Honour among er, barristers

With wars, terrorism, government cuts and warnings of imminent economic collapse, there’s at least one constant in this fragile world: that lawyers will always be arguing about their costs. Not just arguing but passionately putting forward their cases in a way rarely seen when their own cash isn’t involved.

Greed for lawyers is certainly good, particularly where they’ve perfected the modern form of alchemy by magically turning two human hours into six billable hours with the help of some new and sophisticated billing software designed with only one thing in mind: to stick it to the client.

But today, even this little bit of certainty in the world crumbled to nothing. You see, I was up against quite an old-fashioned barrister from another chambers and we’d argued tooth and nail about the outrageous sums being claimed by my solicitor SlipperySlope and his team of paralegals. The irony is that neither of us actually knows what goes on in a solicitors’ firm and so for all our jumping up and down in outrage and indignation respectively, we didn’t really have anything serious to offer. Just how Slippery likes it, he tells me.

But then we moved on to my own fee, which I’ll admit was ridiculously high for the type of case we were doing. Now this was something my opponent was utterly qualified to be questioning. The judge turned to him and said, ‘What do you have to say about MrBabyBarista’s er, generous fee?’ raising an eyebrow as he said this.

My opponent looked over to me and then directly at the judge and said simply, ‘Your Honour, in all my years at the Bar I have prided myself in never yet having questioned the reasonableness of the fee of a fellow member of the Bar. Quite ungentlemanly in my view.’

The judge at first looked surprised and then beamed a huge smile. ‘Quite right too. I always found it a terrible bore when people tried to chip away at my fees when I was practising. It’s hard enough for barristers these days without trying to do each other down at every opportunity. I’m heartened to see that such an enlightened approach being taken.’

I was heartened too although I doubt very much that his privately paying client will feel the same way when he receives the final order in the post.

BabyBarista is a fictional account of a junior barrister practising at the English Bar, written by barrister and writer Tim Kevan. For more information and to read posts from the last few years visit babybarista.com. Cartoons by Alex Williams, author of 101 Ways to Leave the Law.

September 9, 2014 · Tim Kevan · Comments Closed
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