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.


Anonymous said...

Where can I find TidySum? He sounds like the answer to the poverty of the Junior Bar.

Anonymous said...

Only discovered you recently. Abosolutely hilarious stuff. I am a clerk and have been for many years and so much of what you write is bang on the money. I must tell you the story of the pupil, the head of chambers, the conference room table and the amusingly shaped door stop! All true I promise.

Anonymous said...

Having just spent the whole week juggling 2 very large cases while gearing up for a fiendishly complex injunction that settled at the last minute last night (but with the 'i's and 't's still in some need of dotting and crossing)and now looking at the prospect of spending the whole weekend completing my preparation for a 3 day High Court trial next week in one of the more godforsaken of the High Court's District Registries, I have to say that your blog provided me with some much needed respite and laughter.

Watch out for TopFirst - we Oxbridge intellectuals are not always so confident that our combination of hard work and intelligence will see us through on its own. We are not necessarily above a little skullduggery and machination to help things along.

The Bar you portray is very like the Bar I joined some 20 odd years ago, but bears little or no resemblance to the Bar I belong to today. Sadly, the plethora of idiosyncratic intellectual misfits that peopled its ranks and dominated the make up of the Bench are all but gone. The money-driven meritocracy that remains is but a pale shadow of the rich and lustrous tapestry that was this life or should that be This Life ? Whatever.

Anyway, keep up the good work !

Trebles all round !

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to add that I have only recently discovered your blog, but I already I look forward to the next day and the twists and turns of the tale. It's great, and just the thing after a long day working at the desk.

Anonymous said...

It sounds as if the stuff that is being devilled is small stuff - and for much of the time solicitors treat barristers at that level as a way out outsource volume work, so they probably don't care that he is outsourcing it again!