Friday, 16 March 2007

Callow youths

I saw my own future yesterday. I was at a county court and watched a couple of very young looking barristers slogging it out in a Housing Act appeal. Barrister 1 spoke with natural authority, and it was only when he turned around for instructions from his solicitor that I realised how young he looked. The judge rather rammed it home by commenting on three separate occasions on his youth. I quote:

'Of course, you are too young to remember when...'

'I have man-handled prams down similar staircases but I suspect you are a little young to have done likewise...'

'It's easy to clean mould off, you just use Jeyes Fluid, you haven't lived, have you?'

Barrister 1 bore these remarks with staid equanimity, but he did seem to be making what I guess are classic novice mistakes. He talked over the judge on a number of occasions and adopted a slightly hectoring tone at times, venturing his own opinion rather too readily. I would guess these are advocacy attributes of the very inexperienced and the very experienced barrister, but no-one in-between.

Towards the end of the hearing it became clear from a little judicial rant that the judge was less than sympathetic on the challenge to the reasonableness of the decision in question. This monologue covered the nature of health and safety These Days, how well the judge knew the locality in question, how typical the condition of the house was and how everyone else seemed to be managing just fine. Barrister 1 could see the direction the hearing was going, and his submissions took on a slightly unseemly pleading tone. He fell back on emotional language and imagery and his delivery speed increased. It must be so difficult to just abandon what one considers to be a good point but with the benefit of observation rather than participation, it seemed clear that he was frittering away both his time and his credibility as an advocate. In fact, he won on a good technical point and could have just dropped this angle of the case.

Meanwhile, Barrister 2 had been bounding around the court room like an enthusiastic puppy. The clerk was absent for long periods, and Barrister 1 had a few documents to hand up. Before he could move himself, Barrister 2 was scooting round to hand up the papers for him, bending down to pick up a stray paper cup on the way back. When it transpired that Barrister 1's skeleton had not made its way to the court file, Barrister 2 leapt up to offer a spare copy. When Barrister 1 looked around and muttered about water, Barrister 2 looked around him like a helpful meercat, trying to spot some way, any way, of obliging, before the judge offered some from his own carafe. He was a bit too mobile, basically, although he spoke very well.

I'll be there myself in the not-too-distant future, and I dread to think what I'll look like and how I'll behave.


Anonymous said...

Keep up your excellent posts. It is a real (rather than far-fetched and over done) account of pupillage. I am learning a lot from all of this.

Android said...

It is a lot easier to see other people's mistakes :(

Pupilblogger said...

Absolutely, Android. And I'm planning to watch more junior barristers in the time leading up to my own second six, as I'm hoping this will help me avoid at least some mistakes I can perceive in others but not myself.

Anonymous said...

Love this blog. I'm starting my pupillage in October at a chancery set and I am scared and frankly dreading the experience. I find your blog v. reassuring and funny at times. My only comment : perhaps you could reverse the timeline of your blogs. I start reading the first one at the top of the page only to realise I'm going back in time as I scroll down.