I’m not saying when, but in the last few months I attended the compulsory advocacy course the Bar Council insists all first six pupils undertake.
It was a bit of a nightmare. It brought back some traumatic memories of Bar School, which I hated and remains the worst year of my life. Closely followed by the CPE conversion course.
On the first day, the course compere started by barking at a randomly selected victim.
‘STAND UP AND TELL US ABOUT THE MOST INTERESTING THING YOU’VE EVER DONE!’
This turned out to be riding back from India on a motorbike with the victim’s army chums.
The compere, a matronly figure, then proceeded to explain to the class in some detail how badly this poor chap had spoken. The next victim was then selected, and it turned out that the most interesting thing she’d ever done was, with her sisters, meet Mother Theresa in Calcutta. Who was amazing, apparently. I’m not sure whether the sisters in question were the victim’s siblings or fellow nuns.
This victim’s ability to speak in the English language was then dissected before us. It was like the latest Channel 4 live vivisection show. Pun intended, I’m afraid.
Further casualties followed, until even Matron was compelled to feel pity by the answer ‘I have to say that attending my high school was the most interesting thing I’ve ever done in my life. There were some really fascinating people there!’
She moved on to her next routine, which consisted of asking us one by one what we thought of our own voice. If this training were true to life, there would have been a Dr Evil-style trapdoor incident every time someone said they didn’t like the sound of their own voice. This is barrister training, for God’s sake! A real barrister LOVES the sound of his or her own voice. Instead, we got to victim no. 7, who admitted that he didn’t much like the sound of his voice.
‘NO, I CAN HER WHY! YOUR VOICE HAS QUITE A NASAL QUALITY! BUT IT’S NOT THAT BAD! IT’S NOT AS BAD AT KEN LIVINGSTON, FOR EXAMPLE!’
This post is already getting too long, so I can see I’ll need to do another on the subject. By the time the first half hour was over I was already a seething ball of resentment. Not a good way to start, I feel. I’m duty bound to say, though, that by the end of the course it had been helpful.