Beyond redemption

At chambers tea today BusyBody asked OldSmoothie, ‘Why are you always so rude to UpTights?’

‘Because she’s a calcified witch,’ said he replied without even blinking. ‘Her heart’s turned to stone and whatever soul she had wasn’t able to survive in the bitterness and bile that pumps through her veins.’

‘But you’ve got to admit that you simply enjoy being nasty,’ said TheCreep.

‘Oh do give it up, won’t you,’ said OldSmoothie. ‘You young ones are all the same. So full of wide-eyed hypocrisy that you don’t even realise that you fell off the cliff years ago and there’s no going back now. You can carp all you like but as sure the sun goes up and, in UpTights’ case, down one day in, er…’ he coughed, ‘…twenty years time, you’ll wake up and realise that you’ve turned into us, whether you like it or not.’

Then he looked at TheCreep and gave a cruel smile and pointed at him and said, ‘Although, that’s not to say you’re going to suddenly start growing, in case you’re wondering.’

By now he had an audience and he continued the lecture, ‘You’ve already set your trajectory. You just don’t realise it yet. You won’t until it’s far too late. Just like they used to warn you about the wind changing when you were a child. I mean whatever might be in those oh so earnest little hearts of yours you’re never going to be some sort of UN Goodwill Ambassador or win a Nobel Prize. You’re never going to climb Mount Everest or even simply live by the sea, get a dog and write a novel. So wake up kids and smell the stink of your lost dreams which left town when you signed up for law school and boarded the cop out I-want-to-be-rich train of hypocrisy.’

There was silence.

Immediately after chambers tea I was walking back to our room with OldRuin and he said, ‘Don’t you believe a word of what OldSmoothie says, BabyB. There’s always hope. Right up to the end and never let him tarnish those dreams with that terrible jaded cynicism that reflects only on him.’

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.

April 14, 2015 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
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Addressing the Chair

UpTights has recently set up a marketing committee for chambers and I attended its inaugural meeting yesterday evening. She opened by saying, ‘Now, before we get started I’d like to clarify exactly how I wish to be addressed.’

‘What, like an envelope?’ asked OldSmoothie.

UpTights ignored the remark and continued, ‘I don’t think the name ‘chairman’ would be entirely appropriate.’

‘How about simply ‘The Chair’?’ asked BudyBody.

‘I’m not a piece of furniture,’ said UpTights indignantly.

‘And she doesn’t have four legs either,’ added TheBusker with a smile.

OldSmoothie drew breath as if to add to that comment but then in an unusual show of restraint said, ‘No, I won’t say it. Such an innuendo would be beneath me.’

‘I doubt that that would be possible,’ retorted UpTights. ‘Anyway, I would like to be addressed as ‘Madam Chairwoman’.’

‘For the avoidance of any doubt, naturally,’ said OldSmoothie.

Ever the peacemaker, OldRuin then added, ‘You know, whenever I’m challenged by my use of words like he, him or man, I tell them that they should be construed in the same way as those under section 6(a) of The Interpretation Act 1978 in which words importing the masculine gender include the feminine.’

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.

April 7, 2015 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
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Work is in the air

‘I love the turning back of the clocks, BabyB.’

It was my solicitor SlipperySlope on another visit to chambers with his neice NurserySlope.

‘Why’s that?’ I asked innocently.

‘Oh, you know. Nights drawing in, long cosy evenings in front of the fire.’

‘What nonsense,’ interrupted Nursery. ‘You were telling me just now that you like the smell of icy winter nights on their way because it means more accidents and that means more business.’

‘Well, yes,’ he said. ‘There is that, too.’

Oh.

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.

March 31, 2015 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
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London Counsel

I went to court in Yorkshire today with TheBusker who had managed to get me instructed as his junior. His opponent, who I’ll call Gruff, was an extremely patronising bully who spoke with a broad Yorkshire accent; something which it became clear he intended to wield against TheBusker in court.

He introduced the case with: ‘Your Honour, we are privileged today to be graced with the presence of London counsel. Not just any London counsel, either, Your Honour, for my very learned friend has even written a law book on the subject which lies before you.’

The judge had a twinkle in his eye and smiled back mischievously at Gruff and answered him in an equally broad accent: ‘Yes MrGruff, it is an honour indeed to have such esteemed Counsel in this humble county court.’

‘Some might say, Your Honour,’ continued Gruff, ‘that bringing up such high-powered artillery for a small case such as this is the proverbial sledgehammer to crack a nut. In fact others would say that it might even reflect on the lack of confidence in the defendant solicitors’ own case that they don’t feel able to trust lowly and less-qualified local counsel to conduct the proceedings on their behalf.’

He paused before going on, ‘But all I would say, Your Honour, is that this is a great opportunity for us all to learn a little more about an area of law which those of us who have practised in it for over 25 years have always taken to be led first and foremost by good old decent common sense.’

The judge was very much enjoying the grandstanding and kept giving indiscreet little chuckles in the direction of Gruff. Meanwhile, TheBusker sat through the performance as if he didn’t have a care in the world. After Gruff had sat down, the judge said, ‘Well, MrBusker, that was quite an introduction.’

TheBusker stood up. By way of background, the way he speaks isn’t particularly identifiable by any marked accent although I’ve heard a note of his childhood West Country come out on occasions, particularly after a few glasses of wine, and today it came out in particular force.

‘Your Honour, it is indeed a rare treat to return to the county of my birth. Though when I mention birth without more it would be to understate the suffering that my poor mother went through while being driven several hundred miles after going into labour on the off-chance that one day I might be good enough to play for this great county at cricket, something at which I was a great disappointment to my parents. A county which has not only produced the likes of Fred Truman, Len Hutton and Ray Illingworth but leaders in all fields.

Politicians such as Wilson, Asquith and Wilberforce, explorers such as James Cook and Amy Johnson, artists and writers like David Hockney, Henry Moore, Ted Hughes and Alan Bennett. Indeed your Honour, such is the depth of achievement that it might well be said that the men and women of this great county provide the golden thread through which the whole fabric of our nation has been woven.

Yet there is one great and abiding sadness for all those such as myself who are exiled from the county of their birth. That they are unable to do that which their ancestors have done before them. To breathe the fresh country air, to walk its beautiful dales and swim in its fast-flowing rivers and streams. But above all, Your Honour, to feel the warmth and sincerity of the people of this great county.’

With this TheBusker looked over at Gruff. ‘The only consolation is that on those occasions when we return, we get to experience that same warmth and sincerity in the welcome we receive and it is this above all for which I offer my thanks to MrGruff.’

The judge by this point was positively beaming at TheBusker and this didn’t really stop until the moment that he later delivered judgment in his favour and finished with the words: ‘MrBusker forgot another great aspect of the Yorkshire character which doesn’t seem to have been lost on him and that is a sharp wit and sense of humour. While I can’t comment on his cricketing ability, he does seem to have a great aptitude to hit a sloppy ball exactly where it deserves to go and that’s straight out of the ground.’ With which he stared pointedly at Gruff.

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.

March 24, 2015 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
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Snakes and ladders

We’ve got a new crop of pupils running around chambers at the moment and today they were all standing neatly in a row in chambers tea. OldSmoothie was the first to comment.

‘Look at you. All unformed. Still finding your place in the world. One minute you’ll be buzzing around feeling like a drone and the next you’ll be absolutely full of your own cleverness as you get to help on some big case or other.’

‘Oh but don’t they look so cute,’ whispered TheVamp eyeing up two of the male pupils. ‘All fresh-faced, clean cut and so deliciously corruptible.’ Then, I think without realising, she actually licked her lips.

‘I remember my pupilmaster sat me down on my first day and told me that whilst I might have climbed to the top of whatever ladder it was at university, I was now right back down on the very bottom rung,’ said TheBusker.

‘It’s just the same for barristers who leave to become judges,’ said OldRuin.

‘They get treated like the junior tea boy for at least the first year or two.’

‘That’s all it is really, isn’t it?’ said UpTights looking a little madder than usual.

‘This whole thing. Life. Just one big cruel game of snakes and ladders.’

‘There’s certainly no shortage of snakes,’ said BusyBody looking at OldSmoothie.

‘Yes, and the only ladders you’ve ever got close to are in your tights,’ he replied.

‘Well little pupil boy,’ purred TheVamp into the ear of the nearest of the two she’d been admiring. ‘How would you like a game of snakes and ladders?’

With which he blushed and quickly made his excuses and left.

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.

March 17, 2015 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
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Know your judge

I am against TheBusker this week in a three day personal injury case in which we are arguing both over liability and also the value of the claim. TheBusker is defending the claim and of course if he wins on liability all other arguments fall away. My solicitor had called the case a ‘dead cert’ on liability which is never a good sign. ‘Can’t lose, BabyB. It’s our version against theirs and we’re the ones with the independent witness to trump all.’ Well, I knew better than that when it comes to TheBusker but I was at least determined to foil his usual courtroom tactics.

First off, TheBusker stood up and said, ‘Your Honour, might it be useful for us to decide the issue of liability as a preliminary issue?’ In itself a helpful suggestion you might think, were it not for the sting in the tail, ‘After all, if you’re with us on that, all the other complicated issues fall away.’ The judge nodded approvingly and I was already snookered, unable to object without seeming to be posturing for some tactical advantage in some way.

The next thing that happened took me by complete surprise. By way of background, most baby barristers are in the habit of using toy cars to help witnesses describe the accident and those looking for an angle tend to offer the toy Ferrari to the other side’s witness and a nice, safe, responsible Mercedes or Volvo to their own witness. Meant to work on the judge’s mind and all.

But this time around TheBusker had mentioned beforehand that I might want to watch it with the toy cars. Ever sensitive to his tactics I decided that this was some sort of bluff and so when it came to cross-examination of his witness I made a big song and dance of his witness taking the ‘speedy little number’. As soon as I did so, I was hit with the full force of the judge’s temper.

‘Mr BabyBarista, I am well aware that some members of the junior bar think the judiciary so naive that they can influence them through some sort of subliminal messages to do with the toy cars. However, I think you ought to know that not only do I find that implication offensive to the judicial office itself but I think perhaps it’s only fair to tell you that I myself drive a…’

He gave a theatrical pause before finishing with, you guessed it: ‘…a Ferrari.’

Ouch. TheBusker smiled and raised a sympathetic eyebrow. The trial continues tomorrow.

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.

March 10, 2015 · Tim Kevan · One Comment
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How to win a hopeless case

I’ve often heard TheBusker chuckle about the many ways to win even the most hopeless of cases. ‘Everything’s winnable once you have a real, living and above all fallible judge sitting in front of you. Maybe you’ll start off chatting about the weather or a particular detail relevant only to him such as his mother’s health or son’s prospering career as a solicitor. But even if the usual lines of attack fail, you should always, and I mean always, have a scales of justice speech up your sleeve. Get that right and it’ll never fail.’

Yet despite the speech having entered the realms of legend, I still haven’t yet experienced it first hand. Well, until last week at least when closing speeches were due on the liability issue in the case I was fighting against him. So with this in mind, you’ll understand why a shiver went down my spine when TheBusker stood up and said,
‘Your Honour, the scales of justice…’

No! Not the scales of justice! Anything but that…please! I stood up to object almost as some kind of Pavlovian reaction. TheBusker gave me a kindly smile and sat down to allow me speak. Which exposed the fact that in reality I had no grounds for stopping him other than stamping my foot and moaning ‘it’s just not fair’. He then stood up to resume his speech.

‘Your Honour, the scales of justice are a finely balanced instrument which have been used down the ages to settle disputes both great and indeed small. A constant in our lives which for most of our lives we simply take for granted. But very occasionally one is faced with an extraordinary decision where then scales are so finely balanced as not to be able to determine whether they are falling down on one side or the other. At those rare times it takes but…’

He theatrically dipped his hand into his suit pocket and as if from nowhere produced…

‘…a small feather to tip the scales one way or the other. Just the very smallest thing to make the difference between one side’s case and the other. Your Honour, this is one such rare cases in which the scales are indeed balanced. We say one thing and the other side say the other but in reality we are equally matched.’

His voice dropped as he continued.

‘Thankfully Your Honour, when the cases are indeed evenly matched then all we ever have to fall back on is the burden of proof and that lies today with the Claimant. Sadly for him, Your Honour, in the absence of that little feather…’ with which he dropped his own one to the ground, ‘the case must be dismissed.’

Well, it was obvious to us all that the judge was utterly charmed by the performance. After that no amount of my trying to tell him that our independent witness counted for enough feathers to fill a whole courtroom was ever going to change his mind.

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.

March 3, 2015 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
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Simples

‘Nothing’s ever simple any longer.’ It was OldSmoothie lamenting once again. ‘The bigger picture’s been lost forever and we’re all just buried in details and small print.’

‘And whose fault do you think that is?’ asked BusyBody.

‘Of course, it’s got nothing to do with lawyers,’ added UpTights.

‘Clever commercial lawyers who draft terms and conditions which allow companies to do over the little man, maybe,’ he replied. ‘But certainly not us good old-fashioned common lawyers.’

‘Oh, listen to the champion of the little man,’ smiled TheVamp.

‘I like to think I have my moments,’ said OldSmoothie.

‘And of course you’d never take a technical pleading point or kick a case out that had missed limitation?’ said BusyBody.

‘That’s completely different. That’s just our job,’ OldSmoothie replied. ‘We do what we’re instructed to do.’

‘If anything, surely we should be celebrating the modern world’s obsession with detail?’ said TheBusker. ‘I mean, if it wasn’t for solicitors instructing us to take technical points we’d all be out of work.’

Which silenced OldSmoothie for the rest of tea.

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.

February 24, 2015 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
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Late payment

‘I received a cheque today for a case I did over twenty-five years ago.’ It was OldRuin and he was smiling as he told the story at chambers tea. ‘It was accompanied by this note from the senior partner of the firm of solicitors who sent it:

“Dear OldRuin,
I realise that even by the tardy standards of my own side of the profession, twenty-five years is a little excessive but I thought you might in any event appreciate the fact that we do at least always stand by our word and pay our bills. While I realise that the sum of £35.48 is hardly going to go very far in today’s money, I thought that the addition of a magnum of champagne to accompany it might at least cover the lost interest you might otherwise have been earning.”‘

OldRuin then pointed to the trolley which normally carried the tea and said,
‘I thought you all might like to join me in celebrating my latest windfall.’

‘What are you going to do with the cheque?’ asked TheVamp.

‘I will put it inside the frame which sits in my downstairs lavatory at home with the title “Chamber of horrors”. It will replace the cheque which is currently in there and which was paid only sixteen years late.’

With which he proceeded to fill the glasses and pass them around before TheBusker proposed a toast:

‘May solicitors keep us in work for many years to come by being as bad with their other deadlines as they are at paying our bills.’

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.

February 17, 2015 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
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The glamour of the bar

“I suppose you must have been busy recently,” said my mother yesterday.

“Er, yes,” I replied. “Same as ever, I guess.”

“But what with all the rioting and the like,” she continued, “I imagine it must have been particularly hard. Since you’ll have got the call up, that is.”

“The call up?”

“Oh, I don’t know what you call it but I know what goes on behind the scenes.” She tapped her nose conspiratorially.

“What?”

“Oh, that’s right. I wouldn’t expect you to let on. Very good, BabyB. The country’s in safe hands with you and your friends pulling the levers.”

“Safe hands? Levers?” By now I was completely lost as to what she was trying to imply. “Mother, I honestly have absolutely no idea what you’re going on about.”

She started to look a little doubtful. “Er, well, maybe I’m wrong. It’s just that I’ve always imagined that now you’re part of the great British establishment you get called up whenever there’s trouble which needs sorting out behind the scenes.”

“What? The temple horn is sounded and we flock from all corners of the kingdom to some sort of special grand wizard’s council for barristers and save the city from ruin?”

She brightened up. “Exactly.”

“Where we get to wield our trusty horse-hair wigs like magic wands and zap all the muggle rioters back into their boxes.”

“You see, I knew it went on.”

“Yes, mother,” I relented. “You’re right.”

If only she knew the true size of the gap between perception and the reality of my small claims track road traffic hearings in the likes of Swindon, Slough and Watford County Courts.

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 babybarista.com. Cartoons by Alex Williams, author of 101 Ways to Leave the Law.

February 10, 2015 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
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