It says on the NSW Bar Association website, “the decision to become a barrister is a brave one”.
Actually, I think “brave” should be replaced with “rocks in your head”. Now that I think about it, I can’t recall anyone telling me that going to the bar was a terrific idea.
Yet, despite the warnings and the $20,000 plus in costs associated with signing up, my heart lured me to press ahead.
Maybe it was the clubby, history soaked, quaintness that appealed, such as being “called” to the bar by the sovereign. And I answered, even though “called” hardly describes my thrashing and kicking through the exams, bar course and endless form filling.
At law school a tutor told me she worked as a barrister from the boot of her car. “Cool”, I thought, what a great alternative to chambers.
“Chambers” always sounded a bit daunting. According to Wiki (which is my main reference point since I’ve been cut off from Lexis) Christine Keeler said that, “Only prostitutes and lawyers may enter a judge’s chambers”.
The voices of wisdom and experience pointed out the problems of DX deliveries to the boot of my car, compared with the benefits of an “affordable” readers’ room in a collegial environment and the possibility of an occasional “flick brief” on which to cut my teeth.
I wish my task of finding such a room had been as straight forward as locating the Holy Grail.
My first experience was a clutch of smug silks wanting to know why they should accept me. It was all about what I could bring to them.
For another application I was greeted warmly by the ward clerk but shown a room one metre x one metre (if you wanted to shut the door).
Another option was to share a fractionally larger space with someone else. Needless to say, no widows were to be seen, anywhere.
Rejected by the silks and fearing claustrophobia, I almost kissed the barrister who offered me a spot on his floor. I just wasn’t warned about my proximity to a hellish FogHorn Leghorn.
Sadly, once the reading was done the serious struggle for good, affordable real estate commenced. Not only that, my professional indemnity insurance went up and I entered the twilight zone of being a junior junior junior.
Cred at the Bar is everything and there are no rebuttals. The grapevine is faster than an electron down a copper wire.
A standard barristerial greeting when meeting a confrere for the first time is “and which chambers are you in”?
“Boot” doesn’t cut the mustard (but I do wonder if the bar would allow a number plate as an address).
Leasing a reasonable little room costs from $2,000 to $3,000 a month. I was not game to ask what “floor fees” actually covered, but I’m suspicious that it involves an indeterminate payment for access to bound and aged law reports, that have been long rendered useless by the internet.
What about “floating”? I was asked. A smaller sum for a room that is not guaranteed, but which gives you a chamber’s address.
The other expression, “door tenancy”, suggests the leasing of a prestigious doorknob, while actually working from the car boot stocked with the standard Coles green “three brief bag” and a laptop.
If only someone would pay me for the work I’ve done I might be able to afford a smarter boot.