I’m appealing

UpTights was against OldSmoothie today and his pupil reported what happened later in the day. When she turned up, she looked more uneasy than usual.

‘I’ve started a new diet,’ she said somewhat defensively as she approached. ‘Four hundred calories a day all taken as liquid.’

As she got closer the reason for this introduction became clear. ‘Woah, you could strip paint with that breath,’ said OldSmoothie.

‘Yes, er, well,’ said UpTights. ‘I don’t think there’s anything more to discuss.’ With which she turned on her heel.

OldSmoothie then turned to his pupil and said, ‘Go and tell the usher that UpTights has suggested we use the small courtroom given that this is only an interlocutory hearing.’ He smiled smugly and waved over at UpTights.

Well, the first thing you should know about courtrooms is that there’s no air-conditioning. What’s more, the small side rooms tend to be tiny and er, somewhat intimate. So when we were ushered through, UpTights looked distinctly worried and it turned out with good reason.

Once the judge got a whiff the hearing was cut short with a very quick finding against UpTights’ case. As they were all leaving the courtroom, UpTights said somewhat sulkily: ‘Anyway, I’m appealing.’

‘On today of all days,’ came the reply, ‘that statement really couldn’t be further from the truth.’

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.

October 21, 2014 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
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Handling the client

I don’t know what it is about family law barristers but there’s a large number that seem to take the whole thing extremely personally. I say that after having had to endure such a case this morning. As I sat flicking through my papers in the robing room, the peace and tranquility was suddenly interrupted by what felt like a human whirlwind.

It was a male barrister about the same age as me and he rushed in with an air of great urgency and self-importance. Given that there were only two others in the room, it was then more than a little odd for him to shout out,

‘Who is the barrister representing Mrs Smith in the divorce hearing today?’

I indicated that it was me. ‘I think everything’s agreed,’ I said.

‘Far from it,’ he said. ‘I’m not at all happy about giving you all that money and I’m going to tell the judge in no uncertain terms.’

‘You mean your client’s not happy about giving my client all that money,’ I corrected before adding, ‘Have you seen the consent order?’

‘Of course I have,’ he said dismissively. ‘But it isn’t going to stop me telling the judge what for.’

Which is exactly what he did, much to the consternation of the judge who generally deals with personal injury cases and interrupted him with,

‘I don’t know where you usually practise but let me tell you very clearly that I don’t appreciate grandstanding in this court. All the more so when it has no purpose other than to vent the feelings of your angry client. Remember, it is your job to control the client just as it is my job to control you.’

There was silence followed by a, ‘but…’ which went no further after the judge looked at him and raised his eyebrow as if disciplining a young pup.

The barrister sat down and his client started poking him angrily in the back.
‘And may I add,’ said the judge. ‘That if your client isn’t happy with your performance that you might consider the point that you reap what you sow. Always keep a professional distance and never get emotionally involved with a case however much you might think it helps at the time.’

Another ‘but…’ followed and an even sterner looking eyebrow shut him up before the judge rubber-stamped the order and pointed towards the door.

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.

October 14, 2014 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
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Judicial assistance

Okay, so here’s an admission. I do a lot of car cases. I cross-examine other drivers on their driving abilities and have a go at them for breaching the Highway Code. Pretty average for a common law barrister, you might say. That is, were it not for the fact that I’ve never actually learned to drive. Now in any other line of work this shouldn’t be a problem.

Shipping lawyers don’t have to be sailors and aviation lawyers certainly don’t need a pilot’s licence. The problem is that if a client is ever going to take you seriously in conducting his precious road traffic case, the very least he expects is that you are also a driver and not only feel his pain but understand exactly what he is going on about.

Now don’t get me wrong. This generally isn’t a problem. If I don’t know what a hub cap or a crank shaft is, I simply say ‘For the benefit of the court, could you perhaps enlighten us as to how a particular thing works’. But today the truth was very nearly out.

You see, I was cross-examining a man who had an irritating habit of answering my questions with a question and at one point he turned to me when I was being particularly aggressive and said, ‘Do you drive mate?’ I ignored it and tried to continue. ‘No, mate,’ he continued, obviously smelling blood. ‘You’re on this big high horse and everything. Just tell me this: do you even have a driving licence?’

I was absolutely stumped and looked like a rabbit in the headlights with nowhere to go. As my initial pause turned into what felt like a deafening silence my client started to look at me a little suspiciously. Eventually and in blind panic by this point, I turned to the judge for assistance. He gave me a knowing look before turning sternly to the witness and saying,

‘It’s not for Mr BabyBarista here to be answering the questions and if you continue in this belligerent manner I will have no alternative but to commit you to the cells for contempt of court.’

The judge gave a kindly smile, my opponent smirked, and I lived to fight another day.

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.

October 7, 2014 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
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Blustering buffoons

‘One of the great advantages of being a barrister is that it’s almost completely unaccountable to the people who employ you in the first few formative years of practisc.’ It was OldSmoothie lecturing one of the new pupils.

‘Formative in the sense of making mistakes off the backs of others,’ said HeadofChambers.

The pupil looked a little taken aback and BusyBody stepped in to explain.

‘Solicitors, you see, are simply too expensive to be dealing with the smaller level of claims and hence the need to instruct the baby Bar.’ As if that somehow made it better.

‘But the irony of all this,’ said OldSmoothie, ‘is that going down in flames on behalf of a client often causes more gratitude to be fed back to the all-important solicitor than ever a clinically brilliant display of advocacy leading to a victory might bring.’

‘Like you’d know what that is OldSmoothie,’ said UpTights.

He ignored her and continued, ‘Which of course means that the system therefore encourages the success of the over-confident, grandstanding losers in the early years.’

UpTights raised an eyebrow but resisted the temptation to comment.

‘Until that is the cases get bigger,’ said OldSmoothie, ‘and solicitors can justify coming along to watch. It’s only then that they realise quite what monsters they’ve been feeding.’

‘I was against just one of those today as it happens,’ said TheVamp. ‘The problem is that inexperienced counsel come in front of inexperienced district judges and it’s quite literally the blind leading the blind. The more he emphasised his terrible points with “It’s obvious, Sir” the more the district judge seemed to agree with him and whenever he buried his head in his hands muttering ‘Complete rubbish’ the judge simple frowned at me.’

‘Truly a meeting of minds,’ chuckled TheBusker.

‘That might going a little far,’ smiled TheVamp. ‘But a meeting of some sort at least.’

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 30, 2014 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
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Crying wolf

OldSmoothie was moaning about insurance companies today. ‘There’s one out there at the moment which is haemorrhaging losses so fast that it’s pretty much gone into meltdown. Simply stopped paying any claims and spuriously claiming that they’re investigating the possibility of fraud on each one.’

‘Can they get away with that?’ I asked.

‘It’ll probably buy them about three months. After that, word will get around about them crying wolf and judges will just stop believing them even when the cases really are fraudulent.’

‘But don’t you need some evidence to be arguing fraud?’

‘Now you’re talking, BabyB,’ he smiled. ‘That’s where the fun starts. You see they’ve instructed UpTights to try and filibuster their files at court and although she’s not actually making any positive allegations of fraud, we’re still going to go after her personally for the costs wasted by these delays. Should certainly add a little spice to the next few months.’

‘What does UpTights think of that?’

‘We both know she’s usually so cautious she wouldn’t even break wind without passing it by the Bar Standards. But the problem for her is that this particular insurer pays about three quarters of her fees and if she doesn’t play along they’ll dump her in an instant.’

‘Ouch.’

‘Exactly so. Particularly when she’ll also be worried that if the insurer ends up going bust, she could lose the last two years of her earnings that they still owe her.’

‘Completely trapped.’

‘Don’t you just love it, BabyB. It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning and skipping to work filled with a spirit of goodwill to all.’

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 23, 2014 · Tim Kevan · No Comments
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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