Keep the client in his place

One of the pupils arrived back into chambers today almost in tears. Apparently the client turned on him after the case and complained that he didn’t run it as he’d told him to. “I just don’t know what I did wrong,” he complained.

“Let me guess,” said OldSmoothie. “You asked him about his family?”


“And enquired politely about his job?”


“And probably got him a coffee from the vending machine?”


“Followed by taking him out for lunch in the break?”

“Er, yes.”

“And you’re seriously wondering what you did wrong? Isn’t it obvious?”

“No.” The pupil looked both lost and forlorn.

“You committed the cardinal sin of client handling. You were too nice to him. Plain and simple. The first rule of client handling is never ever try and make friends with them. Causes all sorts of trouble.”


“It pierces the little bubble of mystique that we all try so hard to maintain with our fancy wigs and gowns and the like. Never let them realise you’re just a normal insecure human being who just wants to be liked. That’d never do since if they think you’re just like them they’ll resent the fact that you’re probably ten times more than their own paltry rate. So, rule number two is to remain aloof.”


“The other problem with your sweet little touchy-feely routine is that it signals to the client that they’re in charge. Terrible idea. I mean, imagine a patient trying to tell a brain surgeon how they should go about the operation.Obviously, that would never happen and the same should apply to your own cases. There’s nothing worse than seeing a client poking his barrister or solicitor in the back and trying to whisper instructions whilst they’re on their feet. Which explains the final rule: keep your client in his place.”

“You know, the irony of it all is that we won,” said the pupil. “I really can’t believe how ungrateful he was.”

“It’s always the same,” said OldSmoothie. “When you win, clients always think it’s down to them. It’s only when you lose and go down fighting their good fight that they’re really grateful.”

BabyBarista is a fictional account of a junior barrister written by Tim Kevan whose new novel is Law and Peace. For more information and to read past posts visit Cartoons by Alex Williams, author of 101 Ways to Leave the Law.

October 1, 2013 · Tim Kevan · Comments Closed
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