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Elizabeth Street
29 September, 2008  
The assizes

Lizzy Street is on circuit with a bundle of personal injury cases to defend. It doesn’t get much more exciting than night after night in a country motel except, of course, the big drink-a-thon with the circuit judge and the town lawyers

imageAh, the country!

The fresh smell of superphosphate and jet fuel as I alight from my flying cattle car a million miles from civilisation.

I hop in the front seat of a cab (as to get into the back seat would be very insulting).

It is driven by a middle aged white male who refers to me as “love” and wants to know quite a lot of details about my life.

“What ya doing in town? ... Lawyer eh, making a packet, I bet? ... You got a boyfriend? ... Why hasn’t he made an honest women of you, ha-ha? ... Funny sort of boyfriend … How old are ya, love? etc, etc.”

Finally, I reached the safety of the hotel/motel.Even if the sheets are made of plastic there are touches of civilisation – internet, movie channels, even a spa bath.

There’s also an glazed, indifferent approach to service that says, “you’re so lucky to be staying here and if you don’t like it, drop dead”.

Welcome to the fly blown world of country sittings.

My partner is way too important to go on circuit so I’m racking-up the frequent flyers and getting a tour of the lonely pockets of outback New South Wales.

The romantic notion of a country court sitting is not quite the reality.

Finding a half decent cup of coffee is … well … forget it.

Shopping in your spare time is not an option unless R.M. Williams is your preferred designer.

And if getting plastered at the local watering hole and playing the pokies doesn’t turn you on, then options are devastatingly limited.

And to top it off the disgustingly handsome men of McLeod’s Daughters riding around on horse-back against a canvas of sweeping plains are missing in action.

Such a shame.

Best to stay in my room with the pay-tv and dinner on a tray.

Today is the third day and already it feels like a life sentence.

While so much of country life can only be described as disappointing, strangely the courtrooms themselves are rather splendid.

The local solicitors arrive in cowboy boots, wool ties and Akubras hats, conjuring images of justice being dispensed in the wild west.

If only I’d worn my Calamity Jane costume!

The barristers, more often than not, are imported from the city. Wearing wigs and gowns in the country heat they manage to look like complete dorks.

The very worst thing about living in a country hotel/motel is the prospect that no matter what tiny town you are gracing, invariably you will always get the room next to the newlyweds.

Squealing, sobbing, yelling, swearing. Married life already is hell.

But the very best thing about country sittings is the billing.

Under no other circumstance can you bill for just being somewhere. Regardless of whether I’m having a cup of tea and reading the paper or watching Sex and the City on the movie channel, every precious minute is billable.

The meter is on even when I’m cavorting naked, by myself, in my executive room two-person spa.

The last item on the agenda is the obligatory circuit judge dinner.

Essentially it’s a free booze-up with the judge and local and visiting legals at the glitziest restaurant (sometimes a winery) and paid for by the fattest law firm in town.

Here I was the youngest person in attendance by 20 years and the only female.

I felt like I was right back with the taxi driver.

Once all the barristers and the judge got a skinful the war stories poured out. They had an hilarious evening moistening each other’s pockets.

Me and and a few assorted milk maids, who were also at the feast, became glazed backdrops for the claret-faced merry-makers.

Such an enlightening experience for a young lawyer.

* * *

Back in the big smoke and back to reality.

Strangely, the alluring glow of the country starts to creep upon me.



Reader Comments

Posted by: Anonymous
Date: September 30, 2008, 8:40 pm

Of course in the old days of the Comp Court the judge would be reluctant to keep counsel away from either the pub, the restaurant or the airport and would accept the tender of a single medical report (or even a certificate) and declare the matter "part heard back to Sydney" and everyone would bugger off to the pub where it was very likely a member of the Curran family would belt out a few dozen tunes on a battered old piano while the rest of the practitioners got totally blind. All that and a country loading on top!
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: October 4, 2008, 10:10 am

Not a good one this one..., not even funny... full of self importance and entitlement, I think.... doesn't do you justice at all. What emerges is the ubiquitous theme - 'City lawyer thinks of country folk as somehow, lesser'? Yes, having done the country circuit, motel living is lonely and country town culture is way, way, different to city life. But should you look carefully you will there is much to offer. You may even like it. Where are your inner resources, girl? But I guess many may feel as you seem to do.