Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Compulsory advocacy course II

My fellow pupils were an interesting bunch. Most, of course, were straight out of Bar School. And, my, they looked young. A lot of them were at criminal sets, and many will by now be ‘on their feet’, the barrister-ism for starting your second six. This is when you start taking your own cases, and these very young looking recent students will be out prosecuting or defending the guilty and the innocent with equal vigour, as directed by their clerks.

Scary. For all concerned, no doubt. I myself am a few weeks behind them, which is also pretty scary.

During the first coffee break, I introduced myself to a few of the other pupils with the equivalent of the compulsory A-levels or gap year conversation you are by law compelled to have with other freshers at university. For barrister pupils, this seems to be what set, what work and what your Master is like. I said a few words on all of these subjects in order to join in.

As we were finishing a coffee break, though, I overheard someone talking about this brilliant new blog by a pupil barrister that was ‘blowing the whole thing wide open’. A shiver of fear ran down my spine. I’d probably just given away enough information to make myself traceable in the highly unlikely event that anyone had been listening when I was introducing myself. This also meant I’d need to slip away at lunch for some swift blog editing, as I’d mentioned when I’d be going on the course.

The next emotion to flash through my brain, very shortly afterwards, was pride. These pupils were reading my blog! Excellent, I have an audience amongst my peers, I thought.

I eavesdropped a little more as we filed back into the lecture room. As the initiator of the conversation sat down, someone was asking him for the address for my blog. ‘babybarista.blogspot.com', he said.

Oh well.

However, I take this opportunity to plug BabyBarista as a very good read. It's as if Anonymous Lawyer had been reincarnated as a pupil barrister, basically, and it differs from my blog in being fictional but being more consistently written (in the sense of style and care as well as regularity) and having a plot. I see from my own catching up with the unfolding plotline involving a direct access honey trap today that he’s justifiably landed a deal with TimesOnline. They do seem to have altered his strapline, though, I just noticed in pasting this link, and it's a little more like mine than it used to be. I should perhaps consult Geeklawyer about the intellectual property dimension. I guess it's a fairly obvious descriptor to pick given the subject matter, and I've certainly no objection.

Anyway, what about the advocacy course itself? There was a heavy criminal focus, which is presumably justified on the ground that criminal cases provide an excellent training ground on both advocacy and the rules of evidence. I can see this point, but it does feel a bit frustrating being put through pathetic pleas in mitigation when I have no intention of ever knowingly going near a criminal court.

I am, perhaps, prejudiced by the appalling experience of freezing up during the exercises on the first day. I was in a dank, foul mood after the ridiculous start to the day and over the obvious criminal law focus. The trainers are told to pick up on negative ‘headlines’ and I had strips torn off/from me for exactly this grammatical point. I was speechless with embarrassment and disbelief. It definitely got better as it went, though, and the witness handling practise was particularly useful.

Overall judgment: better than hanging around chambers for the same time, some useful witness work and I'm grateful for getting some proper training, even if it was rather negative in its approach.

1 comment:

Josephine Bloggs said...

From the perspective of someone looking to find their way to the Bar over the next couple of years, I would say that your blog is more useful by far than that of Baby Barista. His is amusing, scandalous and far-fetched whereas yours is informative, honest and altogether rather more believable...

I read both with equal curiosity, but I know who I'd rather have as Counsel!