It was the chambers b-2-s schmooze-fest last night. It is held every year on the Friday closest to midsummer, and it is quite a big do. There must have been around 300 people there. Hopefully none of them are big fans of blog surfing.
The Other Pupil and I were on name tag duty for the first couple of hours. I'd been out at court until late on and then sorting out some bundles for The Master, so the preparation work had fallen to her. She arranged the names in a complex hierarchy that started with judges and wives, went on to court staff, then solicitors organised by firm and then alphabetically by name and then, finally our chambers barristers and staff.
It took me a while to realise that no other barristers were invited.
The names on the tags were facing away from the two of us, which led to some friendly rivalry as we strove to be the first to find the name of each new arrival. However, there was an additional complication The Other Pupil had not anticipated and which became something of a minefield for us both.
As each arrival walked into the room, we had somehow to ascertain their place in the hierarchy. Judge, wife, court staff or solicitor? In some cases it was really quite easy to guess. Sandals means a solicitor, I learned, and advanced age generally signifies a judge of some seniority. Still, there were a couple of classic moments.
'Sorry to keep you waiting. Which firm are you with?'
'I AM LORD JUSTICE VERY IMPORTANT.' There was also the problem that not everyone had RSVP-ed, therefore not everyone had a nametag. Some people got quite surprisingly upset about this, and wrote out a number of tags ourselves. One solicitor also made The Other Pupil go back to chambers and print off a new name tag with his OBE included on it.
One of the waitresses took pity on us and secretly fed us canapés, which was helpful, and we were both very moderate with the champagne. We'd be warned about the behaviour of one of the pupils two years ago at the same party, but neither of us has been able to find anyone willing to spill the beans, even after a few drinks.
With the exception of one clanger, I found the party useful, I think. Nearly Legal has just posted on the subject of schmoozing by barristers, and includes a link to a recent article by David Pannick QC on the same subject. I chatted to several solicitors I haven't seen for a while and attempted to strike a delicate balance between sounding legally knowledgeable and not laying it on too thick. At the very least I reminded them that I exist and am available for work. Whether that actually translates into briefs, only time will tell. I saw several junior members of chambers being introduced to solicitors by whom they had been briefed but had never met, so I would have thought that would have been useful to them.
I can't imagine a party being a good way of meeting entirely new solicitors and somehow persuading them to brief me, though.
On a related note, The Master told me of one of his commerical barrister friends who flies a bunch of solicitors out for a weekend in Dublin every summer, which is (a) pretty weird to my ears, (b) just short of offering them money and (c) makes me wonder whether he really needs to do that to get briefs from these corrupt freeloaders and what that means about his legal skills.
Back to the clanger, which I hope wasn't actually too bad. I ended up talking to the sole partner at a firm that has sent me quite a bit of work thinking that he was one of his employees. Somehow – I'm really not sure how – he ended up pulling out his driving licence to prove otherwise. Other than that, I think my evening was gaff free.
Fate decreed that I bumped into an old friend on the way home – the same friend I had witnessed in action at his chambers client party a couple of years ago. Neither of us could face going for a drink at that point, so we just vaguely suggested meeting up soon. An odd coincidence.