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Baby Barristers
24 December, 2009  
Perpetual fear

Paradox of the bar … Even when the work is streaming in there is an ever-present fear that the briefs will dry-up … Fretting while you flourish

imageSurely someone must have noticed that it has been reasonably quiet on the Junior Junior front for the last few months?


Maybe everyone has been far too preoccupied, with the fall of Tiger Woods, the rise of the Mad Monk and the collapse of Copenhagen, to notice.

Amazingly, surprisingly and, if I’m being honest, unexpectedly – I’ve been busy.

Proper busy. Not rearranging notes taken during the readers’ course sort-of-busy.

Not hours of “online research” a day sort-of-busy.

Not even multiple coffees at the Essoign masquerading as network building sort-of-busy.

But actual paying briefs. Honestly.

It’s OK, I was shocked too.

I think my clerk may have read my previous comments regarding his fine calling, because he’s surely taking the piss with the last month or so that I’ve had.

Notching up as many kilometers as Kevin747 – although rather than air hostesses to shout at I have the marvellous folk at Victoria’s regional train network, V-Line, to get me from borough to borough.

Try this for size in the space of a few weeks – Swan Hill, Mildura, Morwell, Horsham, Bairnsdale, Korrumburra, Shepparton, Warnambool and Dromana.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you.

It was not so long ago that I was fretting about the prospect of fashioning my own version of that great 1980s’ dream of the paperless office – the briefless barristerial career.

Therein lies the paradox of life at the bar, as I have come to understand it.

There seems to be no happy middle ground. No way to sit back and think – “yep, things are pretty good right now, I have no need to be concerned about my professional existence at all”.

Every barrister I have met, including myself, is in a perpetual state of anxiety regarding their practice.

No matter how successful, how famous or how many years’ call, it is ever-present.

As a junior the concern is as simple as whether the work will come. At all. Ever.

Days without briefs are plentiful and the fear is understandable.

Less understandable is the anxiety associated with an expanding practice.

As the work arrives more regularly, and the days without briefs become the exception, the natural expectation would be that the level of concern would begin to evaporate.

But no, the commonly reported reaction to a day without a brief, even from those with the most thriving of practices, and those who frankly could do with a day off, is a sense of rising paranoia.

The focus isn’t the proceeding 20 days straight that you’ve had a brief – it’s the fact that tomorrow you don’t.

What happened? Who did I offend? What if this is it … I’m never going to work again … Until the brief for the day after comes in and anxiety recedes – until the next time there’s an awkward pause.

Try as I might I find myself sliding into this nerve-wracking cycle.

Everyone tells me I’m not the only one.


Reader Comments

Posted by: Anonymous
Date: December 23, 2009, 11:18 pm

And then your BAS statement arrives ....suck it in big guy and welcome to the Bar.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: December 27, 2009, 8:10 am

Don't you mean preceding, rather than proceeding....hallucinating legal terminology where an ordinary word is called have been working too hard!