I’m really not sure about the wisdom of this decision. At all.
That’s the decision to get myself newly minted as a barrister.
After all, there’s a lot to be said for holiday pay, sick days, a stable fortnightly income and a stationery cupboard (albeit a heavily guarded one in these times of a GFC).
These are good things. But surely the Bar too has some upshot … no?
Consider some of the myths, err … compelling arguments, for a life as a member of counsel.
Be your own boss. Hmm … this suggests actually being the “boss” of something. After all, one could be said to be one’s own boss while drawing on the Queen’s shilling.
Being the boss of a non-ringing phone and a distinctly “personal research” centric practice isn’t all that great for self confidence, or cash flow.
Appearing in court is more exciting than sitting in an office in a law shop all day. Again, this is a question of degree, really, isn’t it?
In theory it makes sense, but hey it’s not all glitz and glamour in the courts either. Ask the junior barrister in the UK who was passed a note by the judge just before a jury returned with a verdict in a dangerous driving trial. In large font the note said: Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.
During the subsequent appeal of the guilty verdict Lord Justice Latham helpfully described the judge’s note as, “a wholly inappropriate note to be sent to counsel”.
You can just smell the power and glory in the air, can’t you?
The money’s good. Thankfully, given my current (lack) of workflow, this hasn’t been a huge motivator for me personally.
However, it was distressing to see the looks of horror on the faces of a group of readers when it was revealed that the average income for the first year at the bar was $50,000 gross.
I was waiting for the first person to stand up and walk out there and then. I think a few came close, but no one did. Yet.
Although all that said, there is something which keeps the baby barristers rolling in.
The bar is growing at a rapid rate and not even the burgeoning mediation biz, case management, discounts on sentence for early pleas, or expanding lawyerless jurisdictions seems to be slowing it down.
Maybe it’s the friendly barristers clerks who inspire people to sign-on.
How could you resist that glare which says – “You’re not getting another brief from me as long I have breath in my body” – if you even hesitate before accepting a brief at 5.30 pm the night before the hearing in a rural magistrate’s court on the other side of the State.
Maybe it’s a love of dressing in wigs …
Or the simple joie de vivre of mixing with all sorts of characters in the magistrates’ courts, dressed head to toe in Holden Racing Team attire, all with good prospects of obtaining work in the fruit picking industry and all from supportive family networks (“just look your honour, there are three generations of the accused’s family in the court today” – hope that his honour does not have time to click that they are all on the list to appear that morning).
Still, I’m here now and as they say, from little things big things grow – I can but hope that this wee acorn of a practice begins to sprout a brief or two.
Sooner rather than later preferably, I’m getting a sore back from crawling under the desk every seven minutes to check that the phone is in fact still plugged into the wall and sending myself emails – just to make sure that it’s not a technical fault that’s causing all this idle time …