27.1.07

Day 82 (week 17): Telephone hearings

Today I watched a telephone hearing in action. They are quite seriously the biggest example of money for old rope that I have ever seen and having now been in pupillage for almost four months, that’s saying something. Actually that’s not quite true. Boss’ settlement practice was absurd. However, as well as verging on the edge of professional ethics, I also don’t think it was particularly representative. Telephone hearings on the other hand apply to everyone.

The point with these hearings is that you only get them when they are uncontroversial. Otherwise there’d be a full oral hearing. So, you’re starting from a pretty easy base. Then if anything at all challenging does arise in the middle (as is often the case), the Judge can only fudge the issue unless he wants to adjourn and bring all the parties to a full hearing. This almost never happens. Therefore, with everyone knowing the ground rules, they end up as the most cordial exchanges a hearing could ever have. Many’s the time when everything is agreed and the Judge simply goes through the motions of getting to grips with the case only to approve the draft Order which was already in front of him.

So it was today. The barrister in question was three year’s call and sat there first of all checking his email and then perhaps showing off for his audience, partaking in a game of online chess with a friend of his in another Chambers. This was occasionally interspersed with a “Yes, I agree,” to the Judge. Apparently, they don’t pay as well as trekking off to a hearing miles away but there again, the barrister is immediately back at his desk ready to bill out more hours.

Or, as I saw today, to carry on his very important game of online chess.

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