Thursday, 21 December 2006

In trouble, my Pupil, you are

The Master did actually utter this Yoda-ism yesterday. We'd been off to do a mental health case at a county court in the morning. Chambers have gone very quiet in the run up to Christmas, with everyone migrating to The Maldives. Sounds like they're the Yuletide equivalent of summer Tuscany, which I understand to be populated entirely by barristers between late June and late August. As a result, the clerks are going frantic trying to cover all the work. I swear I heard one of the senior clerks start maniacally to giggle just before managing to put down the tannoy thing yesterday. Even The Master has been required to go to court a lot.

This was his first mental health case and he knew as much about the law as I do. Not a lot, need I say. It was mainly a factual issue anyway, but I did get a ticking off for asking a difficult question ('why are we actually making this application?') in front of the social worker at one point. A severely mentally ill woman had stopped taking her medication despite her family's best efforts but her very clearly devoted husband and eldest son were very reluctant for her to be sectioned (i.e. compulsorily admitted to and detained at hospital). They also objected to the local social services doing it for them, understandably. This objection legally prevents anything from happening, so social services had applied to displace the husband as 'nearest relative' for the purpose of making such objections. All a bit grim, but the husband's loyalty through several years of what must have been hell was uplifting.

We got back to chambers at about lunchtime. I was sent out for sandwiches and told to get one for myself, which has happened a few times now, and then wrote up a draft note of hearing for the local authority instructing solicitor. I mentioned that I'd like to pop out after lunch to try and do some quick holiday shopping, and The Master said words to the effect of 'take your time'.

I did. Two hours, nearly, as I struggled to find what I needed. Big mistake.

'In trouble, my Pupil, you are. Big trouble!' The Master said when I returned, in a slightly Yoda-ish voice as well as sentence construction. He was smiling, but it was clear that I was indeed in trouble. I then spent the afternoon and early evening making amends by helping him organise his papers. His room, which is tiny and shared by two other barristers, has been refurbished and all of his papers were in boxes. We sorted through them, throwing out junk, of which there was much, and sorting the rest into piles.

I say 'we', but I was unable to make any judgment calls on what constitutes junk. My role was primarily to provide moral support by reaching down and fetching boxes then throwing papers out of the door into a large box in the corridor - no space for it inside the room. I nearly hit several passers-by with old textbooks and empty lever arch files during the course of the afternoon. Crispin was sitting playing Patience at the computers just outside and I think we threw his game slightly, as he disappeared after about twenty minutes, only to reappear later to mutter to The Master that he seemed to be teaching me everything there is to know about moving boxes around.

Every time I wandered off to get yet another coffee or go to the loo, The Master would grind to a halt or disappear off somewhere himself. He seemed unable to continue without me literally standing over him. Doing basically nothing. It really does seem to be quite an odd relationship, this.

The room has less boxes in now, but just looks like a more organised mess. I was particularly amused by the enormous pile of potentially unpaid bills that The Master has insisted on keeping. Many of these date back to the early 1990s and his previous sets of chambers, and many of the solicitors firms have probably folded. There's clearly no chance he's ever going to get paid for any of these now, but he insisted that he will have a look through them one day. There was also a large pile of old notebooks he was unwilling to throw out, and a substantial stack of old papers that were to be returned to various solicitors firms. Some of these also dated to the early 1990s, so I think some of the firms may be quite surprised to get them. Get them they will, though, I took them up to the clerks room for posting.

Every time he walks into the room he now says 'how tidy this room is!' to anyone who can hear. The Yoda thing hadn't occurred to me until yesterday's utterance, but now that I write that last sentence I'm a bit worried. He's quite short as well...

Anyway, my assistance was clearly appreciated (it is the most useful I've managed to make myself in my time here, I realised), and The Master's words of thanks suggest that I could explore alternative careers as a life launderer or removal man should pupillage not work out.

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