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Junior Junior - baby barrister blogger
4 August, 2008  
Life at the bottom

Our baby barrister is beset with problems – tire-kicking solicitors who don’t want to pay and still no chambers. The cruelty is shocking

imageThe life of a baby barrister is a rich tapestry, so rich it necessitated the editor making the last missive litigation-safe.

A detox of the spleen is therapy for the unnatural calm demeanor that is required when living on the bottom rung.

The chambers saga continues.

This week I was sprung by a solicitor who figured out my chamber’s address was not quite kosher.

Having rung the chamber’s phone number to be told I was not there, he rang my mobile and asked, “Where are you”?

“In chambers,” I lied. Oops.

My lame explanation of a virtual cyber-office didn’t really help.

“I’m on the move a lot,” I offered, leaving him thoroughly unconvinced.

“Watching Days of Our Lives, are we?” he snapped.

My inclination to snap back was kept in check by my desire to be briefed. Would he have said this to a male barrister?

I think not. The pH in my stomach dropped.

Two days later, to my horror, another solicitor announced he wanted to have a meeting with me – in person.

The request alone made my mouth dry up, let alone working out where this meeting was going to happen.

Early on I had been advised one should be on friendly terms with floor clerks as they possess huge repositories of information and can single handedly destroy the careers of fledgling barristers.

So I rang a friendly clerk who said she would do what she could, no promises.

I arrived 15 minutes ahead of the meeting to be greeted with, “Sorry … oh, wait a minute, Fuss-Budget is leaving, you can have his room”.

Knowing the solicitor would be hot on my heals, I shot into the cave to try and make it look as though I belonged there.

The roller coaster of near misses came to an end. The office was littered with half-eaten food and there was underwear stuffed into the corner of an armchair. A stale odor of alcohol and BO hung in the air.

I had walked into a brothel.

Hastily a space in the clutter was cleared moments before my solicitor arrived.

Far from wanting to look like I belonged in the room I now offered a disclaimer. I blurted out, “I am borrowing this room”.

That seemed to cut off further lines of inquiry. How I longed for the boot of my car to be my chambers. I would happily feed a meter all day on Phillip Street.

It has also become quite apparent that solicitors and their money are not easily parted.

As a newbie at the bar I seem to wear a sandwich board saying, “Tire Kickers Welcome”.

This invites solicitors to send briefs along before they have looked at them in order to get free advice ahead of wasting their own time.

These briefs have certain characteristics, which can be spotted immediately.

Nobody has bothered to put them into a ring binder despite being five centimeters thick, the cover letter is on a “with complements” slip and there is no index.

Often the documents look like they have been assembled by someone with a perverse sense of humour.

The cruelty in this profession is unremitting.


Reader Comments

Posted by: Anonymous
Date: August 5, 2008, 5:15 am

Been there. Hang in and wait for the times to change.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: August 5, 2008, 8:44 pm

I can't believe other solcitors treat you that way. I think you might find that solicitors who are genuinely interested in briefing you won't give a toss (at least in teh early stages of your career) about where your chambers are located. And as regards your fees, you're self employed and can't tolerate late payment, so chase them hard.If end up upsetting the odd solicitor, too bad. It's better to go broke sitting around reading the paper than working your ass off for some prick who doesn't pay. One tip though, don't be afraid to take your briefing and paying solicitors to lunch. It might sound cruel, but we know you're vunerable, we look after you, and it's nice to have that ackowledged through the sharing of litres of wine.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: August 5, 2008, 11:02 pm

Best advice: work for anyone once. If they don't pay on time, don't accept any further work from them until paid. Don't believe everything you hear - some solicitors are not thieving criminals, despite all evidence being to the contrary. Also, don't allow yourself to be overtaken by one firm. I came into chambers one day in the early 1990s to find one solicitor had monopolised my diary completely for the next two months - which would have been great except every brief was a ticker. She was an incompetent fool who worked for a firm of crooks. Expensive lessons are the ones best learned.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: August 18, 2008, 10:31 am

You heard of metadata ? Well barristers are like meta fluff, fluff of fluff, way down on the food chain which is gobbled up by solicitors who can charge $450 and hour rather than the rate of $200 to you. They decide on the money distribution. They do not want to share. You are competing with them for finite resources. The only lower rung is the client who writes the cheques ("The Fool"). The savings to the The Fool by briefing a barrister is bad enough: there is a real risk the barrister might tell the truth that the case is knackered - hence keeping barristers away. Next, lessons in how to spot rich and dumb clients, the ne ultra plus of all top tier firms