I got a pingback from Charon’s blog and went to look. I discovered that my ears should have been burning, although, oddly they weren’t. Bang goes that theory then.
What was said was this (all quotes include exact spelling and punctuation):
I discussed my views last night with other members of Chambers. One person called SM’s blog an as arrogance and always putting the Bar down; another person said (without any prodding from me) SM by posting an attack on Chambers is being defamtory, bringing the Bar into disrepute and shows an extreme lack of judgement. I posted some time ago SM always puts the Bar down this is just another example of it.
Maybe you will get off the student bandwagon of it is everbodies fault but mine that I can’t get a pupillage and reconsider your stance.
“The debate needs to happen and it will”. Where? On a blog with anonymous posts from anonymous disatisfies students who cant find a pupillage and want to blame everyone but themselves. And where do you think your so called “debate” will end up and what do you think will be the end result of your “debate”? This isn’t a debate – it is a bunch of grumbling students who as I said blame everybody but temselves for their failure. Of interest is that when in your “debate” one student resorts to swearing to which you seek to mimic.
I want to make a number of points clear:
- The above was not posted on my blog and no one has emailed me with it either. That is inimical to real debate and, to my mind, suggests other motives.
- An objective look at the Blog – perhaps starting with the post ‘Why I Want to be a Barrister’ (which is the most viewed post on the Blog) will, I think, demonstrate clearly that I love the Bar and being a barrister, and believe that we perform a vital function in a free society. Nor, by the way, do I remotely agree that this is like any other job when sometimes you like it and sometimes you don’t. I regard it as a vocation and I have never – in 23 years – woken up and thought I didn’t like what I do.
- It is not putting anything down to give a view which encompasses the good and the bad. If you really love something there is no need to pretend that things are other than they really are.
- Everyone is entitled to their own view of the value of the Blog and what I post. This is a profession where you have to back your own judgement on a daily basis. There is nothing official about the Blog: I don’t ask what I can say and I don’t seek guidance. If anyone really feels it brings the Bar into disrepute, the usual channels are available to them.
- I would welcome competition. I get nothing from this – I refuse advertising and commercial link-ups. The Bar has been good to me: a huge number of people at the Bar have helped me throughout my career, and continue to help me when they did not, and do not, have to. This is what I do to honour that behaviour. That there is no competition is just how things are – but criticism about what I write might fairly be looked at in that context.
- I detect no bandwagon of students complaining. On the contrary: the number of pupillages has gone down; the number of applicants have gone up; the cost has gone up. That formula should logically lead to resentment and frustration. What is noticeable is the extent to which it has not. The complaints voiced here (and elsewhere) are about particular behaviour. They can be – and they deserve to be – treated on their merits, rather than being made the subject of a non-particularised attack aimed at diminishing all of them.
- That a confident profession wishing to inspire public trust would be prepared to debate its use to society in public is something I take as a given. We are nothing if we are not trusted by our end users and potential end users. This debate merely extends that principle to our own behaviour to aspirants. It is neither a new departure nor a particularly remarkable thing.
- Where I do depart from regular debate is in permitting anonymity. That, of course, is open to abuse, which is why the post identifying particular Chambers makes it clear that these are subjective views and offers a right of reply (which no one has yet asked for). I take the view that people are more likely to express themselves freely when granted the right to be anonymous. Looking at what has been said by the various contributors it appears that I am correct in that assumption… I rely on the reader to sort the wheat from the chaff.
- It is important that aspirants do express themselves freely, because the nature of the system under which they formally labour is that they cannot really do so. I believe that the Bar thereby misses important feedback, which would assist it to be more responsive and even fairer than it currently is. The risk of damaged egos is less important. The risk of unfairness and duplicity is offset by the right to reply.
- Because it is difficult to assess the value of anonymous comment it is entirely conceivable that the Chambers named by particular commentators might simply ignore what has been said. Equally, they might chose to think about whether anything said could be justified. It is up to them.
The invitation referred to in the title is to those who wish me to think about what they say. Unlike student applicants they are in a position where they need not be concerned about what anyone thinks of them: they have already made it. And they have the best interests of the Bar at heart.
I invite them, therefore, to the conclusion that they should email me with their comments about the way in which the profession should treat applicants, the best way to deal with the sort of perceived (or, perish the thought, actual) problems that have been expressed below, and the value to the profession of not discussing these difficulties but simply leaving them to fester. Those emails should, of course, be in the real names of the people who have these concerns. I will publish – uncut – what I receive. Then everyone can judge for themselves.
All barristers are familiar with the issue of whether they will put their name to a particular submission. If they won’t it can be safely assumed that the submission is a poor one.