This blog represents my views and opinions. They are not necessarily those of any other member of my Chambers, none of whom contribute to the blog, or assist me with it.


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Friday, 8 February 2008

Life at the Bar

I woke up this morning and realised that it was the first time in 4 weeks that I was not going to spend the day racing around like a maniac. More particularly, last night was the first time since last Saturday night that I had gone to bed earlier than 3am. And I wasn't out clubbing. My case over-ran with the Jury out for a long time and I had an Opening due in the next. Since the next case (due to start Monday) was contained in 42 lever-arch files, the Opening was a long document. I got it down to 42 pages - one per file - which I thought was good going.

Of course, no sooner was it delivered than the case settled. So that's 5 weeks' work down the pan and no money. Of course all those late nights were worth it. Now I have nothing for next week and not much for the week after. My family will be allowed to talk to me about non-urgent matters - this has been banned for the last 4 weeks or so - and walking the dog will not be the opportunity to talk to the junior in the London case. I would like to think he will miss his nightly call, but suspect that he will also be glad to get back to his wife and family.

This is what it can be like. Frantic activity which turns out to be for nothing. Weeks of real pressure and anxiety. And then a complete gap. I do actually have work to do, but I'm not going to do anything until Tuesday. On Monday the dog and I are going to walk to Harewood House, have lunch (me) and come back. We will both have covered 13 odd miles and the dog will have chased things and barked at other things. We will both be knackered but feel much better. I hope my clerk isn't reading this.

Monday was going to be an allegation of a civil conspiracy by state bodies. I am sorry in some ways that it settled, although the client walks away with some money. I had got right into it by the time the Opening was finished and there is now a slight feeling of anti-climax. That's part of the job too, but I never much like it. I console myself with the belief that we would have won, and the knowledge that I can't be proved wrong about that.

As part of the settlement I took no fee for the work done in preparation during the last month or so. I blame Conditional Fee Arrangements myself. They have always been unsatisfactory and in this case my junior and I were in a position of conflict: on the basis of the proposed settlement, the client got what we believed was an acceptable amount and we got nothing. If it fought and we won, we could both have taken most of the rest of the year off. We did the right thing and we know it, but it is uncomfortable nonetheless. Whilst the Government seems content to defame the Bar, I bet no civil-servant ever cites this sort of thing.

A fairly typical month all-in-all. As you read the posts below, please ask yourself if this is what you want. As for me, I love it.


Lost London Law Student said...

A whole months work without being paid?
42 arch lever files on a case?
I am starting to consider whether the life at the bar is really for me...

Simon is this a silk workload or fairly regular for each case?

Andy Stone said...

Simon - I know you don't mention your recent case to gain praise but really: you are an absolute inspiration. I have knocked around a bit and even so your article sends tingles up my spine. Coupled with the excellent advice peppered throughout your blog I most certainly do intend to go to the Bar, despite current political assaults, and would like to thank you for the help I have found in these pages.

And all this from a 37 year old who is only now at the stage of accepting a place on the GDL. Feedback from various work experiences so far suggests I am not deluded so hope, as they say, springs eternal.

Bar or Bust said...

Thank you for the add and I am glad you enjoy the blog, especially seeing as I have found yours so helpful.

FYI it is 'he' that isn't afraid to voice his opinions, although I hope that they are measured and based in fairly logic thought.

On a different note, after reading both letters, I am appalled by the stance the LSC have taken over the (understandable) reluctance of barristers to sign their souls away (I mean contracts).

Any pointers you could give about my 'quest' as it were and the experience I have would be most helpful.

simply wondered said...

actually - while i would spend the week swearing if it had happened to me - it still sounds fun. i'd miss the trial more than the money.
hey andy - i'm 42 and on the gdl - beatcha! it is a lot of work - but not exactly hard.

Anonymous said...

Hi Simon,

You live in Busy and Interesting Times.I hope for similar!
I'm often curious as to mindset when prosecuting or defending; do you find that each is different, or is there a need to maintain a steady, even and deeply subjective point of view in order to accomplish the task effectively? I appreciate an element of professional distance is necessary in order to maintain sanity, but occiasionally, when either prosecuting or defending is there ever a time when it is difficult to control personal outrage and/or emotions??

Mr Pineapples said...

Simone - that's a great life you describe. But what about those poor sods out there earning £50 for a mention and paying out £75 on a train fare?

Simon Myerson said...

Well, I agree. But I can't write about what I don't do. Everyone must make their own choices, which is why mini-pupillages are so important. And you could get typing...

Mr Pineapples said...

Get typing? What? Moi? No - I leave the typing to my PA.

But - we know how well a chap of your calibre does (no irony intended there Simone) - but isnt life at the real coal face of the criminal Bar a bit rubbish?