Archive for February, 2012

Love me for a reason, let the reason be love…

Well I won’t be briefed for my music taste. Somehow Boyzone got on my iPhone again. Those bloody mac viruses, so irritating.

Briefly

Barristers receive their instructions from solicitors (unless they’re set up and qualified to take work directly from the public). The solicitor generally chooses the barrister.

When I was the briefer, I picked barristers who I trusted, who I got on with and I knew would do the job. They’re twitter pals now, people like @HumanRightsQC , @NJBArmstrong and @Leoniehirst.

Now I’m the briefed rather than the briefer, I wonder why people pick me rather than another similar barrister, or one more experienced.

Taking the mystery out of it

It’s the mystery when you start at the Bar. Why me! And, several of my solicitors definitely book me for results.

Some go for chambers for their ethos and their reputation.

Some go on word of mouth and recommendations.

I’m comfortable with that.

Customer is king

And here we are in a capitalist country. Choice is everything. You can choose who to get your electricity from, your water, your groceries, your broadband – your legal services.

But sometimes I start to feel a bit uncomfortable…

I’ve had diary sheets that read: ‘must be represented by a man, can be aggressive’ – sensible for the solicitor to warn I suppose. Nothing to say thought that a female barrister couldn’t keep a client just as calm or do just as good a job.

Or what about people charged with sexual offences. A lot of the time they ask for female barristers to defend them. How do you feel about that?

Or what about this, when deciding between me and a colleague the solicitor would apply the following formula: ‘you see for the old lags and the proper villains I instruct you as you’re like a stereotypical old school brief. And if they’re young gang lads or foreign blokes, I give them to X, she’s young and pretty.’

I didn’t like that.

Or, how about this

‘must be white, male, British barrister’  a diary note once said in my old chambers that I didn’t like.

A friend at another chambers had a Jewish female pupil, their clients would quite clearly not take to her for their beliefs, it caused a real ethical headache.

I don’t get to ask why I have been briefed by a solicitor, or by a client. Some have simply looked me up on the website and picked me. Others have been sold me by the clerks. And others just get me because I happen to be free that day of the week.

I can’t reject a client because they have picked me because I am white and British. That I don’t like at all.

How far should a lay client be able to choose?

How far should a solicitor be able to choose?

To what extent should the clerks facilitate that choice?

I really don’t know the answer.

But what about when I do? What about when I find out why a client has chosen me? Is it ok they chose me because I went to Oxford? Is it ok they chose me because I’m at a certain chambers. Is it ok they chose me because I know X county, or because I represented X person. Is it ok they choose me because I’m a man? Is it ok they choose me because I’m a white man under the age of 30?

I don’t know. We live in a society when customer is king.

I don’t suppose Sainsbury’s ask when people buy Pepsi and not Coke.

It doesn’t mean I have to be comfortable.

FTD

I sound like one of those American survivalists. I’ll be sat in Chambers with huge stock piles of pink tape, biscuits and counsel’s notebooks. At night I will sleep on the library floor and burn a copy of Halsbury’s for warmth. I’ll have enough tunic shirts dry cleaned and pressed so I can go to Court three weeks straight.

The Olympics are upon us. In the pub, the robing room, the library, people are wondering if all the train stations will be finished. Others wonder if the hospitals will cope or their holidays be disrupted.

But I’m wondering what’s going to happen to the Courts.

We’re expecting at least 450000foreignvisitors to the capital. That’s about 10 times London’s permanent population of Americans or Australians.

There’ll be domestic visitors too.

And it’s not only London, Coventry, Eton, Manchester, Weymouth and my own Wimbledon.

Preparation, preparation, preparation

We have seen the Met and BTP pretend to blow up a train station. The Marines have been throwing stun grenades on the old Thames Clipper. Even ‘Housemate’ been preparing one of London’s most major services.

Because, more people, means more use of services. More people means more risk.

And Courts are a public services.

And like it or not, Courts need various people to run. The criminal courts need cops, Counsel, solicitors, interpreters, witnesses, the works.

Immigration tribunals need UKBA staff, Counsel, solicitors, interpreters.

Extradition courts need Counsel, solicitors and lots and lots of interpreters.

My glass half empty vision

And off the planes, trains and boats will come some tourists, brandishing expensive electronic goods, dripping in Swiss watches and bum bags overflowing with £ sterling. And of course, with them, will come pick pockets, thieves and muggers.

Desperate asylum seekers will take advantage of increased traffic flow and try and stowaway at every port.

People with a past will find themselves flagging on an European Computer system as they cross into the UK. Soon after they’ll find themselves in handcuffs on European arrest warrants.

The result:

More work in the criminal court, more work in asylum tribunal and more cases in the extradition court.

Shut up FTD, more work means more money for you – does it?!

My vision of hell

You see, already there’s a shortage of criminal lawyers. London solicitors will be busy during the Olympics. They’ll be in the police station at all hours dealing with those robbers, they’ll be waiting for interpreters and investigating officers. The next day at Court, they’ll have to wait as the security vans take longer to deliver prisoners to Court. The new interpreter booking system which is already malfunctioning will simply fail.

Counsel will not be able to fill the gap, the transport problems will mean that junior counsel are not able to cover two courts in one day. The others will be in rural courts near where a large event has been held, or in the extradition court.

The Courts will have to sit late to try and free up the prison cell spaces.

But they’re already jammed. The extradition cases generated will need to take up all of the remaining places at HMP Wandsworth. There are not sufficient defence extradition solicitors and counsel to cover all the cases. A number of warrants will be discharged as persons arrested on warrants will not be brought to Westminster promptly.

The more senior immigration and extradition practitioners will be queuing up to get cases heard urgently in the High Court. Whilst the more junior practitioners will be queuing up to try and find a single interpreter. Of course they won’t be able to, as now all the Courts use the same limited pool of interpreters.

Solicitors and Counsel will run out of steam quickly.

And they won’t be able to call in reinforcements. The CPS won’t be able to go out to Counsel as they’ll be booked up. They can’t go to other agents  as they won’t be on the CPS list.

Lawyers won’t be drafted into London from other parts of the country. Why? Because they’ll be busy with their own increased caseloads. Some smaller places touched by the Olympics will have to call in what few free Counsel are available.

And who is going to pay for all this? How long is it going to take to process legal aid applications? Solicitors firms face being saddled with huge bills from agents and Counsel.

Google says

I was speaking to folk in chambers today about all this, the hell that I expect. They all just tell me to chill out. The clerks don’t have any plans apparently.

Well, if I google, I’m sure I’ll find something.

The plans? Close courts, send Judges on holiday… that will free up some police, some barristers, but won’t increase capacity in real terms.

Seems nobody has thought to talk to the lawyers from what I can find.

Maybe I should just chill out and then enjoy the ‘I told you so’ in 150 days time.

FTD

 

 What I have found really worrying about the way that people are pretending to support pupils whilst pretending that I do not, is the way in which they have phrased such “support”. Far too many of the reactions I have seen are full of self-serving ersatz indignation and can be fairly summarised as: “Look at me. I can show I’m down wid da kids by saying they contribute value by helping established figures do their research and answer questions about new law and sit there taking notes. And, if I say so, I’ll look well cool and gain even more cred by calling out a silk”.

Simon Myerson QC on http://pupillageandhowtogetit.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/slightly-famous-for-about-3-minutes/

And in response to Coffee v Pupils

I don’t know if he means me but I hope he doesn’t.

Because

He has now accepted that pupils contribute. He responded to what @lincolnslawyer wrote. He has publicly said that:

I ought to make it clear that of course pupils contribute something during pupillage.

Neither Sara  (@lincolnslawyer) nor I were trying to get cred. But we both come from the same position. You see, @lincolnslawyer and I both had a mentor whilst were searching for a pupillage, we in fact had the same mentor: ‘Silk Cut’. Both Sara and I did death penalty work pre pupillage. Both Sara and I had a job doing our own advocacy, managing our own caseloads and instructing counsel pre pupillage. Both Sara and I took a paycut to become pupil barristers.

I am incredibly grateful (as I know she is) for the support ‘Silk Cut’ gave us. I have no doubt that both of us feel that we owe something to the next generation and will protect them where we can. That’s why I wrote what I did, not to get ‘cred’.  And, to encourage junior members of the bar to become more involved in our own future.

Courage

Also, I would ask him to remember, anonymous, sobriquet or by real name, it takes a lot of courage for junior members of the bar to publicly contradict silks.

And it’s when I started thinking about courage that I realised something. We weren’t brave at bar school. Again, we were outside moaning, we’d send the occasional clipped email, but we never wanted to rock the boat. The fear was, that by rocking the boat our BVC (now BPTC) provider could narrow those pupillage odds even further.

I had vowed to email, or write to the powers that be when I got pupillage. But, I didn’t. There’s a lot wrong with our current system of legal education, in particular the BVC/BPTC course and some of the providers, ne’er shall it improve without the intervention of barristers.

Shoulder to shoulder

The Bar will survive. And it will do so by Simon Myerson QC running a blog about how to get pupillage. I hope fellow Silks will consider how to protect the squeezed middle of the bar. It will survive by ‘Silk Cut’ mentoring more bar school students. I hope others at his level will look after the youngsters like me. It will survive if @lincolnslawyer and I look after pupils, current and future.

My commitment

So I am going to put my money where my mouth is:

I am going to write to Professor Andrew Sanders the Chair of the Education and Training Committee of the Bar Standards Board. I am going to make some suggestions to him about how we can improve the BPTC. In particular, I am going to suggest that each provider has local junior barristers who are available to be contacted about problems with courses. I am going to ask that those junior barristers visit the local provider and are accessible. I am going to ask what is being done about numbers of entrants compared to pupillages. I am going to ask that a junior barrister as well as a senior barrister is part of the team that does the annual provider visit. I am going to ask that real thought is given to having discussions with banks about their finance packages for BPTC students.

Is there anything else you want me to write? Stick it in the comments section or tweet me.

And I’m going to email Benjamin Wood and Tope Adeyemi, two of the junior members of the committee who I know and ask them to lend their support.

The phalanx

So,  let’s put our shields together. Let’s all sign up.

And when we’re all together you might just see me and a blogging QC rap battle for a laugh.

Innit.

FTD.

 

In the last 48 hours, two friends, a family member, a twitter follower and an instructing solicitor have all expressed surprise that I’m so quiet. Not quiet in general, but on a certain issue.

‘Pupils contribute nothing’

Or,

‘Coffee v Pupils,’

Or,

‘Myersongate’

I think I prefer Myersongate.

In short, http://www.legalcheek.com/2012/02/simon-myerson-qc-12k-minimum-pupillage-award-is-fair/ Simon Myerson QC writes on legal cheek. In response to the suggestion that we give up a coffee a day in order to pay for pupils to secure the future of our profession.

The commercial silk says that pupils contribute nothing to chambers during their pupillage.

Watching and waiting

I’ve watched the fall out, not only on legalcheek itself, but also on other websites.

The feeling from other barristers, pupil barristers and bar school graduates has been resolutely contrary.

In my own mind, the suggestion that pupils contribute nothing is absolutely laughable. I drafted for senior juniors, I did legal research for solicitors, oh and when I got on my feet I gave chambers 10% of my earnings, brought in new solicitors and when we were short of clerks I humped box files from one chambers to another.

So, pupils contribute nothing?

Balls.

Also, I feel a responsibility to protect and encourage new members of my profession to come forward. Without barristers like ‘Silk Cut’ giving up his time, I would never have come to the bar. I now feel the same responsibility and help where I can.

But I’m worried

I find it worrying that a QC would make such a broad statement. I am not sure if it’s the same Myerson QC who is at Byrom Street Chambers. Byrom St is an impressive set, but they have something notable about them, they have nobody under a 1995 call.

In London, Cloth Fair chambers continues to pick up impressive work. They have four QCs and two senior juniors from 1997 call.

They have no pupils. No junior members of the bar get to learn from John Kelsey-Fry QC.

So there’s a subtle indication that business efficacy requires more senior members of the bar to cast off the more junior members.

Look to our leaders

My worry is that through history and courtesy we remain silent and expect our leaders to protect us.

The question of advocacy assessments looms, the dreaded QASA. Lord Justice Moses showed sympathy for those of us with a criminal practice, Joshua Rozenberg reports:

Young criminal advocates were already the least well paid and the most vilified of those who practised in the courts, Moses pointed out. They would be the guinea pigs while their counterparts in commercial chambers would remain free to sit in court, unassessed, behind a “heavyweight silk boring for England or for Russia”

I know it’s just a nod in our direction, but I’m really grateful that a senior member of the judiciary has recognised our existence. And it’s not only members of the judiciary, some silks have, even a Tory MP, Geoffrey Cox QC.

But we’re about to get to crunch time

Members of the Bar who rely on public funding will need more than just a few friends at the top. The junior members need a champion. And, as of late, I’ve been worried that we don’t have one.

I’ve also secretly worried that the future of the bar might be forgotten for a short reprieve in some respect which advantages senior colleagues.

Can we put our trust in the hands of senior practitioners?I simply don’t know, I hope so. But, with announcements that pupils are useless, and considering the Byrom/Cloth Fair models, what do we do?

Do we take door 1…

And stick to the status quo. There’s a strong argument to do so. All our senior colleagues were in our position at one time. We all know individuals QCs and senior juniors who will stand up for us and for future generations.

We should throw our weight behind the Young Legal Aid Lawyers, our circuit reps and our inns of court reps.

Or, we take door 2

And we decide to look after ourselves. This of course would necessitate more than a little work. The juniors would have to lobby for a position on every Inn and Circuit committee.

We would have to separate off and in terms of negotiation with the LSC and government, we would need to be certain that we have our own representatives.

Pub beer garden advocacy about where our profession is going would need to move from the heat of halogen lamps to board rooms and conference halls.

Trust

I take option 1, let’s trust our leaders. They don’t forget how difficult things can be and I am sure they see us as being of use. Also, there’s individual personalities to consider. A senior Judge has come out in our support, the leader of the South Eastern Circuit has also shown that he cares. We all individually know particular leading barristers who will stand up for us.

Their experience and gravitas is more likely to persuade and protect then if we send a champion who may just be thought of as a petulant child at the dinner table.

However, that said, we need some movement forward. We really cannot spend our time moaning in beer gardens and instead ought to focus.

We do need to stand for more committees. We do need to back each other and vote when a junior junior stands. We need to engage with and enlarge professional bodies such as the Young Legal Aid Lawyers association and Young Barristers’ Committee.

Perhaps we can remind Mr Myerson QC what we at the bottom rungs contribute to the profession.

FTD

No, I haven’t gone mad, well, perhaps a little.

Recently FTD discovered a dark secret on a shelf in his living room. Yes, the M People Greatest Hits CD. Having laughed to the point of possible hernia I started to text some of the boys.

‘Housemate’ has got the M People Greatest Hits CD.

The result has been a monumental in-joke between my mates. The culmination of which was karaoke on my birthday when the back catalogue of M People was at our fingertips. ‘TV Blonde’, ‘Bearded Monogamist’ and I jumping around singing you’ve got to ‘Search for the Hero’ inside yourself and so on. The girls just looked on in utter shock.

So now I’m reacquainted with the lyrical works of Heather Small, I’ve got to say, I reckon she’s on the right track for our justice system:

We need a change, do it today – M People Classic: Proud

The Police, the Government, the lawyers and increasingly the public agree that we need a new approach to youth justice. Putting youngsters in the criminal justice system quite simply doesn’t work.

One of the recent oddities mentioned in the latest raft of legal aid changes was what ‘breed’ of lawyer could appear in the Youth Court. Out of no where there was the suggestion that only Barristers and Solicitor-Advocates would be allowed to appear.

In the present climate that is simply not possible. For one, the CPS do not have enough in-house Counsel or Solicitor Advocates and don’t have the money to pay the independent Bar. And on our side, again we just don’t have the bodies to cover everything.

But, if we reformed criminal justice for young people we could have sufficient personnel. The problem with the youth justice system is that it is clogged with minor offending, many offences are summary only and many would have previously been dealt with by a school or words of advice from a sensible police officer.

So why not be bold, children should not be tried for summary-only offences. Think of the money and time that would save.

Crispin Blunt recently stated,

It is crucial that frontline workers focus their efforts on improving outcomes for young offenders, not on filling in forms and ticking boxes. 

Well there we have it, let’s be bold and try something new. Believe it or not, in Jamaica last month they opened four new restorative justice centres. We’re falling behind because we’re simply not willing to try.

We need a change, do it today.

Just who do you think you are – M People Classic: Moving On Up

If recent tweets are anything to go by then it’s probably not a good idea to lock Barristers and Solicitor Advocates up together in Youth Court Advocates’ Rooms.

I was embarrassed to read how one twitter friend (sorry can’t remember who) said he heard, ‘Oh solicitors don’t understand the importance of advocacy and tactics’

@_millymoo made it worse, when she described, ‘I have seen a barrister look at an extended hand and say oh are you solicitor’

I like to think I have a good relationship with my instructing solicitors, I helped out ‘Favourite Solicitor’ when she was doing her higher rights. It doesn’t bother me that she’s got a wig now, far from it. Without her I’d have never got my big breaks. Ironically when I was in my first set a tenant returned a brief to me and ‘Favourite Solicitor’ was a bit panicked when she knew she was getting a pupil. The client and I got on and we did well. From then on, trust has built and work has built up.

I don’t have a God given right to appear in the higher Courts because I did a pupillage rather than a training contract.

The Bar isn’t what is under threat. What it is under threat is the need for specialist advocates. My fear is not the Solicitor Advocate. My fear is that the Government will do away with the dual fee system. In Crown Court cases, the litigator (so traditionally the solicitor) gets paid one fee and the advocate (so traditionally the barrister) gets paid another.

There’s a separate role so that individuals have their cases prepared to the extent required that they can be properly presented in the Crown Court. So  in short, whilst ‘Favourite Solicitor’ is at the police station, or in the office taking instructions and investigating witnesses, I am at Court, or back in chambers drafting applications or defence statements.

The Government are keen to cut legal aid fees, especially in crime. (That’s why solicitors have come to the Crown Court in the first place – not because they’re greedy or want to take over the world).

The only way to stop them cutting fees further is to show that the specialist advocate is still worth paying for. That means working together with our solicitors, and solicitor-advocates, not being at war with them. If we’re all at war then those separate fees will go and it will be the client who suffers.

I fully recognise that the sleeves on my gown are meaningless. What is of meaning is my reputation as a specialist.

If the Bar and Solicitors can’t stand together and protect litigator/advocacy fees then the clients will suffer. Solicitors are less likely to stand at our sleeved shoulders if we are publicly rude to them. And conversely, Barristers are less likely to stand shoulder to shoulder with solicitors if they assume we’re all pompous and out of touch.

Don’t need no drugs to make me high, – M People Classic ‘Sight for Sore Eyes’

On the 27th February 2012 the new drugs sentencing guidelines come into force in both the Magistrates and Crown Court. They’re relatively unsurprising.

There is nothing in there to break the cycle of drug offending. And we spend 0.48% of our GDP on anti-drugs policies. That’s the highest spend of any European Country.

Our massive drug use in this country causes pain elsewhere. In particular in Latin America.

So what’s to be done?

Well, once HMS Dauntless is finished off the Falklands, I’d send her north to the drug exportation routes.

And at home, I’d probably decriminalise the user. I see little is achieved in simple charges of possession, even of class A. Take that money and invest it in arrest referral schemes and drug treatment facilities.

It’s not a Small job

Pardon the pun.  Of course Heather Small isn’t ideal for Lord Chancellor. I’m sure she’s not even interested in the job. However, what is needed is someone who wants to be and is allowed to be radical. The money spent on the current system is just not good value for money. We lock up the same people again and again and it costs us.

When Ken Clarke suggested increasing discount for early guilty pleas he almost lost his job. There was a media frenzy. The move would have saved money and would have encouraged more individuals to plead guilty.

The criminal justice machine does not need someone to tweak and tune, it needs someone to start to re-imagine the engine. And it needs a political party to be brave and stand up and lead, to take the fire and using the last Heather Smallism of tonight: search for the hero inside yourself.

FTD

 

I’m going out at an odd time tonight, so I’m half getting ready, half dossing about. I flicked through the channels and saw advertised, ‘Tomorrow, When the War Began.’

It’s a book I read as a kid. In short, a foreign power (the  film assumes China/Korea) invades a rural part of Australia. You’re never able to work which foreign power and you never know how the Aussies, Brits, or Yanks are doing to take back Australia.

But, on the eve of the invasion a group of the local kids are out camping. They miss the invasion, they return to their local town to find their parents interred, their neighbours shot and their property destroyed.

There follows what can only be described as a guerilla war led by a motley bunch of local teenagers. Imagine the Secret Seven crossed with Bravo Two Zero. I know it sounds utterly bizarre, but honestly it’s a really interesting concept.

And as I say, they’ve now made it into a film. The film isn’t terrible at all. The kids get shot, they struggle shooting other people, they spend a lot of the time hiding, it’s not entirely unrealistic. It’s probably a bit realistic that the awkward Christian girl managed to take out an entire section with an automatic rifle, but… hey.

Romantic

As a kid I read at least two or three of the books in the series and I really enjoyed them. There’s a sense of strange romanticism. I like the idea that a bunch of teenagers would stand up and fight a tyrannical figure, when they themselves accept that they could just hide in the woods  for the duration of the war.

But it’s real too

Some of the bravest individuals to resist in Nazi Germany were the kids. The swings kids listened to un-Nazi jazz music. They wore their hair long, they worse American and English suits and they organised large events in an attempt to act as a counter to Nazi culture. They encouraged other youths to become anglophiles.

A number of the swing kids were involved in the White Rose movement. University students, mostly in Munich who lead a leafleting campaign and graffiti campaign against the Nazi regime. A number were put to death. Six were beheaded.

Likewise there was a connection with another youth resistance group, the Edelweiss Pirates. A group which always make my lip curl in a cheeky smile, the Edelweiss Pirates were probably the most active of the youth movements. They delivered Allied propaganda and they regularly ambushed the Hitler Youth and gave them a kick-in. No matter how many of the pirates they locked up they all kept going. In fact, they were a pain to the Brits when we arrived.

I knew what I took upon myself and I was prepared to lose my life by so doing

This quote is from Sophie Scholl  a german woman who at the age of 12 was packed off to the BDM (the girl’s division of the Hitler Youth), the propaganda soon wore off.

As a student in Munich she joined the White Rose,  she as a woman was stopped less by the SS, she was able to distribute anti-Nazi literature. One of these leaflets got back to the Brits. When the Brits got hold of it they copied it 6 million times and dropped it all over Europe.

Sophie Scholl was beheaded before Germany was liberated.

Oh the youth of today

The much maligned youth of the United Kingdom would stand up to tyranny I hope.  They have shown they are prepared to protest and fight for their views.

I wonder what they would do if all the adults were locked up, or persuaded by some extremist Government. They’ve grown up in a climate of fear, where people are scared of them or scared for them. They’ve grown up where there more likely to be locked up then told off for bad behaviour. And they’ve grown up in a society where their rights are maligned and complained about.

They probably don’t even teach about the Nazi resistance movements in schools anymore!

Ah well, if you listen to the right wing press then we’ve got a group of saboteurs  who will resort to extreme violence on every street  in England, all of whom will moan loudly about their human rights.

So actually – come on then tyrants, have a go if you think you’re hard enough.

FTD

 

I’ll get back to blogging about the serious stuff soon, honest. But one of the reasons I started blogging was to try and give an insight into our lives at the Bar and make us seem a bit more human.

I should have just shut up.

Lawyers are weird.

It all started with the generic bloggers’ valentine’s post, here’s mine: http://forthedefence.org/2012/02/14/love-and-the-law-valentines-day/

The aftermath

But, the day after, something strange happened. Well lots of strange things happened.

First, I was sat in Court with my client and someone from the unit who assists people from their ethnic background. The rest of the Court was full of police officers and local council officials.

All is relaxed, we’re waiting to begin, then,

‘Hi FTD’ – I turn around, uh-oh, it was a girl I’d been involved with about three years ago – completely forgot she was training for the Bar.

‘Good morning’ I say in my most serious lawyer voice

‘How ya doing’ She’s very pleasant and nice, the police have started to notice.

‘Oh, good, very well thank you very much, yes thank you’ I begin to start burning red, the coppers start to snigger.

‘Well it was good to see you, I’ll be around more now, I’ll be on my feet soon’ She says keenly and pleasantly.

‘Yes, good, good morning’ The police all start laughing, FTD is now clearly less scary then he was 10 minutes before.

Awful – massacre. Law and the love, lesson: barristers have to go to court, you can’t hide in an office and never see your Xs ever again.

There’s no business, like your business, it’s your business I know

There’s a break in proceedings and my phone starts to vibrate. It’s an e-mail from ‘Banter & Hedges’

X sent me an ‘hilarious’ secret valentines day card. secret? so how do i know it is him? because he is a third six in chambers with Y, who promptly told me.

the shame. it was sent to chambers too

WHEN MEAT?

x

Awful – massacre. Law and the love, lesson: barristers all know each other, they all know each other’s business.

Question everything

Back in chambers I was trying to decode the LSC funding manual. This has now become a hobby, I figure if I can unlock the code of the manual then I might be able to make law pay.

Phone vibrates again,

Pretty Boy: Hey buddy. An odd question, but did you send me a valentines card?! Received one which reads in a rather amusing fashion. First reaction is obv that’s it’s a prank on the part of a bloody good bloke…

FTD: Erm, no, no I didn’t, I’ve only got your parents address. Obviously love you all the same, roses next year

Pretty Boy: Ha ha thanks bud. Amusingly was sent to me at [insert name of large city law firm]. Curious

FTD: In which case – no idea. I’m the only one I can think of with propensity toward such japery – maybe it’s genuine?!

Before you ask, I didn’t send the card.

Awful-massacre. Love and the law, lesson: lawyers question everything.

Poor girl, she probably thought she was being really funny, and his first reaction was to text FTD.

Sobriquet

If you follow regularly, you’ll notice that a few characters have started to appear. And without much disguise, my mates who follow have all managed to identify themselves instantly. But one hasn’t appeared, one of my best mates, email sent today complaining he lacked a ‘sobriquet.’

Having looked up the word sobriquet, I now understand his complaint.

So can I introduce to you ‘Bearded Monogamist’ – one of my bessies, goes from long term relationship to long term relationship and is a solicitor at one of those [insert name of big city firms].

Final lesson of the day, lawyers are always seeking attention and recognition.

Back to the serious blogging…

FTD

 

 

 

Housemate: Oh shut up, you love being Dad.

FTD: No, no I don’t

Housemate: Yeah you do, you do a bit,

FTD: Yeah I do a bit,

Housemate: You love it when the lads come to you for advice, makes you think you’re wise or something

FTD: Yeahhhhh I do love it, and shut up I am wise, very wise.

I’ve been through at least 3 breakups in the last 6 months. None luckily have been mine. But some of my best mates have, and I have lived through the pain. And don’t get me wrong, my mates are not the scented candles, whale song, self-help book types – they’re blokes. So, yeah, I am pretty proud that they feel able to come to me to talk stuff through.

But then, when you think about it, most days of the week I have to talk things through with complete strangers, people who don’t know me at all. If you’re thinking about a career at the Bar in the areas of law I practice in then it’s very much public facing. And often they have to tell you about very personal things within a very short amount of time of meeting you.

Love and the law

‘Pretty Boy’ and I were discussing the impending doom recently that we face. That all the boys would marry off and we’d be left, in our pinstripe suits, in nightclubs on a Friday night.

He works stupid hours in the City, I work long hours at the Bar. What’s the solution? No, not ‘Lovely Solicitor’ – I haven’t seen her in months.

But we talked about the forbidden solution, the solution which we are all too afraid to mention. No, not civil partnership, although both our Mums have wondered. Worse: online dating.

Safety first

A couple of the police forces on twitter were advertising a website earlier today: ‘online dating safely.’ The website is sponsored by HM Government, HSBC and Microsoft.

So now, I am going to take dating advice from a global bank, a global corporation and a sovereign Government. Perhaps it’s easy to see why the lads are coming to me.

According to the website, ‘broken hearts and disappointment are perhaps the biggest risks in online dating.’ Well I think that’s exactly right.

Can I be Dad again for a moment and run through their advice:

Choose your forum carefully – yep – just as in real life, don’t go down dimly lit backstreets looking for the love of your life.

Protect your privacy – yep – when the guy in the shiny silver shirt and tight gold trousers sidled up to you in the bar, don’t give him your name, address and national insurance number.

Meeting someone – yep – don’t agree to go on a  first date at a disused canal.

Common sense told you all of the above, you don’t need FTD or HM Government to tell you.

Fear

Fear has become one of the overwhelming features of our society. It’s sad. Latest singleton mate is worried that he’ll revert to his former self now single, he won’t, he doesn’t seem to realise (yet) that he would have grown up anyway, no matter if he had a girlfriend or not.

All of us single lawyers are afraid to ask out ‘Lovely Solicitor’, or alternatively, too afraid that we might let something get in the way of our careers.

Looking down the list of lawyer facebook statuses tonight:

‘Banter and Hedges’ is drinking prosecco and watching Lord of the Rings.

A family law barrister is having a romantic evening in with two lever arch files.

‘GQ’ has ‘liked’ a picture of a newborn child – incredibly concerning

One of the city girls has just written, ‘Valentines Day. Pah’

NGO lawyer writes, ‘not even a pity card for the old spinster. shocker.’

So in short, lawyers are rubbish at love. My incredibly scientific survey just proved as much.

Uniform dating

Uniform dating is apparently one of the fastest growing dating websites on the internet. I imagine it is, people in their droves signing up to date a fireman.  I’m not convinced that Wig Romance or Legal Lovers would attract such a big crowd.

Anyway, I’m not convinced dating other lawyers is the way to go.  Having had my ex sit at the back of court throughout my hearing this morning. It was fine, no disorder in the court.

Some advice from Dad

Lawyers are rubbish at dating. But we’re brilliant at listening and rubbish at dating. So, next time you have a relationship meltdown, go to your lawyer friend. We’re better than the smug married lot who found each other at age 13.

If for some reason you do fancy dating a lawyer, I suggest you follow this utterly awful guide

http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/how-to-date-a-lawyer

However, if you come up to me in a barrister bar, start chatting latin at me and then giving me a citation for every idea you have then I am likely to pass.

Who am I kidding, I’d rather that than trying to think up a witty mysinglefriend.com profile for ‘Pretty Boy’.

Happy St Valentine’s Day

FTD.

 

 

 

 

 

Sorting Hat: Hmm, difficult. VERY difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind, either. There’s talent, oh yes. And a thirst to prove yourself. But where to put you?

FTD: Not Slytherin. Not Slytherin.

Sorting Hat: Not Slytherin, eh? Are you sure? You could be great, you know. It’s all here in your head. And Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, there’s no doubt about that. No?

FTD: Please, please. Anything but Slytherin, anything but Slytherin.

Sorting Hat: Well if you’re sure, better be… GRYFFINDOR!

Snake-oil salesmen lawyers

Writing about Boris Johnson’s recent announcement that Operation Trident would be expanded and that the Met would get in the faces of and persecute London’s gangs, big name police blogger Inspector Gadget writes:

There is an entire industry out there, made up of snake-oil salesmen lawyers who will literally drool at the prospect of the legal battles they can join against the police if we take the gloves off in this way.

Lawyer gags are one thing, but this reflects what seems to be genuine hatred. FTD does advise on actions against the police. Mostly public law about their policy decisions, but occasionally for individuals who have been hurt by the police.

Of those individuals, they are people who have been seriously hurt by a police failure. Or, in one case, a man who had been imprisoned for several years because of police misfeasance.

Does Inspector Gadget really think that I sit in chambers hoping that the police will act unlawfully? It’s far from it. I don’t get any enjoyment from a police officer assaulting someone, or evidence being falsified and a person being locked up as a result.

And as for the implied suggestion that it’s a gravy train:

1) A number of my contemporaries from Oxford with similar qualifications earn double what I do in the City.

2) Those who act for the police are paid more than those who act for claimants.

Simple as the sorting hat

I would hope that police inspectors did not think it as simple as: cops are good, lawyers are bad.

There are two moments of my career so far which are not as simple as black and white.

On one occasion something went very badly wrong at the listing in a London Youth Court. Rival gangs were all stuck in one place. All that was to stop chaos breaking out were two court security guards, backed up by a female PC. Before too long, I’d joined in, with one of the Defendant’s mothers, trying to keep them all apart. The five us, all very different managed to keep the peace for a few hours at least. Would a snake-oil salesman help, or stand by and watch? Oh, and I ought to add, by the end of the day (my youth acquitted), and the peace we maintained in the morning having broken down, the police escorted me from the building and into a cab. I thanked them.

On another, I was representing a high level executive from a well known international firm. I was representing him for assaulting a police officer. It was all very high pressure simply because of the executive’s job, but unbeknownst to me professional standards were sitting in the trial as was a force lawyer. I knew why when I opened the brief. Not much about the prosecution case made much sense. And when that police officer got into the witness box and was cross examined it all unravelled and he accepted he lied. I knew my client would be acquitted at that point and I asked the prosecutor to stop, he wouldn’t. I didn’t revel in victory, far from it, I felt sorry for the officer. He had made a mistake when he was single crewed and had been waylaid. He had lied as a result of that mistake. And because the prosecution continued there was an announcement in open court that this officer had told lies and was not a credible witness. No doubt that would have had a massive impact on his career, he may even have lost his job, I don’t know. I didn’t drool at the prospect.

Duty

The police take an oath to discharge their duties faithfully according to the law. I am duty bound to fearlessly defend my client’s best interests. It’s something I take very seriously. No matter who the client.

I’d even defend a copper.

And if I was so instructed I would fearlessly defend that police officer’s best interests as I’m required to do.

Slytherin and Gryffindor

What insults me is the idea that I seek the misery of others for money. I have  a professional commitment and sense of duty, like I hope good police officers do. Being good or bad is not a simple as the sorting hat. Not all police are in Gryffindor, nor all lawyers in Slytherin.

Criminal justice is not a pantomime. And the police do not have the monopoly on fighting for justice.

FTD.

My favourite blogging magistrate, ‘Bystander’ was warning about another potential meltdown in the lower criminal court: getting lost in translation.

http://thelawwestofealingbroadway.blogspot.com/

Therein was a warning. A warning that there would be problems with the new interpreter system for the criminal courts.

Basically

The old system was the Court kept a register of interpreters. They called them, they booked them, they paid them. Now, money must be saved, so there’s a new central organisation booking interpreters.

The Court sends an email, and, well an interpreter is supposed to appear.

Eh?

I remember once translating for a French defendant in Court. They simply couldn’t get anybody to turn up. It was incredibly rare. Without an interpreter one can quite simply do nothing. You can’t advise, you can’t sort out bail, nothing.

And imagine in extradition cases? I might be able to mime a shoplifting but I sure as hell can’t mime the EU Framework decision on extradition.

Ya what?

So, is the new system working? I’ve been in the Mags twice in the last two weeks. Both times there were lawyers in Court, both times no interpreter had come. On one occassion, the Chair of the Bench was trying to explain bail in what can only be described as comedy Brit-abroad, ME, SPEAK, SLOWLY, LOUDLY, YOU, UNDERSTAND,YES – no, she didn’t understand, but thankfully she got bail

There may be trouble ahead…

… or I might be doing Polish/Russian evening classes.

FTD