Monday, 15 January 2007


Last week was horrendously busy. Needless to say, I didn't actually do very much, in that I had nothing to show for my efforts at the end of the week. In effect, though, I was waiting hand and foot on The Master and doing his every bidding while he handled the ongoing care case I've already mentioned in previous posts. His biddings ranged from fetching coffee and sandwiches to phoning his instructing solicitor or a police witness to chase something up while the court was sitting, or even telling him whether he was finished with his re-examination or not.

When I rocked up on Monday morning, the court room was already crammed with additional desks and chairs, and I had to perch next to The Master at the end of the front row. Bizarrely, this made me look like the fifth advocate. The QCs' juniors were on the row behind. I seemed to end up performing a similar function to them, acting as a sounding board, preparing ideas for examination of witnesses, saying 'yes' in response to the strained whisper 'is there anything else?' at the end of examination of a witness and getting the coffee. One of the juniors had a pupil, though, so she was able to delegate this particular task a little further down the pecking order. I was even referred to a couple of times by The Master in conversation with the judge as 'my learned pupil'. I laughed out loud the first time I heard this, rather embarrassingly.

No doubt a proper junior gets paid a little more than me, however. And does a better job, too.

When I was introduced to the other lawyers that morning, one of the two QCs immediately asked, 'Are you any relation of Brigadier Pupil Blogger? In East Sussex?' My actual names are slightly unusual and rarely found in combination. I answered that as far as I know I am not, to which he replied, 'Are you sure? He looked a lot like you. Tall, dark hair, big nose and quite pale too. He died last year. His widow would love to meet you. I saw her at church on Sunday.'

It isn't exactly the main point here, but I have what I consider to be a suntan after two weeks in the Middle East.

Anyway, it turned out that his questioning of witnesses was as logical as his cross examination of me on the subject of the good brigadier. He tore into the social worker for her militant atheism (this followed from her giving evidence on affirmation rather than oath, something that the QC had shrewdly spotted and proceeded to raise in his cross examination) and her failure to cater for the child's Christian religious needs in the care plan. He lambasted every local authority witness for not having written their own witness statements themselves from start to finish. He went Lynne Truss on anyone who left a typo in a document.

And not once but twice his mobile phone went off during the hearing, to the tinny tune of 'what shall we do with the drunken sailor'. No-one looked up or said anything. Not even the judge.

There was also a bit of light relief when he broke The Master's coffee table. The Master brings a little coffee table to long hearings to use as a lecturn. His bad back and weak eyes (despite his Yoda-esque stature, it's still a good distance from eye to table when standing) make this a necessity. This QC was next to him and obviously got lecturn envy. He enquired whether he could borrow the table for his own examination of witnesses. The Master very reluctantly agreed, but warned him not to lean on it and that his wife would not be impressed if he broke it. The QC did then of course lean on it, and in fact gave it a bit of an emphatic battering during the theological inquisition of the social worker. It broke. The Master was deeply unimpressed, as apparently was his wife when she head about it that night, and the repentent QC turned up early the next morning with wood glue and a pencil. It's as good as new, you'll be glad to hear.

The other QC was particularly impressive and left parts of the local authority case in tatters by intelligent and persistent questioning. I found repellent and ignorant his insinuation that the voluntary return home of a victim of domestic violence meant that the alleged victim must be making the whole thing up, but the witnesses seemed to lap it up and no-one demurred. He also went unnecessarily ballistic at the foster carer at one point and demanded an instant translation of some diary entries from Gujarati to English, claiming it was a simple matter. There was no doubting that he was effective, though,

It was a tiring week, but interesting. It was, however, more than enough for me to decide I don't want to be a family law barrister. The idea of working towards doing this kind of case in a few years' time does not remotely appeal. My lack of enthusiasm must have been apparent. On Thursday, The Master asked me to walk with him to the tube. He asked whether I was really interested in this work, prefacing the question by saying that it was unofficial and certainly would not get back to Chambers. I wasn't going to lie and told him that I wasn't interested in doing this for a career, although I might be interested in working in immigration. I'll need to wait until my second six has started and I have an immigration pupilmaster to get a feel for that.

No comments: