Clothes make the man

‘I assume that you don’t intend to go to court like that BabyBarista?’ It was HeadofChambers.

‘Er, yes, that’s exactly what I’m about to do. Is there something wrong?’

‘Is there something wrong? Hmm, where to start?’ He took a deep breath and went on, ‘BabyBarista, I had the benefit of having been born looking like a barrister…’ You couldn’t be more right there, I thought. He then waved his hand theatrically and continued, ‘…but you on the other hand didn’t.’ He gave me one of his particularly patronising smiles before continuing, ‘However, fortunately for you, I intend to help.’

‘Hmm, help in dressing me up like like a pompous old fool stuck in the nineteenth century when believe it or not court hearings are now being tweeted and even the Tory Prime Minister knows what Converse trainers are…’ is what I’d have liked to have said. Instead I simply replied, ‘Oh.’

‘Yes, I’ve already talked to you about getting rid of that rucksack of yours and investing in a leather pilot bag. Clients will never respect a man with a rucksack.’

‘Oh.’

‘Then I see that recently you’ve taken to wearing shirts without double cuffs.’
‘It avoids the need for cufflinks,’ I replied.

‘That may be so but no opponent is ever going to take you seriously with cheap cuffs.’

‘Oh.’

‘And as for your slip on shoes and off the peg suit…’ He was at this point literally lost for words.

‘BabyBarista if you’re not careful, you’ll have fallen so low that people will…’ he hesitated as if he was going to deliver a terrible blow for which somehow I needed to be braced, ‘…people will think…’ another hesitation and then he spat out the words with an expression I imagine he has when he’s just sipped a wine which has gone off, ‘…people will think BabyBarista that you’re a solicitor.’

‘What was it Mark Twain said?’ smiled OldRuin. ‘Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.’

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 16, 2014 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Uncategorized

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 · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Uncategorized

Car crash barrister

There’s a young barrister who’s fast becoming notorious around the Temple as the worst barrister ever. His pleadings are embarrassing and his performances in court have the same rubber-necking attraction as a terrible car crash playing itself out in slow motion. Today, TheBusker had the pleasure of being against him and he was telling the story in chambers tea afterwards.

First off, the particulars of claim had been so badly drafted that his defence merely said: ‘The claim is insufficiently pleaded and inadequately drafted and for these reasons the defendant simply denies the claim in its entirety. In addition, the defendant mentions out of courtesy both to the claimant and the court that the document contains the following spelling and grammatical mistakes…’ There then followed a list of over thirty such errors.

At court, the young barrister has a complete inability to ask questions of his own witnesses without at the same time trying to lead them into the answers he would like. When he started off, TheBusker held up a placard which read: ‘If you want to lead, I would like to cross-examine you.’ This completely flustered the barrister. So much so that eventually the judge asked to see the placard. When it was shown to him he smiled and commented, ‘A very fair point MrBusker.’

As TheBusker told the story, TheVamp chuckled and said, ‘He reminds me of one of those yellow signs the police put out after a crime has occurred which asks for witnesses. I once saw a blank one sitting on a pavement at Cambridge Circus. As if the area was so notoriously bad that the sign represented a crime waiting to happen.’

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 2, 2014 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Uncategorized

Dirty barristers

UpTights had her annual wig-fitting yesterday. Given that she’s now spent many thousands of pounds on the little horse hair numbers, she even gets a personal visit to chambers. As usual she was talking about it at chambers tea afterwards.

‘It’s so good to throw out the old,’ she said.

‘What do you do with it?’ asked BusyBody.

‘I cut it up and then feed it through the shredder,’ she replied nonchalantly before adding, ‘and then I burn it in my back garden.’

‘You what? The shredder? Burning? As if somehow it might hold the secrets of your sordid little life within its tight knit curls?’ said OldSmoothie.

‘Oh do shut up. It’s basic hygeine, that’s all.’

‘Well, I never even clean my wig,’ said TheBusker. ‘I’m afraid I wouldn’t even know where to get it done.’

People looked around the room as if to find out whether it was okay to admit that they too failed such basic standards of hygiene.

‘I think most people take great pride in the fact that their wigs get a little dirty. It’s a mark of experience,’ said HeadofChambers.

‘A little dirt’s one thing,’ said UpTights. ‘But if you wear that wig five hours a day, two or three days a week for most of the year it’s going to get pretty sweaty to say the least. Particularly given the lack of air conditioning in the summer.’

‘It is perhaps a little ironic that wigs were supposedly introduced for cleanliness reasons,’ said TheCreep. ‘You know, to keep away the nits and their like.’

‘Well, I still wear the wig that belonged both to my father and to his father before him,’ said OldRuin, ‘and I have to admit that I’ve never cleaned it once. As to whether it received any particular treatment back in the day, I’ll never know although I doubt it very much.’

‘Perhaps that’s why barristers never shake hands,’ said BusyBody. ‘I mean, once they’ve spent time adjusting their wigs, well, you can understand.’

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.

August 26, 2014 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Uncategorized

Body language

BusyBody was busier than ever today and her hair consequently just that little bit more curly. ‘My life coach has given me a new way of winning my cases,’ she said slightly breathlessly.

‘Like passing them to someone else, maybe?’ suggested OldSmoothie.

‘That’s a bit rich coming from the man who’s made a living out of going down in flames for his clients,’ she replied.

‘So what’s the new tactic?’ asked TheBusker.

‘It’s all about body language,’ she said.

‘A big subject then in your own case,’ saidOldSmoothie.

She ignored him and went on, ‘Yes, he says that if I mirror what the judge is doing it’ll make him warm to whatever I’m saying.’

‘What, copying how he’s sitting?’ asked TheCreep sounding very interested.

‘Exactly. He also said that when the other side are making a killer point that it was better to sit with your shoulders completely open as if you don’t have a care in the world. That and occasionally clasping your hands together as an indication of confidence.’

‘Did he also say that you shouldn’t cross your arms?’ asked TheVamp.

‘He did actually. Said it looked defensive. He also told me never to cross my legs.’

OldSmoothie looked like he was going to make a comment but clearly even he thought better of it.

‘So,’ said TheVamp smiling, ‘if you’re going to be copying the average judge…’

‘Is there any other?’ chortled HeadofChambers exhibiting the big chip he has on his shoulder about never having been made a judge.

‘…then,’ continued TheVamp, ‘that’ll mean picking your nose, yawning loudly and putting your head in your hands I guess.’

‘In between occasional snores,’ added TheBusker.

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.

August 19, 2014 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Uncategorized

Chinese walls and palm tree justice

BusyBody was talking about her case at chambers tea yesterday which involves a student appealing a decision by his college to expel him. ‘It was a complete kangaroo court,’ she said.

‘I’ve always loved the image that conjures up,’ said TheVamp. ‘You know, a huge kangaroo of a judge and all the little joeys coming up before him and with none of them able to sit still for a second. All bouncing up and down on the spot trying to make their submissions.’

‘It’d make it quite hard to keep their wigs on,’ said TheBusker.

‘It’s Chinese walls which make me chuckle,’ said UpTights. ‘I just imagine a huge wall of takeaway boxes separating two halves of an office.’

‘Palm tree justice has always done it for me,’ said TheBusker. ‘Makes my mind wander to hotter climes than this.’

‘I always liked the idea of lawyers going on fishing expeditions,’ said OldRuin.

‘Always brightened up even the most dreary day in court.’

‘As for skeleton arguments,’ said OldSmoothie. ‘They make me think of two skeletons stepping out of a closet, squaring up to each other and then one of them saying “I’ve got a bone to pick with you”.’

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.

August 12, 2014 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Uncategorized

Learned usher

I was against TheCreep today and as always he was going his best to slime up to the judge.

‘Your honour, as I have already indicated to your learned usher, this case is likely to last half a day.’

The judge stopped TheCreep there. ‘Alfred,’ she said looking down from the bench to the older gentleman sitting in front of her. ‘Did you hear that?’

Alfred smiled as if he could guess what was about to come.

‘This young man tells me you’re learned.’

‘TheCreep, thinking he had gone too far and that the judge was about to criticise him, then said, ‘Er, I’m sorry, Your Honour. It was a slip of the tongue, what I meant…’

As soon as the words left his mouth it was clear to us all that this had been the wrong thing to say. The words hung in the air and were then followed by a silence as the judge looked down at TheCreep as if measuring up exactly how she was going to hurt him. Then she said very slowly, ‘MrCreep, one minute you were suggesting that Alfred here was learned. Now you appear to be suggesting that he is not. Which is it to be?’

‘Er, er…’ TheCreep was lost.

‘Well, come on then,’ pushed the judge.

‘Er, well, I…’

‘MrCreep, even for someone as keen as yourself on the art of brown-nosing, you are particularly ill-equipped at ingratiating yourself through simple charm. For your information, Alfred has a law degree and is extremely learned and from now on I decree that everyone will address him as ‘The very learned usher Alfred. Do you understand?’

‘Yes,’ said TheCreep looking shame-faced.

‘Now, I suggest you get on with introducing your case.’

‘TheCreep then stood up and said, ‘Your Honour, this is an all or nothing case.’

TheJudge then whispered under her breath at a level which we could all hear, ‘Or for you MrCreep, nothing.’

Which not surprisingly, turned out to be true.

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.

August 5, 2014 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Uncategorized

An academic point

‘Penny for your thoughts?’ It was one of the pupils addressing OldSmoothie in the clerks’ room this morning.

‘You’d need a lot of pennies to be able to afford the benefit of my thoughts,’ he replied.

‘I would have said it was one penny too much myself,’ said UpTights.

‘Anyway, how can I help?’ said OldSmoothie.

‘I’m getting stuck on an advice on an area of law which has been covered by so many academic articles that I don’t know which ones to include.’

‘Young man, we are paid a premium in this job to give advice. Plain and simple. Not to quote dissenting judgments or the rambling thoughts of some Oxford don. Tell your client what the law is and what should be done. The rest, literally, is academic.’

‘I once had a pupilmaster whose advice always amounted to which way he felt in his stomach the court of appeal would go on a particular issue,’ said OldRuin.

‘Made him a lot of money, that stomach.’

‘Shame OldSmoothie can’t bill according to the size of his stomach,’ said BusyBody. ‘He’d be a very rich man indeed by now.’

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.

August 5, 2014 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Uncategorized

Big wigs, law suits and custard

“My client today was quite a bigwig in the music industry by all accounts,” said BusyBody at chambers tea.

“I love the idea of bigwigs,” said TheBusker. “I’ve always imagined these very important people walking around with huge over-sized barrister wigs on their heads which reach down as far as their ankles. Just kind of shuffling along and doing important things.”

“When I hear on the TV that someone’s fighting a lawsuit, it always makes me think of them going a few rounds in a boxing ring with a ghostly type of empty suit. Just punching into thin air,” said BusyBody.

“Which doesn’t sound too far from the truth,” said TheCreep.

“As a personal injury lawyer, when someone mentions that something will cost an arm and a leg, I can’t help working out exactly how much that it is,” said Teflon.

“I’ve always thought the idea of legal practice to be particularly apposite, said OldSmoothie before adding, though I’ve never quite worked out when the practice is supposed to end and the real work meant to start.”

“It’s the word custody which does it for me,” said TheVamp. “Whenever I hear someone getting so many years I can’t help visualising them being sentenced to spending it standing up in a big bowl of custard.”

“Your Honour, I would ask that the court be lenient,” mimicked TheBusker, “and grant that the ice-cold custard be warmed a little and that perhaps it reach only as far as the knees.”

“And of course, the sole item on the menu in the land of custardy would be large servings of humble pie,” said OldRuin.

‘Naturally,’ said TheBusker.

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.

July 29, 2014 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Uncategorized

Pupil pretensions

“You gotta love it,” said TheBusker. “Pupils and their little airs and graces. It’s almost as if the less important the barrister the more pompous they can be.”

“That’s certainly the case for OldSmoothie,” said BusyBody.

“So what have they been up to today?” asked TheVamp.

“I overheard one chastising another for not tying the pink ribbon around his brief in the correct way,” said TheBusker.

“I didn’t even know there was a correct way,” said TheCreep looking a little concerned that he might have missed such an important detail.

“Ah, you under-estimate the creativity which exists in the world of pupil paranoia,” said TheVamp.

“Anyway, the pupil was pretty much telling her friend that if she didn’t tie her briefs up properly she’d end up playing for Accrington Stanley,” said The Busker.

“I can think of a few chambers that match that description,” said BusyBody.

“All in a manner which suggested that she was passing on some huge state secret,” said TheBusker.

“I particularly like the start of April when the pupils are finally set free on their unsuspecting clients,” said TheVamp. “Finally they have their own cases tied in its own pink ribbon and you spot them ostentatiously tying up their papers on the tube.”

“And leaving the ribbon hanging out of their pockets when they go down the pub,” said BusyBody.

“As if this somehow screams ‘Look at me, I’m a barrister, don’t you know. A real0life, living, breathing barrister,'” said TheVamp.

“When no-one other than fellow barristers would even realise what it was,” added BusyBody.

“It’s funny. They walk around for that first month deluding themselves that they’re like some kind of legal rock star,” said TheVamp.

“Until they start to realise that the small car cases they’re doing in the likes of Slough and Harlow are never going to be practice for prosecuting war criminals in The Hague,” said OldSmoothie, “but are only ever going to lead to slightly bigger car cases in the same courts.”

“Oh, I think that might be to overstate your own career trajectory, wouldn’t you say?” said UpTights.

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.

July 22, 2014 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Uncategorized