Wednesday, 16 May 2007

Still standing

I'm happy to report that all went quite well. The pre-hearing review went smoothly, although the judge must have taken three times as long as was necessary, just through general faffing. The ex parte application also went fairly smoothly.

I was certainly nervous. The Master wasn't around, but had texted me some rough details. There was no papers yet, so I drafted up an order based on this text message, thinking I could amend it once I had the papers. When did I get the papers? On the way to court, of course. It was a bit late for changes by then as we really needed the order signed and sealed that day so that documents could be released to us by the court.

The solicitors sent a work experience student. This was Good because it meant that no-one important was watching me if I messed up, stuttered, slumped forward in a nervous collapse and so on. However, it was Bad because there was no-one there to point me in the right direction if something went wrong.

After some deliberation I decided to write on the form for my name and party that I was 'counsel/pupil' and tell the usher it was my first case in the High Court in the hope she would tell the judge. I decided there was probably more chance of an easy ride that way, as the judge in question was reputed to be OK. I'd checked that in chambers before leaving.

The hearing was over in a flash and I did fine, even if I say so myself. There was very little to say and the order I'd drafted was suitable, with one slight amendment (insertion in the recital of a quick reference to a previous order). The judge and Associate were willing for me to hand write this, as otherwise we'd need to call the solicitors, get them to make the changes then email it to the Associate so that a pristine correct copy could be produced.

All in all, a good first day. I've now got a few hearings appearing in my diary, including some substantive half day cases. I am, however, going through what I hope is simply a nervous phase where I wonder where the work is going to come from in the future. I've got to make a living doing this.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Day One, Second Six

Tomorrow, Monday, is the first day of my 'second six'. Thie second six is the second six months of pupillage, when the pupil is (finally) allowed to take his or her own cases. I will be on The Master's professional indemnity insurance but it will be me doing the advocacy and I can at last accept instructions. I actually had to turn down one opportunity to do an opinion a couple of months ago, which was frustrating.

I will be said by other barristers to be 'on my feet', a term I accidentally used to my girlfriend. Understandably, she was less than excited, presumably thinking that I really had been spending an awful lot of time sitting down recently.

I have been in contact with a few solicitors that I know over the last few days. This was pretty embarrassing but I decided that they simply wouldn't know that I was available if I didn't tell them and that a direct reference to the fact that I was now looking for work was preferable to some beating around the bush.

I am happy to report that I now have booked into my diary:
  • one case to do in June (and a pre-hearing review before then) from a contact
  • a pre-hearing review return tomorrow morning
  • a straightforward ex parte High Court application tomorrow afternoon
I am particularly pleased/petrified about the last on this list. My first day on my feet and I'm off to the High Court. I don't even have a wig and gown yet, but as this is the Family Division that isn't a problem this time. I think it might be time to bite the bullet, though, and splash out on the gear.

I've been semi-briefed on this through The Master, who has introduced me to one of his key solicitors and seems to have suggested that I make the application rather than him. This is, obviously, quite generous of him. I say semi-briefed because it all depends whether I can get back from the other case in time. Anyone in chambers could do it. Or, at least, anyone this solicitor is willing to tolerate. She send a lot of work into chambers, but definitely has some favourites and some she has marked with the Black Spot. I have so far made a good impression and she's willing to let me do it.

I just hope I don't somehow screw it up.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Third six pupil

There was a chambers meeting last week. These are convened but rarely – only when a tenancy application is made, apparently. I therefore knew that last year’s pupil, who had not previously applied for tenancy but was instead doing a third six, had resolved to make an application.

I admit to mixed feelings. The other pupil from this year is already on her feet and has done a few very minor hearings so far. They have been uncontested interim care order renewals and the like, very straightforward. There doesn’t seem to be that much junior work coming into chambers at the moment, though, something on which a couple of people have remarked sicne I started.

Competition for scarce resources is not necessarily a good thing, then, from a purely selfish point of view. I was keen to question The Master the next morning.

She got the tenancy. I am genuinely pleased for her as she seems very nice and very competent. The line at the meeting was apparently that she was a good barrister, the tenancy committee was therefore recommending her and chambers as a whole (those who turned up, anyway) were willing to give her a chance to stand on her own two feet. If she can’t get enough work, that is her problem, basically.

I was told that this was chambers policy when I applied for pupillage, I remember, and it seems to be applied in practise. Unlike the days before pupillage awards, chambers have actually invested something in pupils and the selection process is done early on, in these chambers at least. The default position seems to be that you get tenancy as long as you don’t screw up.

That said, until last year the last pupil to be taken on was called in 2003, and I know that we were taking two pupils a year throughout.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Letter of apology

I was going to change tack and write an angst-ridden post about a recent schmoozing experience, some chambers politics and the fate of last year’s now third six pupil, but instead I report that The Master received a letter of apology from the very judge I mentioned in my very last post. The Master appealed him to the Court of Appeal on what The Master considered an obvious legislative interpretation point that the judge concerned had pulled out of his own hat very late on in a trial.

Well, The Master just received a personal note from the judge, addressed to The Master by his first name (‘The’, in case you were wondering) admitting that he, the judge, was wrong (er, as had been pointed out already by the Court of Appeal) and saying, basically, ‘no hard feelings’.

I’ve never seen or heard of anything like it, but I haven’t been around long.

Angst-y post or posts to follow eventually.