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Baby Barristers
20 August, 2009  
The Club

Life at The Swine … Junior Junior turns his phone off as he explores the obscure rules that are the preserve of Melbourne club land

Essoign , n.

1. (Eng. Law) An excuse for not appearing in court at the return of process; the allegation of an excuse to the court.

imageThose familiar with workings of the Melbourne bar will know about its quaint little club, the Essoign.

For those not blessed with the dubious perks of being a member of counsel in this fair city, the Essoign is a members-only hangout located at the bastion of all things capital B Bar, Owen Dixon Chambers.

Membership is limited to members of the bar, past and present, and guests are allowed entry only in the company of a member.

Members of the public currently involved in litigation in the courts are not welcome as it’s quite unseemly to be sharing a dining room with the judge currently deciding on the merits of your squabble – even more so if said judge is partaking in a glass or two of the particularly good house red over the luncheon adjournment.

Serving police officers are also not welcome.

Make of that what you will.

Melbourne is home to quite a few clubs, many of a calibre that probably wouldn’t even hire Junior Junior to walk around with a drinks tray – let alone lead the pre-dinner toast to Lizzy II, as is the want at the Masonic Lodge, so I am led to believe.

But apart from all the rules about who can’t enter, the Essoign is positively egalitarian in comparison to some other establishments around town.

One can even enter and dine, sans tie, with – quelle horreur – women.

imageA far cry from our cousins at the Melbourne Club, who are in the embarrassing situation of having to dispense with the tradition of offering an honorary membership to the Governor General of the day in order to preserve the tradition of excluding women.

In the end it was easy – no pale pink twin-sets allowed.

None of which is to say that the Essoign doesn’t have a few eccentricities of its own.

Unfortunately, I have never witnesses the much vaunted “telephone rule” in action.

It goes like this …

One must ensure one’s mobile telephone is turned off during lunch.

A ringing telephone earns its owner the censure of being compelled to purchase a bottle of wine for their own table, plus every adjacent table.

Allegedly this is enforced, although I have heard tale of a couple of members of the bench slipping the noose.

Lovingly referred to as “The Swine” by learned colleagues the Essoign is not such a bad place to spend a little time.

Not too much though, nothing says “a quiet practice” quite like hourly visits to the Essoign.

The other hazard is the previously mentioned house red and the accompanying hazy start to the next day – a taste of Swine Flu.


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