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
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Sponsorship in court

“With all the cuts being made, I think barristers should be allowed to be sponsored just like any other performer,” said OldSmoothie today.

“What, with you as the face for your local kebab shop?” said UpTights.

“And you as the face of your plastic surgeon. Literally.” He then continued, “I just think it’s a complete waste having these plain black gowns and not being able to put any logos on them.”

“Why stop there?” said TheVamp. “It could be The General Council of the Bar as sponsored by some fizzy drinks company or other.”

“And judges could add the sponsors name to the end of their titles,” said TheBusker. “Lord Bloggs of whatever bank or building society it might be.”

“You can’t possibly have commercial interests diluting the independence of the Bar in that way,” said HeadofChambers.

“And how is it different to the five non-executive directorships you hold on the boards of companies owned by various of your school chums?”

“Er, well, er…”‘ He was struggling for an answer and then a light seemed to come on and he said, “It’s very different, actually. No-one ever knows about the directorships. It’s all about justice being seen to be done even if it’s not always in fact done.”

“Don’t you just love it when witnesses use the word actually,” smiled TheBusker.

“Immediately you figure they’re either lying or at the very least being disingenuous in the extreme.”

“Er, quite,” 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 15, 2014 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
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Hearing voices

“My opponent’s voice completely changed when he went into court today,” said TheVamp. “One minute, he was negotiating all down to earth and normal and then suddenly…”

“His voice flew to the back of his throat?” said TheBusker.

“Yes. As if on entering the court he suddenly felt the need to sound posh.”
“I’ve had that quite a few times,” said TheBusker. “It’s as if they’ve watched too many ancient courtroom movie scenes and think that’s how a barrister should speak.”

“Straight from Uxbridge to Oxbridge,” said OldSmoothie.

“He was definitely that type,” said TheVamp, ignoring the last comment. “Every few words of his cross-examination seemed to involve an ‘I put it to you’.”

“Ouch,” said TheBusker.

“Along with mentioning ‘the great common law of England and Wales’ and worst of all ‘passed by our sovereign mother of all parliaments’ in the context of the Road Traffic Act.”

“Sounds like a solicitor-advocate to me,” said OldSmoothie.

“You’re hardly one to start casting aspersions about airs and graces,” said BusyBody. “The king of long-winded pomposity himself.”

“Well, I did wonder whether he was terribly experienced,” said TheVamp. “Although the truth came out when he admitted that he was currently doing his fourth third six.”

“Wouldn’t that mean it was his sixth six?” said TheCreep.

“Exactly.”

“I have to say that I’d take the ones that turn posh to the old advocates whose voice just turn impatient and bitter,” said BusyBody.

“Or those whose voices go so high with nerves that they can’t quite get a sentence out without it sounding like a question,” said HeadofChambers.
“Or the whiny young barristers who take everything their opponent says personally,” said UpTights.

OldSmoothie’s jaw dropped at the lack of insight from the original courtroom screech but even he refrained from pointing out such a clanger.

“I once had an opponent who deliberately used to whisper her submissions,” said OldRuin. “It always proved extremely effective in getting the judge to wake up and take a note of the points being made.”

“I think my favourite is when a judge puts on his headmaster’s voice,” said TheVamp. “You can generally tell when that happens that all he wants above anything else in the whole world is just to get home and do something less boring instead. At that moment you know that he’ll do everything in his power to make the parties settle.”

“And give you all the rest of the day off,” said TheBusker.

“Exactly.”

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 8, 2014 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
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Glamping barristers

“I’m just back from living it large at Glastonbury,” said OldSmoothie the other day at tea.

The younger members of chambers winced at his turn of phrase.

“The end of cool as we know it,” said TheVamp.

“It’s worse than that,” said BusyBody. “Apparently TheCreep had also hired a couple of yurts in order to entertain some solicitors and they bumped into OldSmoothie as they were all unsuccessfully trying to blag their way into the VIP area backstage.”

“That whole image just doesn’t bear thinking about,” said Teflon.

“Well I think any form of corporate entertainment is a good thing,” said Slick, clearly seeing an opportunity to extend his reach a little further. “In fact, if solicitors like that sort of thing perhaps we should start looking at organising a chambers event at one of these festivals.”

“How about the Burning Man Festival in the States?” smiled TheVamp.

“Brilliant idea,” said Slick, clearly not seeing the funny side of a bunch of middle-aged barristers stuck out in a fancy dress dance party in the middle of the desert.

“We could even put it against tax,” said TheCreep.

“In just the same way that I have always seen membership of my St. James’s club as a business expense,” said HeadofChambers.

“Naturally,” smiled OldSmoothie, “and the same goes for the four high-priced the tickets to the Olympic beach volleyball which I will be using on my own favourite solicitors.”

“And who says we’re not allowed to buy cases, huh,” said TheVamp.

“Maybe we should just go for a weekend away in a nice big country hotel,” said HeadClerk.

“It’d be like one of those terrible get together weekends that Tory MPs used to do in opposition,” said BusyBody. “All woolly jumpers and chords and chortling excitedly about how funny it is to see each other in such casual civies gear.”

“A team-building weekend away would work wonders,” said Slick. “Maybe we could hire out a farm for a weekend. That would be great fun.”

“Not for the farmer,” said UpTights.

TheBusker smiled. “Yes, Slick could give a moo-ving speech, OldSmoothie could make a pig’s ear of his by boaring on and HeadClerk could steer us all in the right direction.”

“Eggs-ellent,” said TheVamp, “and we’d all learn that it’s not just what ewe say but sow you say it.”

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

July 1, 2014 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
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Stealing clients

Following Slick’s little modernising speech, HeadClerk is particularly sensitive to demonstrating that the old school ways are best and this week he went into overdrive a little while back on his usual trick involving QC celebration parties.

You see, every QC has one, and tradition has it that it’s simply bad form not to invite anyone who sends them a congratulatory note. Which has meant that for years now, HeadClerk has always got FanciesHimself, his most trusted junior clerk, to write thank you notes to all new silks. He then attends all the parties to which he is inevitably invited and discreetly goes around selling our own chambers to the solicitors there.

The funny thing is that FanciesHimself was reporting back today on one such party and happened to comment that this whole tradition has created a kind of strange social circuit for those wanting to milk these parties. Mostly it’s other clerks but there’s also a few ageing barristers whose practices have seen better times and who use it as a means of funding their drinking habits.

Meanwhile, Slick has announced that he will be bringing in a possible candidate for the position of commercial director in the next couple of days. He currently works for a solicitors’ firm and Teflon looked up and then emailed around his online profile.

Let me just say at this stage that it wasn’t the fact that he’d qualified as a barrister and then not got taken on which raised eyebrows. In fact his experience at the Bar would positively count in his favour. It was that his profile picture had him posing for camera in wig and gown and holding up a degree certificate and explained why Teflon had headed his email “Ouch”.

I really don’t fancy his chances when it comes to being grilled at chambers 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.

June 24, 2014 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
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The modernisers are revolting

The other day we all went to the celebration party of a barrister in chambers who has just been made a QC. Actually, he’s only just been made a tenant in chambers as well, having joined from another set where it was said that he didn’t feel he was getting quite the attention he deserved. Though word has it that he stood unsuccessfully for head of chambers and then left in a huff to find another home for his thwarted ambitions.

He’s about fifty-five with the usual middle-aged spread and thinning hair. The difference is that Slick (it just seems appropriate) is a ‘moderniser’. Not really in the sense of being rebellious or anti-establishment (sadly). Far from it.

Rather he represents a corporate view of life that he thinks should be the new establishment, even at the Bar. But above all what defines him is a leathery perma-tan and slicked-back hair. Oh, and the mini-me he brought with him from his other chambers who I’ll call Slicklet but who also reminded me of C3PO playing up to his beloved ‘Master Luke’.

After the champagne had been served, Slicklet stood to introduce Slick to the masses and then the oily one started his speech. “In these fine surroundings, it is an honour and a privilege…” We were already switching off when suddenly he suddenly announced, “…and I therefore intend to stand for head of chambers…” Everyone’s attention was certainly taken with that one, particularly when he also went on to mention “…the appointment of a commercial director…”

Everyone turned to look at HeadClerk who at present is in charge of anything and everything that is in the slightest bit both commercial or indeed uncommercial. He raised a glass of champagne to the speaker and with a broad smile toasted him with the words, “Over my dead body.” Slicklet gasped but everyone else in chambers fell silent.

War, they knew, had officially been declared.

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.

June 17, 2014 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
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The legal credit crunch

Chambers called an emergency chambers meeting yesterday.

HeadofChambers explained why in his opening. “It has come to my attention that a number of solicitors’ firms have been selling off their future earnings to loan sharks.”

“What’s the problem with that?” asked OldSmoothie. “It’s common business practice to factor the debts you’re owed at a discount so why not do the same thing with legal costs?”

“The problem is that I hear they are factoring all of their costs, even for the cases in which they’re unlikely ever to be recovered. Some of them are even selling off phantom cases I hear.”

“I’ve also heard that a few are selling at a huge discount as well, sometimes for as little as 30% of the supposed value,” said BusyBody.

“That’s because some firms are completely desperate at the moment,” said TheVamp. “Their businesses are collapsing and they’re taking from Peter to pay Paul.”

“Sounds like some sort of a legal Ponzi scheme, if you ask me,” said UpTights.”
“Illegal, more like,” said BusyBody, “and as soon as those buying the bad debts realise what’s going on the whole house of cards will come tumbling down.”

“It’s like some kind of a terrible game of pass the parcel and when the music stops, whoever is left holding the toxic debts goes under.”

“And we all know who are some of solicitors’ biggest creditors.”

“Me for a start,” said UpTights. “My aged debt has gone up from £200,000 a few years ago to nearer £700,000 at the moment.”

“Which should already have raised just a fewed just a few alarm bells,” said OldSmoothie.

“And it amounts to a significant amount of credit if you add in the rest of chambers,” said TheCreep almost standing on his tip-toes as he said it.

“Oh, CreepyWeepy,” said TheVamp patting him on the head. “I hardly think the size of your own, er, aged debt is going to make any sort of a splash in this particular sea.”

“So how do we know which ones are up to their ears in it?” asked TheBusker.

“That’s just the problem,” said HeadofChambers. “We have absolutely no idea which firms are healthy and which ones are mired in mountains of their own, er, debt. Even identifying that they’re factoring doesn’t in itself indicate that they’re in trouble and we can hardly go around doing a detailed due diligence exercise on every one of our instructing solicitors.”

“Which puts us in about the same position as a major creditor of a bank in 2008,” said UpTights.

“Well, it’s certainly far too late to batten down the hatches or take any other precautionary measures. We’re already in too deep as it is. So when the storm hits we’ll just have to hold on tight and hope that it doesn’t take the whole of chambers with it. But mark my words: some members of chambers could be in serious trouble within the next year or two.”

“It’s a shame we can’t do what the government does in these situations,” said TheVamp, “and simply print more money.”

“Now there’s an idea,” said OldSmoothie. “Perhaps it’s time to start taking lessons from SlipperySlope in the art of creative billing.”

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

June 10, 2014 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
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Exploitation at law

Poor old PanicStricken. She was visiting chambers today and BusyBody called her into chambers tea and started asking her about how she is getting on at SlipperySlope’s solicitors’s firm.

“Not getting on, since you ask,” she replied. “I’m now working fifteen hours a day and he’s reduced my wages to er, nothing.”

“What?” said BusyBody. “That’s terrible. How can he do that?”

“After a law degree followed by law school and two years at his firm waiting for a training contract, I’ve now been demoted from a minimum wage legal assistant to an intern. He says that’s the only way he can afford to keep me on and eventually award me with a training contract.”

“Not that old trick again,” said OldSmoothie.

“But he can’t do that, surely?” said BusyBody. “He’s completely exploiting you. Don’t you have a contract?”

“No.”

“Didn’t you demand one?”

“No.”

“Oh, come on. Our chambers currently has fifteen mini-pupils a week doing unpaid dogsbody work around chambers. How does that differ from internships?” said OldSmoothie.

“Because it’s a privilege to be offered a mini-pupillage here,” said HeadofChambers.

“Yeh, right,” said TheVamp. “Some privilege. I noticed that OldSmoothie had four of them standing to attention in his room for most of the morning yesterday.”

“Quite so,” said OldSmoothie. “One for biscuits, one for coffee, one for photocopying and one for er, timekeeping. It can be such a bore having to calculate how much to bill on each case.”

“Naturally,” said HeadofChambers with a smile.

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.

June 3, 2014 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
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Bullying at court

“Sometimes, young man, you simply have to bully your opponent. Never forget to have that option on your back pocket.” It was OldSmoothie giving a lecture to one of the pupils today.

“I hardly think that’s the sort of thing you should be advising,” said BusyBody.

“That’s a bit rich coming from the Robing Room Rottweiler. Hectoring, finger-pointing, threatening. You’re as bad as anyone and don’t deny it.”

“I always prefer to be a little more subtle about it,” said Teflon. “Like maybe dropping into the conversation that you’re friends with the person with whom your opponent’s been having an affair.”

“Or insinuating some sort of professional misconduct,” said UpTights. “I’ve seen OldSmoothie mention the Bar Standards Board on many an occasion when he’s getting a little desperate for a settlement.”

“I always find that it unsettles an opponent simply by handing over a four inch thick bundle of case law at the door of court,” said TheCreep.

“Yes, a sight of your four inches would unsettle even the best of us,” said TheVamp.

“Better still, just ignoring them completely can sometimes do the trick,” said UpTights, looking over at OldSmoothie.

“I prefer picking on them in front of the judge,” said HeadofChambers. “Throw in a small suggestion that their submissions are verging on the disingenuous and they’ll be so furious at the insinuation that they won’t even spot you running away with the case.”

OldRuin smiled and said, “I’ve always found that good manners never go far wrong when dealing with opponents. Losing their confidence might be somewhat of a pyrrhic victory when you’re looking at a career which might span over fifty years.”

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.

May 27, 2014 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
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Settlement city

“I just love it when insurers settle at the door of court,” said SlipperySlope on a visit to chambers today.

“Yes, not only do we get the day off,” said OldSmoothie, “but we’re also rewarded with double fees for having taken such a huge risk in bringing a case to trial.”

“Even though the reality is that you knew you were always going to win,” smiled TheBusker.

“Quite so,” said SlipperySlope.

“So why on earth don’t they settle earlier on?” asked a pupil.

SlipperySlope have her a paternal look and said, “The key is to get the file handler at the insurer to take an aggressive stance at the start. Try and wind them up and give them false grounds for suspicion. Maybe send them the wrong witness statement or leave the impression that even you are not sure of your own client’s case.

After that they’re more likely to deny liability even on the most hopeless of cases. After that we just start billing so fast that it becomes easier for the insurer to save face by simply running the case to trial and blaming the barrister for having caved in at the last minute.”

“And even their barrister wins since he not only gets paid but the file handler will keep on passing him work despite the back chat to his superiors,” said TheCreep.

“It’s win-win all ways round,” said Slippery. “There’s nothing I like more than a beautiful virtuous circle building up the costs of both sides. Truly no-one loses.”

“Except, that is, those who have to pay for it through rising insurance premiums,” said BusyBody.

“Well someone has to pay for OldSmoothie’s champagne and baked beans,” said SlipperySlope. “Even in the age of austerity. At least this way it doesn’t come from the very poorest since they wouldn’t be able to afford a car.”
“How very reassuring,” said BusyBody.

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.

May 20, 2014 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
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