worrier was the one who came asking whether I was taking any time off over Christmas. I said I was thinking about it which was a lie. There are so few opportunities to get any edge at all over the other pupils that all opportunities need to be seized. The Christmas break is a perfect time to pull ahead of at least one of the pupils who will undoubtedly break rank eventually. I suggested that perhaps we both ask our pupilmasters. Yeh, right.

21.10.06

Day 15 (week 3): The Appeal

Saw the Boss actually do some work today. In the grand and historical surroundings of the Lord Mayor’s Court, no less. His opponent spent an hour setting out his grounds of appeal and putting his arguments to the judge who looked decidedly unimpressed. Then it was the Boss’ big moment. He stood up and offered my Skeleton Argument to the Judge. “I’ve summarised my case in there, Your Honour. Do you have any questions arising from the points made?”

The answer came back no.

And that was it. He won, got his costs (£3,000 for the hearing, £1,500 for the Skeleton Argument) and was away.

20.10.06

Day 14 (week 3): So much for Atticus Finch

Not sure why I’m keeping this blog but I have to admit that I’m enjoying it as one of the few outlets in an otherwise extremely dull world at present. It’s Thursday evening and the rest of the world is warming up for the weekend. Not so for BabyBarista. No. Drafting a Skeleton argument for an appeal which the Boss has tomorrow afternoon in Mayor’s and City of London Court. To be fair, since he did the case at first instance he actually seemed like he knew what he was talking about in this case in the five minute introduction he gave me before swanning off at 3pm. It’s now 11pm and I’m still struggling through three House of Lords’ authorities on measure of loss. This was not the reason I came to the Bar. Though come to think of it, I’m not sure why I did. Anyway, I do know that it wasn’t to be slaving away on a Thursday evening over obscure points of law hardly anybody even cared about when they were first decided. On behalf of an arrogant Pupilmaster and an insurance company, making sure that a disabled old lady doesn’t get an extra £20,000 loss of earnings. So much for Atticus Finch.

At least tomorrow I may get to see the Boss perform in court. Been three weeks so far and no sign of him even stepping inside of a courtroom. Got close, of course, before the settlement. Obviously, there’ll be no witnesses and cross-examination but still. Might be interesting to see.

19.10.06

Day 13 (week 3): Biding time

It was kind of ok that I wasn’t thanked yesterday for doing all of his work for him. But today, the Boss seems in some way to resent me for the fact that he got drunk yesterday. Go figure. We are definitely not going to get on and that’s clear to both of us. However much of a snidey creep I can try and be, it’s not going to wash with the Boss and so my only hope is that eventually I simply earn a little respect.

Alternatively, I play on his weaknesses and give him no option but to support me. Plenty of raw material in that respect. Just means I need to watch for opportunities. For now, all I can do is continue to make the coffee, albeit sullenly, photocopy efficiently and bide my time.

18.10.06

Day 12 (week 3): Paranoia

I have worked out that today I have done around £4,000 worth of work for the Boss. He was sent a whole load of cases in which he was asked to draft proceedings. Each one was a car case and except for the dates and precise amounts, they were almost identical. 18 months worth of whiplash injury (apparently that’s around £3,500), around £10,000 for hiring a replacement car and £5,000 damage to the car. He has a precedent for this sort of thing which he made a bog deal of showing me. Like somehow this was the magic which he added to the case. Hardly. I do understand why he was concerned to try and justify some input though as once I’d got through the 20 sets of papers (£200 a shot), he didn’t even check them. Straight out with the DX back to the solicitors.

In the meantime, the Boss had important business to be getting on with. One of the few solicitors who provides him with any decent work was in town today and expected the works. Lunch was therefore taken at 11.30am and the Boss wasn’t seen again until 5pm. Not surprising that he didn’t check the work really given the state he was in by that time. Made some snide remark about no amount of work he does is enough to please his wife and left. District Line to Parsons Green.

It seems to me that for all their supposed independence, most barristers live in a state of complete paranoia and spend so much time kowtowing to solicitors who deign to give them favour that their independence is worth even less than their pride.

17.10.06

Day 11 (week 3): OldRuin

The Boss was back with a vengeance today. He’s got kids aged 5 and 3 and is already stumping up thousands in school fees. On top of that according to a comment I picked up from the Head Clerk on Friday, he has a wife with expensive taste. “He won’t be able to afford not to be back in on Monday with the Christmas holiday his wife is demanding.” However, despite his three days off, he looked a little ragged when he strolled in this morning. Some comment mid-morning about the kids keeping him up. Not my place to ask so I just kept my head down.

Met the Boss’ room-mate for the first time today. He’s about sixty-five and has been practising for over forty years. Although in his time he was pretty successful, he apparently fell into the trap of many barristers, particularly of his generation and spent what he earned and now can’t afford to retire. This means that he’s left between the rock a the hard place. He’s not working hard enough to get the juicy briefs which pay the decent cash and so he has to work pretty hard to bring in anything at all from the scraps which are now passed on from the likes of the Boss. Apparently he was the Boss’ pupilmaster. Anyway, all in all a very charming man. He was in his “country clothes” as he said today. “Just arrived in on the 8.15am to Waterloo.” Lives somewhere down in Hampshire and has the air himself of a dilapidated country pile, gently harking back to better times but too modest to mention them. In fact, we shall call him OldRuin from now on.

What I liked about him most of all was that he was the very first person in Chambers to offer to make me coffee.

I of course declined.

13.10.06

Day 10 (week 2): Worrier

I don’t imagine that every Friday is going to be so easy but the Boss is still on his rest following his lucrative settlement on Tuesday. So far, I’ve got through three sets of papers for three different members of chambers. However, I fear that BusyBody has the same idea. I’m kicking myself for even imagining that it was somehow original. It’s obvious that this is one long lobbying session of members of chambers and there are, I guess, a very limited number of strategies which can be deployed. I shall have to endeavour to add a little originality in future.

The only pupil I havn’t mentioned so far is someone for these purposes I shall call Worrier. In many ways, her nervous tendencies will probably make her a very good lawyer. However, they can also drive you simply to wanting to shout ‘Stop’. Enough is enough. No more worry. Just get on with it. No detail is too small for Worrier. Do you think I should put a full stop here, a comma there? However, I have to admit that out of the three others, I see her as the only possible ally. She is the most impressionable and easily led and I have recognised early on that this may well come in useful.

I don’t want to sound harsh but I didn’t set the rules. In fact I think the whole pupillage thing it a farce. But if it’s there, don’t expect us not to try and win. And definitely don’t blame us if people get hurt along the way.

It’s only a game.

12.10.06

Day 9 (week 2): Utter barristers

Today I am feeling a little the worse for wear. Last night was my ‘call night’, the time when I was officially ‘called to the Bar’. Technically called to the ‘utter’ or ‘outer’ Bar. So I’m an ‘utter barrister’ or something like that. Anyway, we all queued up in Inner Temple Hall and marched up in front of our families and various members of the great and the good to officially be made barristers. Be given the right to wear the wig and gown.

It was all explained though for the life of me, I still don’t understand it. Maybe it’s a variation on South Park’s ‘Chewbacca Defence’, something designed to befuddle and confuse. Who knows. Remember the scene in Pulp Fiction when they tried explaining Dutch marujana laws. Something like that but centuries older. Let me try. First, inner barristers were students as they sat at the inner tables in Hall. All simple so far and that compares to utter barristers who are juniors and QCs. I’m still there. Then, the next day you trot off to court as an utter barrister along with all your newly found QC buddies. But no. Once at court, they go back to being the inner Bar as they can plead from ‘inside the bar’ in Court.

No, I’m still none the wiser – a phrase incidentally that is worth mentioning in front of any lawyer just to hear them mutter back almost like a Pavlovian reaction, “no but hopefully at least better informed.”

I’m glad we’ve got that settled (just what the Boss said on Tuesday).

Day 8 (week 2): BusyBody

Guess what. No sign of the Boss today. No sign of him for the rest of the week in fact. He figures that he’s got his brief fee for the five day trial and so at the very least after all that hard work he deserves a rest. By jove, he’s earned it. Not that I’m complaining. When the cat’s away…Baby Barrista goes to the library. Well, gets the chance to visit a couple of the libraries actually. Turns out there’s quite a social scene already developed. A little Pupil ecosystem all of its own.

Anyway, today was the first day in which I started my plan to win over each Member of Chambers one by one. I’ve drawn up a list in Excel and have set myself a target of doing at least one piece of work for each of them by the time of the tenancy decision at the end of next September. Of course, this is top secret and specifically designed to steal a march on the other pupils.

Speaking of whom, today, let me introduce you to pupil number 3 who we shall describe as BusyBody. Boy oh boy is she that. Wants to know everyone’s business and more. Wants to interfere, boss and generally organise everyone on the planet. It’s exhausting just watching her so I can’t imagine what it must be like to be whizzing around inside her head. Needless to say she’s been on every student committee and organising body you can imagine and was renowned even before arriving at Bar School. A human whirlwind, unable to sit still. Oh, and an over-achiever on all fronts which makes it even more unbearable. She’s the other one with the Cambridge first. In fact same college as TopFirst, just the year below. Didn’t have time for a masters. Life is short, particularly when you’re BusyBody.

First impressions. On balance, I’m against.

11.10.06

Day 7 (week2): No-win no-fee

Just got back from my first busy day today. The Boss was actually stressed for once and it was all over a no-win no-fee agreement. It was a piece of work which the Boss had signed up to on such an agreement way back when and thought nothing more of it. A stress at work case which he assumed would settle as most of that type of work does. Well, this one didn’t and was promising to end up in a five day bun fight at Central London County Court starting tomorrow. The first big problem was that until last night, truth be told, the Boss really hadn’t ever read the papers particularly carefully. It just seemed the sort of case which was going to settle. Had all the signs. Starter offers from the other side. Time off work for stress in the past for the client which should have put his employers on notice that he was vulnerable. At first blush it all seemed dandy. No such luck. Late last night, the Boss started ploughing through the documents the other side had handed over months ago. Needless to say, I received a late night and rather abrupt phone call asking (ie instructing) me to get in early the next morning.

6am this morning, bleary eyed, I crawled into Chambers and started delving deeper into the disclosure. By the time the Boss arrived at half past eight I’d made a pretty good start and had managed to highlight a couple of good reasons why the other side might not be making the offers which the Boss had anticipated. A few extra-curricular problems from the client which the Boss hadn’t previously picked up on which might scupper our case ob causation. Well, rather than getting any credit for spotting these points, it seems that all day I’ve been seen as the reason why the Boss might be about to lose “forty grand’s worth of fees” as he kept muttering under his breath. As if somehow, it would have been better to have discovered it in the middle of the trial.

With this much money at stake for the Boss, one thing was clear. Settlement was a priority and the quicker the better. Given that his solicitor had twice as much again riding on the case there wasn’t much resistance there. As for the client, the solicitor apparently gave him a call mentioning the difficulties that his other evidence might cause and …well, you do understand. Yes, the client understood. What was he going to do some eighteen hours before his big day in court?

Anyway, all’s well that ends well as far as the Boss was concerned as he’s now a big fat brief fee up. “Fifteen grand on the brief and five for the previous work”. Of, and that’s before the 100% uplift, taking him up to his beloved “forty grand” which is still resonating around my head.

Never take on a lawyer on a no-win no-fee is what I say. Invest now in legal expenses insurance. Pay up front. But whatever you do, don’t let the lawyers start worrying about getting paid. However much they protest otherwise, it’s there in their mind. Not even at the back of their mind. It’s a big fat ugly screaming beast jumping up and down on their head telling them to settle.

Just don't ok. Don't.

10.10.06

Day 6 (week 2): Slough

I’m not sure that I’d follow Betjeman and drop bombs on Slough but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be visiting it too regularly. Sterile, soulless place of modern buildings and a roundabout. Asked the cab driver for the County Court and sure enough, was taken straight to the Magistrate’s Court. I really don’t think I’m the first one to fall for that. Worse though is that he then went on a further drive around Slough only to bring me via a different route to the County Court which turned out to be right next door to the Magistrate’s for once. £12.40 later and with only minutes to spare, no time to argue the point. Junior Tenant was looking a bit stressed. Had his mobile out and looked relieved to see me. “Really glad you’ve arrived”. I need a favour. Can you go and photocopy these documents for me in the court office. No problem at all. Any excuse to have some time to myself.

You might think. Except that I was about to be hit with mini-scam number two even before we got into court. “That’s be £14.20, sir”. “What, these documents are for the court. What do you mean you’re going to charge me? You didn’t tell me that before.” “Been standard policy to charge 10 pence a sheet for over five years now, sir.” “But, but….” There was no choice. Fleeced again.

Then there was the mini-dilemma as to whether to try and get the money back off JuniorTenant. I figured, I think correctly, that he knew what he was doing. Had probably been hit with that one himself and to ask would only risk alienating him at best and losing his vote in the tenancy decision at worst. Pettier things had been known to decided the path of a barrister’s career. A brave face and a slightly worldlier barrister delivered the photocopied bundle to Junior Tenant as he was in conference with his client. “Come in. Have a seat in the corner over there.” You don’t say.

To be fair to Junior Tenant, he’s probably pretty hard up financially himself. He’ll now be paying rent to Chambers and yet he’ll still be building up what they call an age-debt. Traditionally solicitors don’t seem to pay barristers for an average of around six to twelve months. Apparently, this can lead to some pretty hard times even for the best of them. Particularly when after a few years you actually have to start paying tax on what you’ve billed even though sometimes it’s only an off-chance that you’ll even receive it. Pretty rude as far as I can see but it’s something barristers just seem to take. Paranoid that if they stand up and fight, solicitors will go elsewhere. That there’ll always be someone who will break rank and take the work if they start being too demanding.

The joys of being self-employed.

7.10.06

Day 5 (week1): Library life

Found my first Pupil Skive today. Pretty obvious really. Time in the library. “Researching a point”. Found a whole collection of pupils wandering around the library, gossiping and looking like they’d just been let out of jail. What would you give as the collective noun for such a gathering? A giggle? Certainly for some of them. They really are an earnest bunch as a whole. Not a little self-important too. Breathlessly talking about the merits of their respective pupilmasters, the cases that they’re on. Perrrlease. Give up on it won’t you. It’s a job and a pretty menial job at that. Perhaps that’s why they treat it so seriously since if they didn’t they’d realise quite how they’re being exploited. After one week, it seems clear to me that for less than the price of a junior coffee-maker in the local café (not even Starbucks), Chambers gets itself a bunch of dogsbodies who will do all the inconvenient bits of paperwork, not complain at having to spend two hours poring over a photocopier and will offer to make coffee or tea on an hourly basis. Not only that, but come Spring, they have a ready source of cheap labour to keep the solicitors happy with all those small claims hearings which the whole profession seems to treat as loss leaders, ways of bringing in the bigger work.

In the meantime, my contemporaries who went off to City solicitors are dealing with multi-million pound deals and flying off delivering papers to the Middle East whilst those in the City are swanning off on training courses in places like Geneva.

For me, I am to meet the most junior tenant at Slough Count Court at 10am on Molnday morning. Of, the glamour of the Bar.

6.10.06

Day 4 (week 1): Lunch

It’s now Thursday afternoon and this is the first time that I’ve been set some written work to do. I’m therefore sitting at my computer just a few feet away from the Boss writing this blog under the auspices of doing a Particulars of Claim in a workplace liability case. What the Boss doesn’t realise it that I’ve had a precedent emailed over from a fellow pupil in another set which should save me a good couple of hours of work. Time enough then for a short note.

Until now, I have wholly occupied in trundling along behind the Boss and meeting and greeting other pupils. It seems that the way he likes it done is to refuse to acknowledge my presence when he’s with other barristers outside of chambers. We were at lunch yesterday in one of the Halls and he greeted a number of his chums. Some had pupils and the only confirmation that I was not invisible was that there was the perfunctory nod from them. A knowing look, that we’re all in the same boat. Not much fun is it etc. Raised eyebrows and at least there’s some real human interaction.

Did at least learn an important lesson at lunch. Chat was about nothing in particular and after much thought I eventually piped up with something designed to impress only to find that the Boss had decided to speak at the same time. Quick as a flash, he looked at me and pointedly said, “Sorry, after you” with raised eyebrows. It is not the first tikme that I have noticed that his best put downs are in the insincere courtesies he offers around. “No, no, I said. Sorry to interrupt”. “No, I insist,” he replied. “Go ahead”. Well, I was lost for words by that point and could only manage a bit of incoherent ramblings.

Top First was sitting opposite and smirked into his soup. Round one to him.

4.10.06

Day 3 (week 1): Political correctness day

It was political correctness day yesterday. First I had the chat from the Boss. He told me that if I was being sexually harassed that I was to come to him. However, “for the avoidance of any doubt”, he went on without even a hint of irony, if I believed that he was sexually harassing me, I should go to the Head of Chambers. Yes, of course, I said. Certainly. I’ll do that. Must not forget.

Well, the Head of Chambers was quite different. There are two men and two women doing this pupillage and we were all herded into his very grand room. After a brief introduction telling us that Chambers had been founded some sixty years ago and that we were following in a fine line of young barristers before us, he continued. “Now. I’ve got to tell you this. Bar Council regulations and all that. Sexual harassment. Terrible mess. Hope it doesn’t happen. However, if it does, I’m bound to inform you that you should report it either to your pupilmaster or to me. This is without reservation and you should be fully aware that we comply entirely with the bar Council policy on this issue. I’m also bound to tell you that should you make any such complaint it will not be held against you in this Chambers.”

Well, that was that and now we knew.

Except it wasn’t.

“However, I’m probably shouldn’t say this, but it’s meant in the most helpful way. Consider it practical advice from an old hand at the Bar. Bear in mind that whilst you are absolutely within your rights to make any such complaint, in fact more than within your rights, you must not forget also that there are consequences to every action. This is always the case and is no different here. Whatever you do has consequences whether you notice them or not. I can’t say what they’d be in these circumstances but you have to be aware that not all Chambers or barristers are as enlightened as us. Not that they’d actively discriminate against you in those circumstances. It’s just that you should know that they would know. That’s all.”

Welcome to the modern Bar.

3.10.06

Day 2 (week 1): TopFirst

Not a bad start yesterday. No worse than I expected. Was shown around chambers and introduced to the clerks and a number of the other barristers. Much of it a blur. Also met one of the other three pupils. My competition for this year. On average only one in four gets taken on and there is no avoiding the fact that we are directly in competition for that place. Seemed nice enough. Bit of a swot, though. Got a first at Cambridge and even went on to do an LLM. Very quiet although I’ve been told that quiet is not a bad tactic for pupillage. I’ll call him ‘Top First’ for now. Seems strange when you’re training for such an ostensibly outgoing and independent profession that you spend the first year proving your abilities to slime up to the right people and keep out of the way of others.

Had my first chat with the Head Clerk. Consisted of a “Welcome, Sir, your pigeon-hole’s over there. Always make sure you tell us where you are when you’re not with your pupilmaster. Good luck.” Quite an intimidating manner. By far the most impressive person I’ve met in Chambers so far. The other clerks all kept their heads down when he was talking and only peeked up to say “good morning” when he introduced them. A tight ship indeed.
Today, we meet the Head of Chambers.

2.10.06

Day 1 (week 1): The Boss

Well, here it is. Truly the diary of a nobody. A pupil barrister on his first day in Chambers. The letter offering me the place simply told me to arrive for 8.30am in the Clerks Room where I would be introduced to my pupilmaster who, for these purposes, I shall call the Boss. Obviously, I’d already had a brief chat with him on the telephone and I’d checked out his profile online. Educated at Winchester and Trinity College, Cambridge it was a pretty traditional upper middle class barrister background. Upper second in law and the called to the Bar in the Middle Temple in 1988. He’d therefore been a barrister for some eighteen years and I’d found with a bit more of a google search that he was married with two kids. Official interests: chess and tennis.

I’ve been warned about pupillage by those who have gone before. A glorified coffee-maker and under-paid photo-copier are the most common descriptions so far. Such is the Ordeal through which the Bar Council continues to force their brightest and best. Interviews and offers might be sufficient for Goldman Sachs or McKinzies. Not so, the Bar. Twelve months living in close proximity before they decide whether to take you on or not. A sort of upper class reality show in microcosm where every one of your foibles will be analysed, where a blackball system exists such that if you annoy one person, you’re out. As with Big Brother, you’re playing to the lowest common denominator. Attempting to be as inoffensive as possible in the sound knowledge that it won’t be the votes for that get you in but the lack of votes against. Sure, they’ll go through the motions of checking my work and ticking the Bar Council’s Equal Opportunities forms. But the crunch comes in the unsaid so-called ‘Tennis Club Test’ – would they have me in their club…or not.

So, there are my pre-conceptions. It’s now 7.30am. I’ve spent the Summer working for Starbucks in preparation for this day and now it is time for me to set off on my hour-long commute to the Temple.

1.10.06

Reviews of BabyBarista

The Times Online
"The unashamedly gossipy diary of a pupil barrister - the hottest blog in the legal world"

The Lawyer Magazine, 26/2/2007
“If this is a fictional account it is genius...Web Week's most fantastic discovery this week.”

The Lawyer Magazine 2/4/2007
"Our favourite blawg of the moment still does not disappoint, with honeytraps, identity theft, deception and rivalry... and that's just in the four most recent instalments..."

The Legal Executive (Journal of the Institute of Legal Executives)
"the whole blog is...a highly entertaining fiction..."

Eric the Hamster’s website reviews
“One of the funniest blogs I have read in a long time. The (allegedly fictional) account of the day to day work of a "Baby Barrister" (trainee lawyer). The worrying thing is that a lot of this rings true!”

Loopy Mups
"I haven't had the joy of finding a good read for awhile now, purely out of sheer laziness. But this Blog has caught my limited attention span. I've sniggered, smirked and even laughed out loud and I'm still only catching up on the October Entries."

Criminal Solicitor Dot Net
“Hilarious, particularly the accounts of how to undermine the other pupils, in order to assure his own place in chambers at the end of his pupillage.”

Blawg Review#97
“David A. Giacalone at f/k/a says, "move over Anonymous Lawyer," and suggests I introduce Blawg Review readers to BabyBarista, an anonymously written account of the "pupillage" of a pupile barrister in London.” Bob Coffied, Health Care Law Blog (on behalf of Blawg Review)

Charon QC
“I’d like to draw your attention to a blog which I have been reading recently: BabyBarista…While it may be a fictional account of life as a pupil (There is much for the student and intending barrister) it has nuggets of information in pretty well every post. I particularly enjoyed this piece… and I quote…”(here)
“Excellent” (here)

Delia Venables
"This blog has already received quite a lot of critical acclaim - a novelist in the making perhaps."

The Barrister Blog
“Highly entertaining: Pupil Barrister speaks out. We have only just discovered this blog. Since last October an anonymous blogger has been keeping a fictional account of time in pupillage. Read from the start. This is likely to fly around the legal world” (here).
“BabyB continues as our favourite legal blog as his controversial (and hilarious) posts continue to be forwarded around firms” (here)

Legal Spy UK
“Heads up for this blog…Its got to be one of the funniest around”

T Sinister
“appears to write more good gossip in a day than I hear in a week. And in British!” Trevor, Harvard Law School student.

Law Career Blog
"Very, very funny, and very, very British" (here). “BabyBarista’s blog is quintessentially British, in a very modern way: eloquently verbose, cutting, witty in the extreme. In the short time it's been online it has garnered significant readership. I see it as a UK counterpart to Jeremy Blachman's US-based Anonymous Lawyer…Should we be looking for a novel soon? US readers should pay particular attention to the fact that BabyBarista's fictional challenges and travails are quite literally the same as those faced by lawyers on this side of the pond: billing by the hour, poor mentoring, working with abnormal people, intolerance and impatience, burnout, lack of idealism, etc. Perhaps it's comforting, since misery loves company. Then again, perhaps not.” (Here). Gregory W.Bowman, Assistant Professor, Mississippi College School of Law.

Nearly Legal
“Think a menage a trois of Donna Tartt, Harry Mount and Anonymous Lawyer with looming Tesco’s Law thrown in…thoroughly enjoyable.”

Family Lore
“excellent and highly interesting (not to mention entertaining)” (here)…“the excellent BabyBarista” (here). John Bolch, Winch & Winch solicitors.

Divorce Solicitor
“amusing and cutting and may well help divert you from your anxieties about your divorce!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Lynn Bastow, partner, Bastows solicitors.

EU Law Blog
“It is with unusual pleasure that we introduce you to Babybarista. It must be one of the funniest sites about starting out in legal practice. It features a young barrister in London, England...Just read and enjoy !”

Law Geek
"This is the critically acclaimed and supposedly fictional account of a pupil barrister's experiences during his pupillage that is taking the web world by storm. Very witty and entertaining, LawGeek recommends this as a regular read."

UK Law Students
“an entertaining read”

Law Student
“as a wannabe barrister I am addicted to the newly discovered (for me) BabyBarista…I suspect more insightful than any mini pupillage.”

lawyer-2-be
"I must say that whilst I am getting quite excited about the next phase of my journey (pupillage), I am hoping and praying that I don't get a fellow pupil like baby barista - if you're not yet familiar with this "fictional account" of life as a pupil barrister, then it's definitely worth a read! It has me in fits most days and provides some welcome relief from the relentlessness of exams. Enjoy..."

Low-Fi Librarian
“Especially like the Library Life post.”

Aukland Law Society
BabyBarista is a blog that has the subtitle "Pupil barrister making coffee for the rich and famous". It is a diary of a barrister doing his pupillage - suposedly fictional, but one wonders! This blog has already received quite a lot of critical acclaim.

Binary Law
“One new blogger, BabyBarista, has gained rapid visibility…His expressed aim (tongue in cheek, I’m sure not) is to land a book deal.” Nick Holmes, managing director, InfoLaw.

Scottish Boomerang
"What a gem his blog is, all that truth dressed (sometimes only in a bikini) up to look like fiction with the odd cliched legal urban legend thrown in just to throw us off the scent."


Please note that BabyBarista's first day in pupillage starts just above this post