Day 105 (week 22): Professionally embarrassed

Given that I will be starting off in a Magistrates Court, the clerks allowed me to go off today and watch a member of Chambers do a case in Thames Magistrates Court. If you thought County Courts were grotty (and most of them are), you should take a look at their criminal law counterparts. Not only are the surroundings less salubrious but the atmosphere, unsurprisingly, has an edge of violence which is tempered only by the large number of police witnesses milling around. Went along with Junior Tenant who was mumbling that he was now above such appearances. Apparently he’s only getting £50 for the morning which bearing in mind he has to pay Chambers’ rent and also his expenses out of that, he’ll probably only be left with around £30. All he had was the name of the client and the time of the hearing. No papers or instructions from his solicitor. Luckily for him, the client (who we’ll call Guilty) wasn’t in any state to realise JuniorTenant’s difficulties. His thin pock-marked face had a feral quality which was only made worse by his twitching.
“I’m innocent right. It weren’t me and that’s an end to it.” He said, swaggering around in a bad impression of Liam Gallagher from ten years ago.
“You’re me brief. You sort it out.”

Rather than asking Guilty what he was up for, JuniorTenant snook off and whispered to the CPS that he had absolutely no idea what this was all about. The CPS barrister was not at all surprised and lent him the witness statements against Guilty. Apparently he tried to walk out of a local shop with three bottles of vodka stuffed under his jumper. Very original. Caught on CCTV and identified by two witnesses as well as the shopkeeper. JuniorTenant returned to Guilty and told him that his advice was that he should indeed plead to that effect.
“No way. I know I done it and you know I done it but that old judge up there, he don’t know nuffin' of the sort. You gonna get me off.”

That gave JuniorTenant his fast ticket back to Chambers. He rather formally said,
“Are you telling me that you want to plead not guilty even though you did it?”
“Yeh. Tha’s right. Tha’s wha' ‘appened last time with me brief. He said he’d sor' it and he did.”
“I see. Well…I’m afraid that in those circumstances I am no longer able to represent you as to do so I would have to mislead the court which I am not allowed to do. I am therefore professionally embarrassed.”
“What yeh goin’ on about? Can’t understand a word you’re sayin'.”
“I can’t represent you any longer?”
“Course yeh can.”

And so the "Can't" "Can" pantomine went on. Guilty had clearly never met a Brief so precious about his professional obligations before and wasn't prepared to cave in now which is just what JuniorTenant both wanted and anticipated as it gave him his way out of the case. Within half an hour, he’d requested an adjournment, nodding and winking at the magistrate as he said,
“I regret to report that I will have to withdraw from the case for reasons which though I am unable to tell you, I am sure you understand.”

Why not just go out and say it? May as well have done. The magistrate nodded and winked back and the CPS representative smirked. A right one we have here, he was clearly thinking. Anyway, suffice it to say that JuniorTenant was safely esconced back in Chambers and away from the grime of the criminal courts by lunchtime.


Day 104 (week 22): School’s out

I now have less than five weeks to go until my first appearance in court. And that’s official. Got my first case booked into the diary today. Monday 2 April at Brent Magistrate’s Court. Plea in mitigation apparently. In other words, a very big “sorry”, with bells on. Very worrying both for me and also for the client…if he knew, which he won’t. Just make sure that you never get sent to court in April or May, a time when the court system turns into a playground for baby barristers. School’s out and they’re all running around, fighting each other, falling over, getting their legs grazed and generally misbehaving.

But be in no doubt that despite all appearances (the brand new wig and gown for a start), these are novices of the first order. For my own part, I have had less than a dozen outings at speaking in public and that includes the speech I was forced to make at my eighth birthday party. All I can say is that I’m just glad I’m not the one in trouble. The real irony is that for the first few months, over half the work we’ll be doing is criminal. Target practice with people’s lives and liberty until we learn to shoot straight and give up childish things in favour of the civil courts. Kind of seems the wrong way round somehow but there you go.

Day 103 (week 22): Hiring from below stairs

It’s been like an episode of Upstairs Downstairs today. The details as to BusyBody’s activities have now spread around Chambers. It seems the second junior clerk, let’s call him FanciesHimself whispered it as “top secret” to OldSmoothie. Foolish in the extreme. OldSmoothie then mass emailed about ten people in Chambers with a word for word account of what FanciesHimself had told him. Needless to say, this was then forwarded to the rest of Chambers and is probably still rattling its way around cyber space. To spare you the sordid details, suffice it to say that BusyBody fell for FanciesHimself’s not to subtle charms and for one beautiful evening they were a couple. Come the next morning, for once in his life, FanciesHimself was on the receiving end of the sort of rejection he had inflicted at least once a week to a different girl in his home town of Southend according to his own very colourful accounts. BusyBody apparently made it clear in no uncertain terms as to why things would be going no further. This has put FanciesHimself into unknown territory and it seems that he’s actually claiming to be quite hurt. According to OldSmoothie, this meant that he had to go on a weekend bender just to “get his mind straight”. The Head Clerk, his boss, apparently told him that he was going to pretend that it didn’t even happen as to do otherwise would be just too much to contemplate. The Head of Chambers is also officially turning a blind eye for similar reasons.

There was a flurry of emails around Chambers following OldSmoothie’s revelations. One sums up what many were saying: “If you hire from below stairs, you can only expect below stairs behaviour.” Reminded me of Alan Clark’s wife who once said “If you bed people of below stairs class, they will go to the papers.” Basically reference to BusyBody’s working class background. Whilst a scholarship to a South London day school had led her to cover up her South London drawl, it has noticeably returned in recent weeks as she has become increasingly stressed. Some people had already started mimicking her accent and this has now turned into a full-on gameshow complete with clerk story to boot. The reality is that even in the twenty-first century, ten years after Tony Blair’s “New Labour, New Britain” rubbish, there are dinosaurs still surviving in many barristers’ Chambers.

Worst of all today was that I noticed that TopFirst was getting stuck in on the insults. Until now he seems to have risen above such behaviour but when I overheard him sharing the story with another member of Chambers I was not only surprised but also relieved to discover that like everyone else, he has a weakness. Like a shark with the smell of a fellow pupil’s blood in the water, his instincts took over and for the first time he showed that even he can be reckless. More importantly, he gave away in that simple conversation just quite how much he wants a tenancy in Chambers.

All I have to do now is to work out how I can ultimately turn this against him.


Day 102 (week 21): Scandal

Quite a few things have happened during my pupillage so far, not least that the Boss has committed fraud and been found out and the Head of Chambers’ sexism has appeared on YouTube. However, none of this compares to what (allegedly) happened last night. BusyBody went home with one of Chambers’ clerks. There’s nothing that makes a scandal more juicy than a bit of old-fashioned snobbery and this had the snobs gossiping in their droves this morning.

About twenty members of Chambers had gotten together in a wine bar with a few friendly solicitors to launch a book written by a particularly boring member of Chambers (and that’s saying something). Not exactly the height of glamour for a so-called book launch but nevertheless the champagne was flowing. The clerks had all been invited along as has been Chambers’ policy now for the last two years. Before that, only the head clerk was ever allowed out to social functions and even then only on marketing events. Ridiculous policy considering the clerks are not only the people who bring in most of the work but are far more capable of socialising with solicitors than most of the eccentrics in Chambers.

Anyway, the worries over the mixing barristers and clerks came to fruition last night to the horror not only of many members of the Bar but, it has to be said, a few of the clerks too. Don’t let it be said that the divide has only been perpetuated by the barristers. It seems some of the clerks also cling to the old divisions. Anyway, whatever the rights and wrongs, BusyBody drunkenly stumbled into a taboo. So far, no-one quite knows what happened but they were certainly seen canoodling on the street as they waited for a cab.

Poor BusyBody. Her head was bowed low today and she refused to talk to anybody. She’s already ruined any chances of getting taken on and she’s now gone and ruined her chances of bagging that rich barrister, too. Or at least one in these Chambers.


Day 101 (week 21): TidySum

Worrier came to see me today and asked if I was interested in earning a little money on the side, “devilling”. I didn’t know what she was going on about. I know she’s been having a hard time but joining and then recruiting for some devil worship cult seemed a bit of an extreme reaction. No, she corrected me. It’s a bar tradition. What it apparently refers to is the practice of barristers employing junior barristers to do the work for them. But I thought we were obliged to be self-employed as barristers? Not able to employ other lawyers, unlike solicitors? Well, Worrier explained. Technically, that’s true. However, it seems there’s a loophole for “devilling”. It seems to get by on the basis that it’s an informal fee for “research”. However, Worrier went on to explain that there’s a barrister in Gray’s Inn who I shall call TidySum who has taken this to a completely new level. He currently has around thirty little devils around the bar and pays them up front one third of what he bills out for the work. This basically gives them £50 per hour which is a lot more than they’d be getting in alternative part-time work. Solicitors love him as he’s turning his papers around within forty-eight hours (although they might be surprised to hear that the work is being done by pupils). They send the brief down and he then hands it over to pupils and other junior barristers who need a bit of extra cash flow. Running it as a very healthy business. He’s based in a Chambers but they just let him be in a small annex which has the nickname “Hell’s Kitchen” for obvious reasons. He's certainly living up to his nickname by all accounts.

Anyway, I decided to go along for an interview with Worrier. There was a queue outside his room which that for a tuck shop. All standing around chatting. It seems you just rock up with your CV, he checks you out and then gives you the papers with a requirement that you return them by the next day. Worrier got a small Particulars of Claim in a contract dispute involving a faulty dishwasher. I was given an Advice as to the value of the injury in a tripping case. Should take us an hour each and we’ll both be £50 richer by tomorrow. Lawyers are a curious breed. They spend so much time devising rules to regulate themselves and then even more time devising ways of getting around those rules. Surely there must be more constructive ways of employing some of our supposedly top brains?

As for BusyBody, I walked in on her today as she was lying on the ground with her feet in the air. She announced to me that the had officially given up all hope of getting taken on in Chambers and she had therefore decided to achieve “inner peace and harmony” through “yoga and bagging a rich barrister to keep me”. I’ve now decided that given his recent difficulties, association with the Boss is only likely to hinder by association. I therefore told her that the Boss was thinking of dumping Battleaxe and that he has told me that he continues to lust after her (both lies). However, BusyBody has other ideas:
“He’s a loser. I’m not tagging on to that mess. No. I’ve got my eye on a bigger prize. Much richer and, for what it’s worth, better looking. And with a wife and family at home, he's not likely to be too demanding on my time.”

I was to get no more details from her today, although Old Smoothie springs to mind.


Day 100 (week 21): Battleaxe

Today someone tried to guess who I am. There is no point but for the record, I do not have the initials “PL”. An American reader wanted to know exactly what pupillage is. That is a question I have been asking myself lately. Ostensibly it’s the final part of the training for the Bar. The reality is that most of one’s time is spent making coffee, photocopying and being a general dogsbody around Chambers. What this has to do with being a barrister I’ll never know. After six months of this then you might think that all I’d be qualified for is perhaps to aspire to be a supervisor at Starbucks. But no. Instead, come the 2 April, I will be given a provisional practising certificate and let loose on an otherwise unsuspecting public by being allowed to conduct my own cases in court. Six months after this and I become a fully-fledged practising barrister. So, there you go. Just so you know. It might even work if your pupilmaster wasn’t a corrupt, yellow coward who under-settled all his cases and got off with his solicitor behind his wife’s back.

Talking of which, I finally met the mistress last night. The Boss was celebrating another settlement (obviously) and insisted on taking me to the local wine bar for a glass (or seven) of champagne. In the last couple of weeks this (ie settlement followed by champagne) has become an increasingly frequent occurrence. He’s cashing in his cases early in anticipation of the possibility of being struck off in a few months. Anyway, she was not what I expected at all. I already have the impression of the Boss’ wife as demanding, expensive and generally high maintenance and I therefore expected his mistress to be some meek, pouting solicitor who assuaged all his many insecurities. Far from it. We shall call her Battleaxe. She has a laugh like a horse, a voice like a horse and in many ways even looks like a horse. And a packhorse at that. Even after a lot of champagne. Sturdy to the point of being almost square. She’d certainly struggle to fit into the Boss’ Ferrari. However, I should have seen it coming as no sooner had she opened her mouth to reveal staccato, clipped vowels than I suddenly realised that she was just an older version of my fellow pupil BusyBody with whom the Boss has also been flirting.

Day 99 (week 21): No respect

My blog seems to have attracted some publicity in the last couple of days. I particularly enjoyed one of the comments which came from an American laywer in response to my post about the curious situation that leaves fatal accidents costing insurers a lot less than near fatal ones. It said, “That's why we have the wrongful death statute over here. Otherwise, good incentive to just back up the lorry, have another go, and finish off the bloke.” Comforting to know.

Anyway, with all this interest, I’ve had to go through the blog and have now changed sufficient details to keep this anonymous. Thankfully, there’s absolutely no hope of the Boss ever spotting it as he’s completely computer illiterate. He even refuses to use email as a matter of “high” principle. Gets the clerks to print out any emails he receives. Any that need a reply, he dictates into the form of a letter which he then sends snail mail to his typist. Thinks he is making a “principled” stand against modernity whereas it’s just another outlet for his snobbery. Though he sometimes pretends not to understand what it is, at other times, he blames email for a lowering of the standards of literacy and communication. Refuses to demean himself to “the lowest common denominator”. In fact, the idea of a breakdown in society generally has been bothering him rather a lot of late. Blames it for much of his difficulties in fact.

“Things are far too accountable these days.” [Meaning: “How dare they question my word, even if it was a lie.”]

“People have no respect.” [Meaning: “Whatever I’ve done wrong, people should still know their place.”]

“What right do solicitors have to be questioning a barrister in such a way?” [Meaning: “What happened to good, old-fashioned deference and for good measure, immunity from suit.”]


Day 98 (week 21): Cheaper to kill...

Today we had a conference with the solicitor in a fatal accident case. Tragic accident at work when a builder was killed by machinery falling on top of him. The Boss was representing the employer’s insurers and commented pretty early on that the case was, “A lot cheaper by virtue of him having died. Could have been worth millions in loss of earnings if he’d lived.” As it is, the deceased was separated from his wife and had no kids and the claim is therefore worth hardly anything at all.

Very strange law that makes it cheaper to kill than to maim.

In the meantime, BusyBody has gone from desolate moping to utterly hyper with no transition period in between. She´s now a caricature even of her old self. Her words are spewing out even faster than normal and mysteriously her quite posh middle England accent is occasionally dropping the odd vowel in favour of South London drawl. I´ve also heard about sightings of her working in Chambers as early as 6am and as late as midnight. All very strange, even if she is my competition. I have to admit to feeling slightly responsible for this due to the stitch up about YouTube and the Head of Chambers. However, whenever I have asked hw she was, all I get back is a staccato, “All fine. Good. Excellent. Anyway. Very busy. Very. Lots of papers. Must get through them. Lots. Anyway. Thank you. Yes. All OK. Anyway. So. How are you?”


Day 97 (week 20): OldSmoothie

Received a visit today from a member of Chambers that I shall call ‘OldSmoothie’. Not after the yoghurty fruit drink but because of his oily, self-confidence which oozes from every pore. Think To the Manor Born and Milk Tray Man but not quite there on either count. He’s about fifty. He was made a QC five years ago until which time he was moderately successful. Since then he has struggled for any work at all. It’s a common misconception that all QCs are rich. Sure, many earn just oodles of cash. Others earn no more than before they took silk. Then there is a significant minority whose practices simply collapse. They’re now too senior for the cases they were doing before and simply not good enough to get the cream. Worst of all, once you’re a QC, you can’t ‘un-silk’ yourself or whatever the word might be if someone ever tried. Have wondered if perhaps there might be some sort of legal action on the basis that it is anti-competitive or unduly restrictive. However, most people at that stage would have too much pride to fight for such a demotion and the public humiliation that would go with it. The other side of the coin is that most have stashed away enough by that point to be financially secure in any event. Many go on to become judges. Others, go on to become Committee Men, both at home and at work. Committees for their golf clubs, their private members clubs and of course, for their Chambers. OldSmoothie was just such a man.

Well, today Smoothie had a task for me from one of his committees in Chambers. It was in fact, the pupillage committee and what he wanted me to do was to sift through all of the applications for mini-pupillage and weed out those who we didn’t want. He instructions went as follows:

“You’re an Oxford man like myself. Figure I can ask you to do this properly without any complaint. Here’s what I want. Plain and simple. Take out the following and then give me the rest. No sixth-formers looking for work experience. No-one who’s been to a polyversity or whatever they call themselves these days. Doesn’t fool me. No-one over fifty – we’ll be subsidising their rent for ten years and then they’ll retire. Oh, and no-one called Wayne or Shane. Just wouldn’t look good on the board.”

Reminded me of the apocryphal story of a recruiter for an investment bank who randomly picked up half of the application forms and threw them in the bin.
“Well”, he answered, “we don’t want the unlucky ones.”


Day 96 (week 20): It`s all about costs

It’s all about costs, I’ve realised. Everything. The whole legal world. Not justice. Not rights. Not defending the innocent or prosecuting the guilty. It’s cold, hard, calculated costs. Hours and minutes translated into money. Cash for the accident management companies, cash for the solicitors, cash for the barristers, cash for the experts and occasionally even cash for the clients. Be in no doubt, it is cash which drives this whole machine. The latest example of this came from a talk I was forced to go to this evening on whether the small claims limit for personal injury cases should be raised from £1,000 to £5,000.

The thing you need to know immediately is that you only get a tiny amount of costs in the Small Claims Court. So, a personal injury case worth £800 might only bring on a few hundred pounds worth of costs. Yet ones worth £1,500 believe it or not regularly bring in bills of over £6,000. So, if the government increases the limit for the Small Claims Court, solicitors get less costs. Plain and simple. Yet we all had to listen to some great legal brains piping up all the reasons under the sun other than that they would earn less money as to why the limit should not increase. Some may have been in earnest. However, to an outsider most appeared at best disingenuous.

The law at its very worst, exposing its filthy tarnished soul for all to see.


Day 95 (week 20): St. Valentine´s Day massacre

The spirit of Valentines Day doesn`t seem to have reached its way as far as Chambers. In fact, it`s been more like the St. Valentine`s Day massacre round here what with the Boss` obvious difficulties and then there´s BusyBody who I really think is not very well. She´s been moping around and only getting as far as a mumble in terms of chat. She had mentioned appealing the finding of the Head of Chambers a week or so ago but it seems from what I have been able to work out that she`s taken some advice from a criminal barrister friend of hers and he has told her that unless she can come up with any evidence to rebut the conclusion that the YouTube incident was her, then there`s just no point. Circumstantially the evidence points only one way.


Day 94 (week 20): Harlow County Court

So far in pupillage I’ve been to some pretty grotty places. Willesden and Mold I have mentioned. Bow County Court in Stratford is also pretty bad. However, today I visited the worst so far: Harlow in Essex. Usually a town has a heart. A beat to which even the violence steadily pulses. A character all of its own. Not so Harlow. It is town without a heart. A flatliner. A town where any life which enters risks having its soul sucked dry before it can escape. A badlands without redemption. A no-town.

Today, I visited its court. I hope never to see that place again.


Day 93 (week 20): Double shuffle

Some Mondays you just struggle to get anything done at all and this was most definitely one of those. So, rather than turning to the Boss’ papers which are decreasing by the day, I instead pulled the ultimate bunk relying on the fact that the Boss and the clerks are hardly even talking at all at present. I therefore told the Boss that the Clerks were sending me off to Luton for 12 noon. I told the Clerks that the Boss needed me to do some research in the library. Classic double shuffle. Strolled back around 4pm having watched the latest Bond movie in Leicester Square.

Some days pupillage really isn’t so bad after all.


Day 92 (week 19): Two down…

That Friday feeling today. So far, I´m a third of the way through pupillage and I have to say the least neutralised two of my three opponents for tenancy. TopFirst will be a challenge but today I´m feeling optimistic. The opportunity will present itself, of that I have no doubt. In the meantime, I must prepare the ground.


Day 91 (week 19): Contingency plans

I am starting to wonder what the Boss is taking. He´s certainly been through the mill and he was hardly stable even when I started pupillage. However, his behaviour is becoming more erratic by the day. Today he burst into the room around 11.30am and started walking around in a circle saying to himself,
“Who needs it anyway. I´ll go and live on a desert island and become a writer. I´ll act as a consultant to solicitors. I´ll..”

He hesitated and stared at me during his pause.“You know, he continued. We start off in this job with so much potential. The world is our oyster and with the skills we needed to get here we could have done anything we chosen. We then spend years taking ourselves further and further away from the mainstream until we are so specialised that if we were to jump ship there is not even a life-raft nearby. We are good only for being barristers. Otherwise it´s straight back down to the bottom of the pile aged forty-six.”


Day 90 (week 19): GoodThing

One of the QCs in Chambers came to see me today. I’ll call him GoodThing due to the fact that I have never seen him be downright nasty to anyone. He pretended randomly to be just passing but it was clear he can come for a small chat. The first thing he told me after the small talk was not to worry if the Boss was sending out all of my work without even checking it. It was the Boss’ responsibility and would reflect only on him if anything went wrong.

He then went on to mention in the most roundabout way that everyone was aware that the Boss had a reputation for settling his cases and that I was not to assume that that was normal.
“We’re paid to fight cases and never forget that. Yes, sometimes cases may settle but remember, the solicitors will already have given it a pretty good go even before it gets anywhere near court. So, unless something changes, you get yourself right in there and fight.”

My guess is that there has been concern as to the influence which the Boss may have been having on my training and development.

They would be right to be worried.


Day 89 (week 19): A kick while down

Poor old Boss. I am genuinely feeling sorry for him at this stage of his problems. No sooner has he been granted a reprieve by Chambers than he is given a reminder of his difficulties with a double whammy today. One was the letter he had been expecting from the Bar Standards Board confirming that a complaint had been made against him. The other was from his professional insurers, the Bar Mutual, asking him to keep them posted as to any further developments on the case. This was then made worse by a phone call from his wife half way through the afternoon where she was clearly hassling him about the divorce and the financial arrangements which needed to be put in place.

For all his lack of spine, the fact he is bearing up at all under all of this is a testament to a hitherto invisible streak of metal within.


Day 88 (week 19): Vexatious

Today is litigant-in-person day once again. Let’s call him Vexatious for today’s purposes. Kind of a Groundhog Day in that it felt much the same as the last hearing in Bromley. Once again, avoided anything but the briefest of unpleasantries and then we were straight into court. The judge took control from the very start. He was clearly more prepared for Vexatious than the last time and gave him short shrift on his initial application for an adjournment and then for permission to appeal.

It was then time for Vexatious to present his case. He started by reeling off a summary which looked set to take the rest of the day. The judge cut him short and asked him if he had any witnesses.
“Only myself.”
“Well perhaps you would be kind enough as to direct yourself to the witness box then, Mr [Vexatious].”
“Yes, my Lord.”
“Your Honour.”
“Yes, my Lord, whatever you want to call me.”
“No, my name is Your Honour.”
“Sorry, Your Honour, My Lord.”
“Would you now like to take the oath.”
“Why not.”
“Because I don’t believe in this oppressive system of so-called justice and therefore I will not swear any oath of allegiance to it or anyone associated with it.”
“It’s just an oath to tell the truth.”
“So, repeat the words on the card in front of you.”

And so it went on all morning. He told us all about how the Council had it in for him and had been picking on him ever since he highlighted their error. He then went on to talk about the stress and injury which he had suffered. The judge then asked him:
“Do you have any medical evidence to support your claim in this respect?”
“Yes, Your Lord. I have a photocopy here from a medical textbook from the library. It shows that stress can cause all sorts of illnesses.”
“And do you have any evidence to show that you have any of these illnesses?”
“Yes. I have this textbook, Your Lord.”
“I see.”

It was what the Americans might call a slam dunk for the Boss. He just sat tight and didn’t say a word. The Judge clearly had the points and was going to do the work for him. Eventually, the Judge summarised Vexatious’ case far more articulately than Vexatious himself had been putting it and then said,
“Am I correct that that is your case?”
Somewhat dumbfounded, Vexatious said, “Yes, Your Lord.”

The Judge then turned to the Boss and said, “Well, it’s twelve thirty. Perhaps we can start again at two pm.”

After lunch everyone trekked back into court and the Judge said to the Boss,
“Do you have an application to make to me?”
“Yes, Your Honour. I would ask that the claim be dismissed at this stage as the Claimant has failed to prove his loss as a matter of evidence. In these circumstances there is no need to investigate the full factual dispute.”
“Thank you. Mr [Vexatious], do you have anything to say in response to this application?”
“This is an abuse. It is not why I came here today. I came to show the Council a bit of justice and just because they can afford some clever London barrister they think they can get away with murder.”
“Thank you Mr [Vexatious]. I shall now give my judgment on this application.”

He then went on to dismiss the case at half time and left costs to be assessed at a later date. Tragically for Vexatious these will now amount to over £25,000 for which he personally will be liable. A very sad case on all accounts.


Day 87 (week 18): Embarrassment

Less than two months to go until I get on my feet in court and I have to admit that I’m starting to feel a little nervous. In order to try and get an edge on the other pupils, I’ve hired a public speaking coach. It’s only £25 an hour over the telephone and I’ve had four so far. He basically gets me to recite Shakespeare and other poems and then makes me do breathing exercises during the day.

All very well in itself. But it backfired today when I was caught by the barrister I was following around at court doing one of these exercises. Thought there was no-one around in the robing room and so started reciting one of the more soppy of the Sonnets interspersed with deep breathing (ie moaning) in between each line. You can imagine my horror when the barrister emerged from the loo next door with a smirk that told me he had over-heard it all.


Day 86 (week 18): Time out

Time dominates everything about life in Chambers. From the day you enter you are labelled not by your ability but by the time. Branded with a date mark. Your year of call. As people rise in Chambers, their rent goes up in accordance with that year of call. So does their name on the board outside. Time also overshadows the work itself. The number of hours spent preparing a particular case will determine its brief fee, along with the number of hours it will take to travel to and from court in addition to the time in court itself.

Don’t know why I mention it save for the fact that today everyone seems to be chasing the clock in one form or another and I suddenly realised that that’s how it is each and every day of a barrister’s life.


Day 85 (week 18): An honourable profession

Dear old-fashioned, well-mannered, loveable OldRuin. Who couldn’t like him? He’s seen scandals come and go but has himself spent most of his life playing by the rules. Rules which are as much a part of him as the wove of his tweed. Yet he’s not the self-righteous sort and has a genuine sympathy for those that put themselves into difficulty, no matter how stupid they may have been. That is how he feels towards the Boss. Not quite the prodigal Son but even so, a wayward child in one form or another. So it all became clear when he took me out for lunch at Simpson’s on the Strand today. He counselled me that I must not take these difficulties to heart and that it was a great and honourable profession which I was entering. There would always be bad eggs but in his experience they generally came a cropper of their own making. Furthermore, they were far out-numbered by the honest, decent chaps (and chapesses, he added for good measure) who rarely came to anyone’s attention.

If he was my pupilmaster things may well have been different on all fronts.

But he isn’t.

And they’re not.