31.3.07

Day 127 (week 26): My identity

It’s actually Saturday 31st March today and I am finally putting up my posts for Wednesday to Friday. Been a dreadful few days. As well as the stuff that you can read above I’ve had the scare of my life over this blog. Someone emailed me suggesting that they knew who I was on Wednesday. I panicked and considered taking the whole thing down. When I’d calmed down I went through the details I’ve given about myself and still believe that there is insufficient here to identify me. So I called their bluff by replying, “Name me, then.” To which I have had no reply.

As I’ve said before, please don’t waste your time trying to guess.

In the meantime, I’ve returned to the Boss and agreed to investigate the firm of solicitors. For now, let’s call them FakeClaims&Co. However, I’ve decided that there may be an opportunity for assistance in funding my Ginny project against TopFirst. I therefore asked TheBoss how much he was going to pay me.
“£3,000 to start investigating and £3,000 for any evidence which will implicate them.” He replied.

Should be enough to be getting on with.

30.3.07

Day 126 (week 26): Cab Rank Rule

The papers arrived for my first case in court on Monday. As anticipated they involve a plea in mitigation. All I have is the charge sheet and three lines of instructions from the solicitor which read as follows:

“Instructing Solicitors apologise for the scant nature of the paperwork. Suffice to say that the client is no average scumbag or petty thief caught with his hands in the till though this is what he is being charged with. Counsel will see what Instructing Solicitors mean when he meets the client at court. He is hereby instructed to enter whatever plea in mitigation he sees fit.”

Sounds cryptic and not a little peculiar. Out of curiosity, I google my client’s name. The instructions then start to make a little more sense. Seems he’s not only a tealeaf. If it’s the same person, and it looks like it might be, then he’s also a notorious football hooligan with the Chelsea Headhunters and a member (allegedly) of the extreme right (and extremely violent) Combat 18. Certainly not someone I want to be meeting in a stressful situation never mind representing. I wonder if there’s any way at all to get out of the case. Maybe I’d have a conflict of interest due to the fact that I detest the racist Nazi views he propagates?

I phoned the Bar Standards Board anonymously to seek their guidance. No way out they said. Cab Rank Rule. As with black cabs, if your light is on and you’re available for work then you’re not allowed to pick and choose between the jobs you take. “Even racists have the right to representation” they said. Even so, why do I have top be the one doing it? And on my first day, too?

In my irritation I decide to check out this so-called Cab Rank Rule and hail a black cabbie.
“Can you take me to the top of Chancery Lane please.” I ask in my best barrister voice.
“But that’s only fifty yards away mate. Just over there. You don’t need to cab.”
“Yes, but I’d like to travel in a cab.”
“Just not worth the hassle mate. Have you seen the traffic jam I’d get caught in over there.”
“What about the cab rank rule? Don’t you have to take me wherever I want?”
“Oh. I get it. You’re another of those barristers. Hate ‘em I do. Always reminding me of that stupid rule. Well forget it, mate. Taking the mickey. Report me if you like.”


And with that he drove off.

29.3.07

Day 125 (week 26): The worm turns

Had a meeting with TheBoss today. He’s decided to go on the counter-offensive against his firm of solicitors.
“You’re in up to your neck in this, you realise”, he told me. “If I go down, you go with me.”

This was not what I wanted to hear to say the least.
“I don’t think so. All I did was to keep quiet about seeing that set of papers.”
“Far more than that, BabyB and you know it. You were fully complicit in the plan. But even worse for you is that you’ve since officially denied knowing anything about it. You’d better start realising that soon.”
“So what do you want from me? Why would you want to implicate your pupil?”
“Well, since you’re asking…”

He then went on to explain that he’d heard rumours about the firm of solicitors that are attacking him. He said that there’s been some suggestion that they’re involved in a fake claims scam but he knows nothing more. He wants me to investigate.

Just what I need on top of starting in court and the arrival of ThirdSix. I said that I’d have a think about it and get back to him.

28.3.07

Day 124 (week 26): Hail fellow, well met

After having been warned about ThirdSix yesterday, we were all gathered together this morning and formally introduced to him by HeadofChambers. Quite a few “More tea, vicar” moments as we moved from one awkward silence to another. To be fair (something I like to keep strictly to a minimum), he didn’t seem as awful on first impressions as we’d all like to imagine. Not the geeky swot I’d been expecting. Instead, he’s very much a “Hail fellow, well met” kind of hearty, rugby-playing type. Clubbable and extremely normal. Which is even worse really. BusyBody and Worrier only exacerbated the situation as they stood there salivating at this attractive new addition to the pupillage game. It was as if the name ThirdSix had become their scores for presentation in some ridiculous ‘Pupillage on Ice’ routine. Scorecards held aloft and showing all the sixes in rapturous approval, rather than some indication of his inherent badness. With all this going for him on top of his ridiculous qualifications, I can’t understand why he wasn’t taken on in his previous Chambers. Which is the question I need to be investigating a little more closely.

In the meantime, I got the requisite extension to my professional studies loan. £5,000 in all, not that I’m intending on spending anywhere near that on my little project with TopFirst. But it will always come in handy. Also did some research into hiring someone to play Ginny. Just so you know, even if I end up hiring a prostitute, she will be under strict instructions not to do anything with TopFirst. I aim to de-stabilise, not completely destroy. And anyway, there’s less scope for things to go wrong if I keep a tight hold on the parameters, so to speak. Either way, it doesn’t seem at all easy. I can’t very much just go and ring one of the numbers you see posted on one of those cards in the phone boxes. But where else do I go? First thoughts are for one of those “Test your boyfriend” agencies you read about in the papers. Where they send along some modelly type woman to chat up a boyfriend and see if he’s faithful.

As for the correspondence, TopFirst asked Ginny for a photo of herself today. So I shall have to start interviewing imminently.

27.3.07

Day 123 (week 26): ThirdSix

Today was possibly the worst start to the week imaginable. Just as I am making some progress in my battle with TopFirst, we are all told that for the second six months of pupillage we will be joined by someone who is commonly known as a “third six pupil”. This is basically a barrister who failed to get taken on in his own Chambers and is giving it another go elsewhere. “Git orrrf ma land” was the pretty universal reaction to the news. However much the four of us are in competition (and don’t imagine for a minute that it’s only me being a bit sneaky), there remains a kind of honour among thieves. That whatever we get up to, we’re all in it together. It’s one thing for Celebrity Big Brother to do it to spice up the mix but for a barristers’ Chambers to do it in pupillage…well…it’s just not cricket. Plain and simple. All the more so when we are then told that he is coming from one of the top commercial Chambers at the Bar. With his scholarship to Harvard and his First from Oxford he makes even TopFirst seem like a snivelling lazy skiver struggling to pass his GCSE law. That’s the only good thing, I guess, that it further destabilises TopFirst.

Just not cricket at all.

25.3.07

Day 122 (week 25): HotCake

I hate to have to admit this today but I guess if this blog’s going to mean anything then I can’t very much leave it out. I received a visit from my mother to Chambers. In itself, that sounds pretty normal. But not when she arrives with a hot cake late afternoon and tells the whole clerks’ room that she’s worried that I’ve been working a little too hard and thought that this might cheer me up. Is she mad! I couldn’t have been more mortified when I was called out of a conference with the Boss to greet her. Worse still, OldSmoothie was around and spotted the comedy potential at my expense and so invited her to Chambers’ tea “where everyone can perhaps have a taste of your wonderful culinary skills”. No! Please! Just leave me alone and let me go and hide in the farthest corner of the library.

No such luck and so Chambers were merrily entertained by my mother for the whole of tea regaling the usual motherly embarrassing stories. Worse still, everyone now knows that I continue to live at home. Despite the fact that this is due to Chambers paying me a pittance for my coffee-making skills, it is still something which I had hoped to keep hidden under my little horse hair wig.

On a more positive note, the emails between Ginny and TopFirst are now becoming more regular. However, they’re also starting to get just a little flirty, flirty which is definitely not my bag I can tell you. In fact let’s just not go there. But this is war and in a conflict there are different rules. Well, no rules, truth be told.

And I have an appointment with the bank next week.

23.3.07

Day 121 (week 25): Nobody’s perfect

Today the Boss was “off” once again and I was left under the gentle supervision of OldRuin.
“You must be starting out on your feet next month.” He asked with an understanding smile.
“Yes, that’s right.” I answered a little sheepishly, despite myself.
“Bound to be nervous but remember that whatever happens, you’ll get through. Life at the Bar is a very long journey and your first teetering steps will have very little influence on your ultimate destination. Easy to get it out of perspective.”

With that he left me to mull over his words as he returned to his papers and dictated an advice into his ancient tape recorder. Later in the day, he turned to me again and mused,
“I remember my own first day in court. Vividly. Bright sunshine outside. Cherry blossom just showing. I had been married a year and Valerie desperately wanted to come and see my big day. Cheer me on as it were. A magical time. No money of course but we had a glorious flat in Ealing which had been lent to us by my uncle whilst I got myself established. Early fifties, you know. Long time now.”

He disappeared into a world of his own before continuing.
“Yes. Bow Street Magistrates. Pickpocket you know. Full trial. Made a hash of it really but Valerie was kind. She always was. Chap went down for two years. Guilty as sin but I should have got him off. The identification evidence was inadmissible and I let it in. Anyway, all worked out in the end. My head of chambers appealed the verdict and got him released. I was very ashamed that I had missed such an important point. I think my head of chambers must have realised that. “We’re none of us perfect, Old Ruin. Not even barristers.” Not even barristers indeed. Not that you would believe it the way some members of this profession go on. He’s long dead now BabyB. Kind man.”

Dear, sweet, gentle Old Ruin.

21.3.07

Day 120 (week 25): Hiring a professional

Here is my rather breathless reply to TopFirst’s email on Monday:

From: ginnyandtonic@yahoo.co.uk
To: TopFirst
Date: 19 March 2007, 3.28pm

Dear TopFirst,

I’m so grateful and pleased that you found the time to reply to my impertinent request. You asked me what university I attend. I am at Hatfield College in Durham. Mummy didn’t want me going to Oxford even though I had an offer. You might say my parents are somewhat alternative generally. Hippies who never really grew up I guess after Oxford in the sixties. As for my subject, I am studying English literature. I have to admit that I got a Third in my first year due mainly I think to just a teeny weeny bit too much partying as well travelling down to see my (now ex-) boyfriend in Cambridge. However, I pulled it back last year to my own surprise when I got a First. Where did you go to University? What do you think of being a barrister? Sounds very grown up and all. Do you have to go off to court and represent murderers?

Best wishes,

Ginny


Should press of few of TopFirst's buttons...which is a little wierd to say the least. But hey, it doesn't count if it's anonymous...right? Anyway, it might also start eliciting more information about his dad who I already know has a complicated background having been forced from the Bar after being caught with no less than a judge's wife. In the scale of barrister sins, this is pretty much near the top and would leave the culprit in a hopeless position with any judge in the land. The quality of mercy, you can be assured, would not quite be droppething as the gentle rain from heaven.

I also need to start thinking about how I’m going to get someone to play Ginny on her visit. It strikes me that it might be worth every penny to hire a professional. There could be so much scope for trouble if he falls for someone who turns out to be a prostitute, particularly if this became public knowledge. The real difficulty will be affording it. I will have to approach my bank for an extension to my professional studies loan.

I’m sure they’ll understand if I explain that it will help me in getting a tenancy.

20.3.07

Day 119 (week 25): StrikeOne

A wonderful spectacle in Chambers’ tea today. TopFirst was gossiping with OldSmoothie (they are as bad as each other) and he finally got around to whispering that BusyBody might be pregnant by a barrister in Chambers and wondered if OldSmoothie had heard anything. Needless to say, OldSmoothie took this as a direct insult to himself as he was in fact that barrister, unbeknownst to TopFirst.

“I will not put up with such impudence from anyone TopFirst, never mind a pupil. Whatever you achieved at Cambridge never ever forget that you are soundly at the bottom of the tree here in Chambers. The very bottom as it happens.”

And with that he stormed off and a hush descended on the gathering. TopFirst didn’t just look crestfallen. He looked truly mortified and skulked away within a few more minutes of awkward smalltalk. I followed him out, for appearances sake wanting to offer a sympathetic ear.

“What was that about?” I asked.
“I have absolutely no idea whatsoever.” He replied.
“Well, what did you say to prompt such an outburst?”
“I simply mentioned BusyBody’s predicament…Maybe he already knows and feels protective of the Boss? Though that would be a turnaround from his recent attitude.”
“Maybe he’d just had a bad day in court?”
“Maybe. But he seemed to take it very personally…You don’t think he’s been with BusyBody as well as the Boss, do you?”
“No way! How could she find the time?”
“Well it would explain his reaction.”
“I guess so.”
“Well that’s my tenancy chances finished anyway.”
“I hardly think so. It would be almost actionable if he held that against you. How were you possibly to know and anyway, it’s his fault, not yours.”
“You may be right but it doesn’t feel like that at the moment.”
“Remember our pact. All for one and all that. It’ll turn out ok.”
“I hope so.”


Not that I meant it. He has just received a blow that will certainly wound him although in itself is unlikely to be fatal. The real significance is that it stops his momentum in Chambers.

…And undermines his own self-confidence, which is where good old Ginny comes in.

Day 118 (week 25): Hooked

First bite on the email arrived today from TopFirst. I don’t give him credit for playing it cool by leaving it a few days. Instead, given how fastidious and generally obsessive he is, I’m sure he must have written innumerable drafts of his reply over the weekend. In the end, he settled for this one:

From: TopFirst
To: ginnyandtonic@yahoo.co.uk
Date: 19 March 2007, 10.41am

Dear Ginny,

I would be very happy to give you advice and you can be assured of my utmost discretion. Consider me bound by professional confidentiality! Please forgive my impertinence but it might help if you tell me what subject you are currently studying and at what educational establishment.

Yours sincerely,

TopFirst
BA (Hons) (Cantab), Barrister


The pompous little twerp seems to have been hooked. Now I need to reel him in.

But first, I’ll let him stew in his own self-doubt and insecurities for a couple of days.

17.3.07

Day 117 (week 24): HoneyTrap

Having sent over the first little bomb to TopFirst earlier in the week, I decided this evening that it was perhaps the right time to throw over a second. Let me put this in as nice a way as I can. TopFirst is a very clever and sometimes even witty individual (in a catty kind of way). However, his academic abilities are not reflected in his dealings with the fairer sex. First, despite the fact he’s engaged, he always seems to be off flirting with someone else, albeit unsuccessfully. Worse, though, are his fisherman-like tales about the ones that got away. The intellectual arrogance passes over into other spheres, it’s just the results don’t follow. So. It was time for me to set up a new email account for a new imaginary friend. Miss Virginia Haddocks-Brown who chooses to go by the address ginnyandtonic@yahoo.co.uk. Of course she does. With this done, I then sent the following email:

From: ginnyandtonic@yahoo.co.uk
To: TopFirst
Date: 16 March 2007, 8.43pm

Dear TopFirst,

I am the daughter of a close friend of OldRuin, one of your colleagues in chambers. My father, Charles Haddocks-Brown, was at Oxford with him. I thought I would drop you a line after I heard mention of you in conversation the other day when OldRuin was round for dinner. Basically, I am just coming to the end of my final year at university and I am trying to decide whether to change to law at the end of my degree. I know it might seem a bit presumptuous of me to write out of the blue but the way OldRuin described you I felt sure that you wouldn’t mind. I do hope that I am right. Please don’t tell OldRuin, though, as I havn’t yet broken it to my parents that I’m thinking of giving up my dream of being an actress. I know that most parents would heartily approve of a career in law, but not mine.

Anyway, sorry to go on. I was wondering if you might possibly be able to spare me some time in the future to talk to me about your life at the Bar and to give some advice as to where I might go from here? I’m very occasionally down in London as I do a little bit of part-time modelling just to make ends meet. Extremely boring but better than taking out a student loan, I guess. I can imagine how terribly busy you are with your cases and all but it really would be a help.

I look forward to hearing from you.

With best wishes,

Ginny Haddocks-Brown


The bait is in place and the line now fully cast.

Let’s see if he bites.

16.3.07

Day 116 (week 24): UpTights

Had lunch with the person who will take over from the Boss as my pupil master at the start of April. Well, pupil mistress to be exact. I shall call her UpTights. She’s in her late-forties with a civil and criminal practice. She’s never married and has no kids (having always put career first) and is Very High Maintenance. Considered calling her BoTucks due to the work she’s had done which gives her a very peculiar kind of stretched “Mother of Barbie” type look. But it is her attitude which defines her.

“The most important thing at the Bar is boundaries, BabyBarista.”
“Sorry?”
“Clearly defined boundaries between work and non-work.”
“Er, yes.”
“I will never ask you about your life outside of Chambers and you will reciprocate. Life here. Life outside. Separate. Is that clear?”
“Of course.”
Crystal.

Ouch. And she barks her words in high, clipped military tones which are a cross between Margaret Thatcher in her mad years and a Dalek screaming “Exterminate!”. UpTights is definitely her name. Looks like the easy life I’ve carved out with the Boss is about to be shattered.

“Unless you are in court, you will arrive into Chambers at 8.30am and leave at 6pm, during which your time belongs to me. Time outside those hours does not exist as far as I am concerned. Understand?”
“Yes.”
I got it the first time thank you.
“And there’ll be no skiving in the library, just so you know although you will get thirty minutes between twelve thirty and one each day, during which time you will disappear from sight.”

It seems she also has what the Americans might call “personal space issues”.

“When you are in my room, you will not hover around my desk. Absolutely no hovering. Got it. No hovering.”

No hovering. Right. I think I got that too. Promises to be interesting. Particularly as somehow I have to get her onside before the tenancy decision in September. First thoughts revolve around the question as to why she is so defensive. Barriers built over years of working with lecherous dinosaurs such as HeadofChambers and OldSmoothie? Resentment that the rest of the world seems happy? Or just plain nastiness?

Whatever it is, there’s plenty to be getting on with.

15.3.07

Day 115 (week 24): Elephant trap

BusyBody came round in a flap today.

“I’m at least a week late.”
“What are you going on about? Late for what…Oh. Please. Too much information.”
“No, I’m serious. I think I might be pregnant.”
“Have you done one of those test things?”
“Not yet. But I may have to.”
“Have you told FanciesHimself? [our junior clerk]”
“Well, no. Actually, I’m not sure it’d be his or not…”
“What? Who else could it be?”
“Well, do you promise to keep this a secret.”
“Of course.”
(Yeh, right).
“You know I mentioned bagging a rich barrister a few weeks ago?”
“Yeeees…” I didn’t like where this was going.
“Well, it was because I had a date with OldSmoothie that night and well, one thing led to another and you know…”
“I can guess. So you’re telling me that you might be pregnant by either OldSmoothie or FanciesHimself and you don’t which?”
“Maybe.”


Golly.

Anyway, needs must and with all the sympathy in the world for BusyBody, opportunities must be grasped and this was a prime one to set somewhat of an elephant trap for TopFirst who has fast become the Chambers’ gossip. A lot of scope for him to put his foot in it if he is just fed slightly inaccurate information. So, as part of our new spirit of co-operation I popped round to his room for coffee this afternoon when his pupilmaster was out.
“BusyBody’s been sick the last couple of mornings apparently.” Just to get the ball rolling.
“Heavy nights or something?”
“Don’t think so, she’s been off the booze for the last few weeks since…”
“Yes, don’t blame her, the way it affects her. Couple of gins…”
“Yes and she drops her briefs. You told me that one last week.”
“I mean, what was she doing with FanciesHimself of all people?”
“I know…Not as bad as The Boss, though.”
“What do you mean? Her and the Boss too? Surely not?”
“No, I’m sure you’re right.”


But we’ll let it ferment a little. As he’s prone to do when his mind is whirring (you can almost hear it), TopFirst cleaned his glasses with his tie and straightened them up on his face. He’d be a dreadful poker player and he’s going to have to get rid of some of these nervous tics if he ever wants to bluff for his clients.
“You don’t suppose she’s pregnant do you?” He mused.
“No.”
“She might be, you know.”
“Couldn’t be.”
“Would explain the sickness. And I did see her looking pretty stressed today.”
“No… doesn’t bear thinking about.”
“It could be really bad for her. Maybe she doesn’t even know whether it belongs to Fancies Himself or The Boss.”
“Wouldn’t be good.”
“I’d say.”


And then…I’m afraid I couldn’t resist,
“Old Smoothie was the one who mentioned the Boss and BusyBody. He always knows what’s going on.”

Just enough, I hope, to set TopFirst on the path to asking OldSmoothie whether BusyBody is pregnant by a barrister in Chambers. Not just because he is that barrister.

But also because he is on the tenancy committee.

14.3.07

Day 114 (week 24): Romford

Went to court in Romford today with a junior member of Chambers who I will call YoungSmoothie or YoungS for short. It’s not that he’s the son of OldSmoothie but he may as well be. Charm personified although to the extent of being slightly oily. Maybe it’s just something you grow into. Very nice walk through Romford market in which one guy had a rant at YoungS about “coming here in your whistle” which I have to admit meant nothing to me though YoungS explained later somewhat pompously that it was “cockney rhyming slang for whistle and flute, suit”. Anyway, it didn’t feel like the safest place for two barristers dressed for court.

As for the case itself, YoungS was representing an injured man (let’s call him Unlucky) who was claiming some £60,000 in damages for a broken arm caused by tripping over a pothole in a pavement. The other side had offered £15,000 to settle in the past which YoungS had strongly advised rejecting. We eventually recovered only £10,000. After the hearing, the client asked YoungS how much of this money he would see. YoungS explained to him that since he decided not to accept the £15,000 offer several months ago, the other side would not be paying his own legal costs and so they were his responsibility. He was therefore saddled with a bill for £9,500 (including £2,500 for YoungS for the day) which left him with just £500 of his own damages. This was despite the fact he had a “no-win no-fee” agreement and for all practical purposes we had lost today.

“But you advised me not to take the £15,000. Why do I still have to pay your fees?”

“Because I also advised you that ultimately it was your decision and if you didn’t take the offer, there would be some risk and potentially even costs consequences if you didn’t accept. These are those costs consequences. Sorry.”

Given that on anyone’s version he’d had a nasty injury, it seemed, to say the least, pretty unfair that he should end up with only five per cent of his damages after he’d followed his own lawyer’s advice. This was particularly so when that advice turned out to be wrong and the lawyer still got his full fees. As Unlucky left the court, YoungS whispered in a voice loud enough for those around to hear,

“Lawyers one. Clients nil.”

12.3.07

Day 113 (week 24): Prisoner’s dilemma

Top First telephoned me over the weekend. Said he wanted to talk about pupillage. To keep the upper hand, I said I wasn’t around but could meet on Monday. Today we therefore had lunch on Chancery Lane and he immediately started setting out his thoughts. As far as tenancy chances, he figures that Worrier and BusyBody are both dead in the water and that it’s a straight fight between him and I. No prizes for that one Mr Brainbox. He then started waffling on about some "prisoner’s dilemma". Apparently it’s shows "the benefits of co-operation". I have to admit that beyond that he had pretty much lost me although I think I got the gist of his over-analytical thought process. Basically, he was suggesting a truce. That if we help each other for the rest of pupillage there's a pretty good chance that Chambers might take the two of us. But if we fight there's the risk that we both end up fatally damaged. Naturally, I agreed with this and told him that I was relieved that he had come up with such a sensible solution. He could count on my help and support whenever he needed it. This seemed to satisfy him and he went off in rather a cheery mood.

Which was all very peculiar. It must be painful to live in a mind where everything has to be analysed down into facts, figures and over-arching theories. Perhaps it’s something about lawyers and the legal machine that takes away the essence of something and then gives the remains a label. A divorce case, for example, might be a study in human weakness or the fragility of the spirit. Yet lawyers boil it down to "dividing the assets". A fatal accident is a story of loss, grief, pain, yet it becomes an issue of "pricing the damage". Even a fight in a bar might reflect anger, frustration or jealousy and yet all the lawyers can see is whether there was an "assault" or whether it was "self-defence". With surprising creativity they manage to suck the soul from even the most colourful or tragic circumstance in order to fit it into their artificial constructions. Whatever it is about lawyers, what I know for sure is that TopFirst will make a good one.

As for his prisoner’s dilemma, I’ve since looked it up online. It seems it’s about two prisoners deciding whether to co-operate (in which case they both get six months in jail) or to betray each other (in which case they both get two years). So far, so good. But what TopFirst didn’t explain was that the theory goes on to say that if one prisoner co-operates but the other goes behind his back and betrays him, the sneaky sneak gets off scot free whilst the betrayed gets ten years in the clink. Either, he’s trying to pull a fast one or, despite his intelligence, he’s more naive and foolish than even I give him credit for.

Either way, there will be no co-operation.

10.3.07

Day 112 (week 23): Dr4Hire

Even in the most honourable of professions, there is the occasional bad egg. Today I experienced this in relation to an orthopaedic surgeon who I shall call Dr4Hire, a professional expert witness if ever there was one. He boasts on his CV that he completes over 1,500 reports each year. At over £600 a pop, that means he’s bringing home almost £1million a year for his medico-legal work alone and that’s on top of his two days a week NHS practice. Each piece of work consists of a ten minute ‘examination’ followed by a copy and paste job of previous reports and a prognosis in 90% of cases in the following terms:

“The Claimant has suffered from a whiplash injury to her cervical spine. It is now three months from the accident. I would expect the injury to settle within the next nine months. If it has not done so by then I would be happy to re-examine.”

The reality is that almost all of these cases settle early on and Dr4Hire gets his fat fee. Occasionally, a case is slightly bigger and takes a little longer. Today the Boss was having a case conference with Dr4Hire about one such case. The issue arose from the fact that the Claimant had had another accident only two weeks after the one in question. The other side are claiming that the Claimant’s inability to work after those two weeks was due to the second accident. Dr4Hire hadn’t yet commented on this. If the other side are right, the claim is worth £2,000 at most. If not, it’s worth over £250,000. Here’s how parts of the conference went:

“Well Dr4Hire, you’ve looked at the evidence, what is your view as to the effect of the second accident.”
“Well obviously, I think it is irrelevant. Made no difference at all.”
“How do you answer the other side’s point that the Claimant was able to work after the first accident?”
“Well…what do you want me to say here?”
“We’ve worked together many times, Dr4Hire. You know that I can’t tell you what to say. However, he did soldier on despite the pain and was about to give up work at the time of the second accident. I suppose you might want to comment on that.”
“Yes, that’s a good idea. I suppose I might. In fact, I think that the fact that he soldiered on shows what an honest and reliable witness he is.”
“Quite so, Dr4Hire. Quite so.”
“Glad you like it. Would you like me to put that into a report?”
“Certainly. Although you also might want to consider the fact that he visited his GP after the first accident and that he was taking serious amounts of painkillers.”
“Indeed. Yes. Quite so.”

“Now. Turning to the next issue, Dr4Hire. Why didn’t you mention the second accident in your medical report?”
“Because I didn’t want to damage our case.”
“Yes…I understand. Now, let’s see if that can perhaps be phrased more…how shall I put it…independently. Might it be that you considered it such a minor accident as to be irrelevant?”
“Yes, that might very well be. Quite.”


Quite so, indeed. And so it went on. Extraordinary that both the Boss and Dr4Hire will then trot off to court holding themselves out as independent experts in their own fields. Experts? Yes. But only at looking after themselves and making easy money.

Independent? I think not.

8.3.07

Day 111 (week 23): Creep

I learned today the extremes of seriousness with which a barrister can take both himself and the simplest case imaginable. Off to court with a junior member of Chambers who I shall call Creep. Despite the fact that he has only been a barrister for three years he carries himself as if he is a member of the House of Lords. I’ve heard him around Chambers approaching QCs and asking them their thoughts on the latest ruling on a particular aspect of public policy. As if everyone goes round reading the law reports each day. He’ll amble up and mention a quote from a dissenting judgment as if it’s an in-joke, chuckle to himself and stand there fawning to whoever he is targeting that day. He’s desperate to be picked as a junior by one of these big beasts, to get a plum case where he can beaver away in the library and spend several months creeping up to the same person. What he doesn’t appear to realise is that he’s treated as a joke around chambers. No-one wants someone so irritating to be hanging around them everyday and so no junior brief for him. Worse, the clerks can’t stand his jumped up airs and graces and go out of their way to put him in his place with tiny cases in grotty, far-flung courts.

Today, we were in Swindon on a case management conference for a personal injury matter worth all of around £3,000. However, you’d never have guessed it if you overheard him speaking to his solicitor.
“I’ve been perusing the papers and my opinion is that there are a number of important issues which this case raises…”

No there aren’t. The Claimant has offered £3,500. The Defendant £2,500. The case will settle for £3,000. Nevertheless, Creep spent a full half an hour introducing the case to the District Judge despite the fact he didn’t even have an opponent. Eventually he was interrupted with,
“I’m sorry Mr Creep, but correct me if I’m wrong. All we have to do today, is set a trial date?”
“Well, technically Sir that is correct. However…”
“However, Mr Creep, this hearing was listed for five minutes and it has already gone on thirty. Are you ready for trial?”
“Yes, Sir.”
“Good. List for the first open date after 1st April. Costs in the case. Good morning Mr Creep.”

7.3.07

Day 110 (week 23): Greed is good

An anonymous reader left a comment yesterday asking “at what cost” for a tenancy, presumably referring to the cost to our souls. Don’t let’s con ourselves here. Lawyers sell their souls the moment they start billing by the hour. Admittedly, they’re not cheap. But don’t get taken in by any high-minded justifications such as pursuing an honourable profession or seeking justice. They do it for the money. Cold hard stinking cash. Their time…is money. Literally. As faustian a pact as you’ll find and if they hadn’t got that, they’d have never survived a law degree when they could have been reading English literature, media studies (whatever that is) or anything other than dry, turgid irrelevant law reports. Artists, actors, sportsmen. Many might be more paid than lawyers. But I’m prepared to accept that most are not doing that for the money. Lawyers, never! Would they even get out of bed without the promise of it. Never. Never. Never.

But ah, you might say. What about those poor junior barristers at the criminal bar? Surely they don’t do it for the money? Of course they do. Maybe not the money now but it goes back to the arrogance thing. They all believe they’ll be the ones bringing in the serious wedge in years to come. It just takes longer to get there in some areas than others. It’s all greed. So, no more comments with any such high-minded nonsense. Instead, let’s try something novel in the legal profession and start being honest not only with ourselves but also with each other for once.

As for Chambers today, Teflon was looking rather tired. According to TopFirst, the pizza delivery company woke him up in the early hours of the last two mornings. Silly them. I hope he enjoyed his hawaiian on Monday and his margharita on Tuesday. Better is the fact that I sent him an email yesterday under a false identity pretending to be a member of the public dangling a big personal injury case in front of him. I sought his preliminary advice on the merits of my case before approaching a solicitor. All I needed was a few lines telling me if I had a case or not. If he thought I did, then obviously the case would be his down the line. Maybe it was because he was tired or maybe simply his stupidity coming out again but he fell for it hook line and sinker with the following reply:

“Dear Jane, Thank you very much for your email. Whilst strictly I am not meant to advise you directly without a solicitor, I have read what you have to say and can certainly tell you that you have a good case.”

Too right he’s not allowed to advise without a solicitor. But greed can be good and it can be bad and for Teflon today, it sunk him. I forwarded his email to the Bar Standards Board with the subject heading “Professional Conduct Complaint.”

Some might say, “Case closed.”

6.3.07

Day 109 (week 23): Free fall

TopFirst came round to gloat today. Wanted to know what it was like “spending time in jail”. “Must have been really cool”. Once again, I only hope that he gets up other people’s noses as much as my own. As I’ve seen before, he has a tendency to jump the gun when there is the smell of blood in the air. That he becomes a gossip when it can damage a fellow pupil is not in the least unusual. That he becomes breathless with the exhilaration is fatal. Vanity. Hubris, even. Enough for me to be getting on with. But it will need planning and ultimately a little luck.

In the meantime, Worrier’s been taking her life-coach’s advice a little too seriously. She now sees her “little difficulties” (accusing the Head of Chambers of being sexist) as an “opportunity to show her character” by “turning the situation on its head”. She’s certainly losing her head. Sounding more and more each day like a member of a cult. “Pupillage is great”. “I love the way they challenge our patience.” Is she mad? We’ve spent years preparing for this time and all we are tested on is our coffee-making skills for a bunch of arrogant barristers and their slightly less arrogant solicitor mates and she says it’s “a wonderful, life-enhancing experience”. It’s doing a number of things to me and my head, but enhancing is not one of those. Maybe it’s just the time of year getting to me. Maybe I’m just getting nervous about starting in court but today I have to admit that I’ve begun to question the point of this whole pupillage exercise. Pretty much every other job in the world can be interviewed for over a period of days or weeks. Not so, the Bar. Why do they think they’re so special that they can spend a whole year mistreating you whilst at the same time only giving you a one in four chance of taking you on? Bear baiting. Cockfighting. All sports which have been banned on the basis of cruelty. Yet they leave pupils to fight it out, Death Match style. A free for all that most will lose.

Except that I realise they only get away with it because of our own arrogance. No pupil believes underneath that they will not be taken on. Otherwise, no pupil would subject themselves to such ritual and protracted humiliation. Maybe it’s a ruthlessly efficient way of working out who will make it at the Bar. After all, for all it’s airs and graces, the courtroom is no more than a low down dirty free for all just like pupillage. Survival of the fittest. Yet whilst they all believe they can win, only some of us will be right in that assessment. Others, will lose their minds along the way.

Worrier, I fear, lost hers several weeks ago and is now in free fall.

Day 108 (week 23): Laughing stock

I was wrong about Teflon. He is stupider than I thought. Not only did he not keep quiet about the fact that I was sent to jail on Friday. He has deemed it fit to broadcast it to Chambers in a mass email entitled “Pupillage just got tougher” in which he has taken the picture of me on the Chambers’ website and added a wig along with a black and white striped jailbird top and some fake prison bars. Cheap courtroom big lie tactic. If he hits me hard enough some of it will stick and any suggestion that fault lies elsewhere will fall on deaf ears. By now, he’ll have deleted the records on his phone and without getting full discovery from his mobile company (no chance), there will be no way for me to prove it was him. So I’m left just to grin and bear it and hope the embarrassing episode passes by as quickly as possible. Needless to say it has led to many an amused look from members of Chambers. Worst of all is the fact that I am the laughing stock of the library community of pupil skivers who have been rattling their keys whenever I pass by their table. Very funny, I must say.

The Head Clerk called me in this afternoon and told me not to worry. He’d once had to bail out one of his barristers from a local police station after a long and very boozy lunch which had ended in the barrister standing on the steps of the High Court in full court dress and suggesting an end to judicial tyranny and a call to revolution. Okay, so they’ve got some perspective on the matter. Nevertheless, Teflon has damaged my chances of tenancy and he will pay. I haven’t told anyone that he dropped me in it. That way, when I strike, no-one will suspect other than (possibly) him who will of course be unable to point the finger without at the same time incriminating himself. So far, I have set up hotmail and yahoo accounts in his name. I also have his home phone number, home address, date of birth and obviously his work address. Enough to be getting on with.

Identity fraud is so very easy.

3.3.07

Day 107 (week 22): Porridge

Well today I am reporting something that I thought I’d never say. A judge sent me to jail. Only for one hour, but nevertheless… All happened when I was accompanying a junior member of Chambers to Maidstone County Court who I shall call Teflon. This is a Combined Court Centre and so you have both the civil and criminal courts all in one. More particularly, there are cells in loco. The District Judge at our hearing was very clearly old school and also in a bad mood. No doubt about it. Furthermore, Teflon was getting the brunt of that mood. Anyway, halfway through the morning a mobile phone went off and Teflon immediately turned to me and glared, after which the whole courtroom did the same. I reacted by checking my mobile phone, realising it had not been me and putting it back in my pocket. However, whilst everyone was looking at me, I very clearly saw Teflon quickly take his mobile from his pocket and switch it off. All well and good. Were it not for the fact that the Judge continued staring at me.
“Do you not know the rule against the use of mobile phones in this court?”
“Yes,” I answered. “But…”
“But nothing, young man. It only makes it worse that you were aware of the rule.”
“But, it…”
“Young man, do not interrupt me when I am speaking. You are only making matters worse for yourself. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, Sir.”
“You are presumably also aware about how I deal with such an offence to the dignity of this court?”
“No sir.”
“Well you are about to find out. Please stand up.”
I stood.
“Young man, I hereby find you guilty of contempt of court and sentence you to one hour in the cell during which time you are to reflect on your lack of respect for the office of this court.”

He then telephoned for a security guard who immediately came to collect me and led me down to the cells, smirking as he did so. I wanted to shout out, “It wasn’t me” or as many clients call it, after the song, “Taking the Shaggy”. However, I was so utterly stunned by the speed of events and the scale of the escalation that I was silenced. I looked over to Teflon (hence the name) but he was staring at his notes. “Save the Maidstone One” I also wanted to shout. But again, nothing. Not even anything half witty. Do not pass go, do not collect £200. And then I was doing porridge. Time inside. No longer a free man. Not that I saw any evidence of oatmeal or gruel. I was put in a holding cell during which time I was able to catch up on the latest from Philip Schofield and Fern Britton on ‘This Morning’.

I was collected by the security guard an hour later and led back to court and put behind Teflon. On the way, the guard told me that the Judge had done this a few times. That I wasn’t to worry. Just “one of his foibles”. Some foible! When I arrived back, the Judge made no further remarks. Worst of all, I never even got an apology from Teflon on the way back to Chambers. Seems he’d decided to brave it out, figuring that I would decide that it wasn’t in my interests around Chambers to tell tales or to make any challenge to the judge’s ruling. “Strange thing for the Judge to do…funny little incident…” was all that he said about it, before changing the subject. Well and truly stitched up. Teflon is foolish. What he forgets is quite how easy it is to cause trouble for barristers even if I decide to let this one lie.

My real worry is whether I might be under an obligation to report this to the Bar Standards Board as we have to tell them of pretty much all crimes other than traffic offences. For the moment, I figure the quid pro quo is that Teflon will also be wanting to keep it under his non-stick wig in case I am forced to defend myself at his expense. I have therefore decided it’s better for me simply not to ask the Bar Standards Board than to risk what I might be told.

1.3.07

Day 106 (week 22): Instincts

Spent some time with the Boss today. He’s been asked to write a summary of his case in the complaint against him in front of the Bar Standards Board. Hmm. The question in effect boiled down to, “What do you have to say which can possibly mitigate your amending Chambers’ records and fraudulently deceiving your solicitors that it was them and not you who had missed the limitation deadline for issuing a case”. And the answer…“Not a lot.” Poor Boss. At least he’s now made the decision to plead guilty and aim for reducing his sentence. He’s almost certain to get suspended for at least a year and maybe even permanently. It depends what he comes up with. My guess is that he’ll go for stress brought on by a wicked wife who had driven him into the arms of one of his instructing solicitors. The pressure was all just too much. Yeh, right. Let’s just hope there isn’t a woman sitting on the tribunal, for his sake.

He will also almost certainly get kicked out of Chambers. In fact, it’s surprising that he hasn’t been already and there’s definitely an element of blood being thicker than water running through the place. “One of us” and all that. Anyway, if he keeps his sentence down, he’ll still walk into a lesser Chambers. There are plenty of places at the moment that are desperate for barristers prepared to pay the rent. He’s also likely to get the work back. Solicitors are rarely aware of any barristers’ professional misconduct history. He’s even started to perk up on occasions and has mentioned that he might try and get his divorce settled during any period of suspension at which point he will be penniless and therefore any settlement will be very much less than if he were still in Chambers. Yes, so insane that he’s already got an angle to profit from his own misfortune. Of course.

Meanwhile, Battleaxe, his sturdy instructing solicitor and erstwhile mistress has remained faithful both in her affection and, luckily for the Boss, in the work that she continues to provide. In fact, such is the disdain of the clerks for the Boss at the moment that she is almost his only source of work. This means that he’s more often than not in late and leaving early which is just perfect if you’re his pupil apart from the mood swings that come with it.

In the meantime, this week, TopFirst’s been trying to chummie up. The only reason I can think of is that like me he’s realised that the other two are history and it’s a straight fight between the two of us. Plus, maybe he figures that in a showdown, he’s not going to be second to draw. Not that I think he realises any of my role in the downfall of the other two. But “instinct can be a powerful thing” as Old Ruin has often drummed into me. “Follow your instinct, BabyB. It’s worth a hundred times more than the limited amount of evidence which ever makes it into a court room.”

I do like OldRuin.