Tuesday, 14 August 2007

The diary watchers

In the quiet hours in chambers, particularly around mid-morning when only pupils, clerks and un-instructed barristers pace the corridors, one can sometimes hear the eerie clicking of the Diarywatch Beetle. The sound is similar to that of a computer mouse button being pressed repeatedly, but with added almost inaudible winces and dark mutterings.

‘So-and-so instructed by That Firm? They used to send me their best cases…’

‘How did she get briefed in a juicy case like that?’

And so forth. The clicking often marks the passing of another perhaps once promising legal career.

I recently covered a very juicy case for The Master. It was a high court inter partes (meaning both parties are supposed to show up) application for some disclosure orders, but with the other side very unlikely to show as they had bunked off to another country with the kids. The Master has been very busy of late, and was trying to combine a Court of Appeal hearing with another case he’d been working on for a long time. Nine years, in fact. I read the transcript of his cross examination of the witnesses in that case as preparation for the hearing he wanted me to handle.

He returned another couple of briefs, some of which probably then left chambers. He cleared my one with the solicitors and then went to speak to the clerks.

‘Ooo, the diary watchers aren’t going to like that, sir.’

He put it down in my diary as a legal aid risk, which was true as I had knocked out an advice for public funding the solicitors wanted in case public funding was refused. The Legal Services Commission had been flooded, apparently, and weren’t answering calls. Although how this differs from their normal ‘service’, I’m not sure.

He returned to his room, told me about the exchange and warned me against diary watching myself. Our computer system allows everyone to look at one another’s diaries, although thankfully not the fees attached to cases. There are some in chambers, he told me, who take an unhealthy interest in the diaries of others.

Of course, the first thing I did as soon as he was out of the room was have a look at the Other Pupil’s diary, then those of last year’s pupils. I’ve had idle looks before, but not for some time. I’ve been busy, it hasn’t crossed my mind for a while.

I bumped into one of last years’ pupils half an hour later in a moment of serendipity. ‘How’s things? From you’re diary you’ve been busy,’ she said. Her tone was pleasant, though. Her diary has quietened down over the summer, as have most people’s, but she seems to be getting enough work, as do the others.


Mr Pineapples said...

So....what are your views as to future work load at the Bar? The tenor of your post is that there might not be enough work for everyone?

Is that how you see it?

Legal Beagle said...

I'd hate it if other members of chambers could see my diary! Wouldn't mind a peek at some of theirs, though...

Anonymous said...

I find it a little worrying that pupils can't distinguish between "you're" and "your".

Anonymous said...

Oh you pedantic sod stop it

Pupilblogger said...

Mr Pineapples, glad to see you're still about. No idea, frankly. The reforms encourage solicitors to do their own advocacy, I think, but I'm not sure (a) they can be bothered or (b) they're not better off in a business sense spending their time generating work and dealing with clients. Travel and waiting can't be good use of their time. Not terribly good use of mine, mind...

Anonymous (1), I usually pride myself on my grammar but on this occasion bask in my anonymity.

Mr Pineapples said...

I am certainly still about..

My impression re solicitor advocats is that it appears to be a good idea - but as I have always said - they are too busy dealing with the day-to-day and time out of the office means catching up with paper work on the return.

How do I know?

Cos they tell me this all of the time....I ask them outright and the answer is the same.

Anonymous said...

There's never enough work for everyone, isn't that the way of the Bar? Tends to sort out those with the 'right stuff', as they say? Or does it just sort out those who can schmooze better than others? I wonder, really.