Life at the Bar

Sermon

Good morning,

I am sitting in front of my computer dealing with a case in the Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal. It is already problematic as it is one of those cases in which you totally accept your clients’ innocence – thus piling on the pressure (ask any barrister – defending the guilty is always easier). In addition I have a streaming cold, a temperature and a feeling that I’m crossing the Atlantic on a particularly small boat in a particularly heavy storm – all kindly donated by Myersonette No 3 who is celebrating her own recovery by buying new clothes in town and thus further condemning me to sit here earning the money to help her do it.

To top it off, I am seeking further particulars of the case against us: you would think that a 34 page Statement (of the case against my clients) with 450 pages of enclosures would be able to do that – but you would be wrong. I am on p18 of the request and I have already asked 129 questions and I am up to p14 of the Statement.

And guess what: I love it. Obviously I could do without the cold etc but the opportunity to try genuinely to achieve justice, in an intellectually stimulating way, for which (let’s not forget this) I get paid still seems to me to be unreal.

What has brought this on? Well, Troubled Barrister has had a go at me on the BVC post (see comments) and has accused me of being too gloomy. I don’t agree – but perhaps he has a point. Anyway, this is a pleasant distraction from yet more questions about how my clients can be supposed to understand what they are said to have done without the undoubted – but sadly absent – benefit of being clairvoyant. And if I can still enjoy myself with all this going on then the job has to be worth doing.

I actually believe in justice. This job is all about speaking for those who can’t speak for themselves, resolving disputes after which people can get on with their lives, ensuring that business is honest and trying to make the places we live in safe for all. It doesn’t always succeed, but it’s always a worthwhile thing to do. The Old Testament says ‘Justice, justice you must pursue’. One of the classic commentaries asks why ‘justice’ is repeated and comes up with two answers. Firstly, to teach us that we really MUST pursue it. Secondly to acknowledge that it isn’t always possible – but the system must be as fair as we can make it.

If this sounds preachy I apologise. But it sometimes helps to remind myself (and now you obviously) that there is a genuine reason for doing what we do.

I shall now sink back into the comforting waters of cynicism, illness and self-pity and work for money.

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One thought on “Sermon

  1. Simon,

    Apologies if I am hijacking this site. I know this site is called Pupillage and How to Get it. I realise I do all too little for the struggles facing the Bar and your comments have somewhat shamed me. Perhaps this is because being in a pure Civil chambers I do almost no legal aid work. You are right I to some extent have stuck my head in the sand at the plight facing the Criminal Bar, despite ceasing to be a Criminal Barrister I am still passionate about it. I firmly believe Civil practitioners do not care enough and do not offer enough support to members of the Criminal Bar. With this is mind I decided to do a little something and join the Bar Union. I had a very interesting conversation with the President of the Bar Union, at the state of the Criminal Bar and the merits of the respective leadership. For what it is worth I completely agree with his views, which were not terribly complimentary (perhaps I might write more on this later). So today I have filled out the form and joined the Bar Union (it is now free to join). BVC students and pupils are allowed to join as well. In my opinion, to all you people applying for pupillage it would be a good thing to put down on an OLPAS form (though this shouldn’t be the primary reason for joining). One thing that BVC students might think of doing to try and stand out from the crowd, I have yet to read an OLPAS form where it is mentioned.
    It isn’t enough I know but it’s a start.

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