9:40am Monday morning and William St is a-flurry. As is my stomach.
I’m pacing up and down the overcrowded stretch of pavement outside the Magistrates Court, savouring the last dregs of a lukewarm soy latte, dodging the trussed-up defendants in borrowed suits and cartoon ties and the cameramen perching to nab shots of departing drink-driving footballers, and mouthing the first words I will ever utter in a courtroom.
“Your-Honour-if-it-pleases-the-court-my-name-is-Victoria-Mole. I-seek-leave-to-appear-as-an-articled-clerk … I-appear-for-the-informant-in-this-matter … The-parties-have-reached-agreement-on-the-relevant-issues-and-we-make-application-for-the-charges-to-be-withdrawn-with-no-order-as-to-costs.”
Like a religious mantra, I say it over and over. In a high voice, deep voice, slow voice, fast voice, chipmunk voice, House of Lords voice …
When I was little I used to recite Jabberwocky under my breath until the slithy toves took me somewhere dreamy.
The repetition of nonsensical words was soporific to my six year old ears.
Twenty years later, every repetition of this absurdly worded legalese spiel is making my breakfast rise closer to the back of my throat.
Enough. I’m going in.
Ten minutes early but I’ll just sit at the back of the courtroom and do my yogic breathing.
It’s not my file, it’s the smallest of small administrative procedures for someone else’s small client’s small file. As if I’d be trusted with anything of consequence.
Meditate on that. Inhale, exhale …
I push through the front door and join the queue at the metal detector behind a pony-tailed fellow who smells like petrol, praying that I’ve removed the corkscrew from my handbag after the weekend’s picnicking.
Not a conversation I need to be having right now.
Underwires cause angry bleeping but otherwise all clear.
Right. Courtroom 14. Here I go. Hair behind ears, stand up straight. Open the door and bow to the magistrate. Left foot, right foot …
“Is there ANYONE here for the Commission?” a voice thunders from the bench.
My tongue gets caught on my teeth as I start to talk.
“Ah, Your Honour, that would be me.”
“And who are you?”
“Why weren’t you here at 9:30?”
“Um. Your Honour. The notice from the court and the website said 10.”
“Oh … OK.”
“Well, what is happening?”
All my childhood hopes and dreams of being an advocate for people’s fundamental rights and liberties are being pulverised into a quivering mess of self-doubt and futility. No, that’s not what she means …
“How do the parties wish to progress today?”
“Thank you Your Honour. So sorry Your Honour.”
Cheeks blazing, I bolt to the door, do a clumsy pirouette of a bow and stagger out into the street, hugging the now withdrawn file to my chest like a beloved baby blanket.
The power, the glory. This is what it feels like to be a lawyer.