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Bar Talk
19 November, 2003  
"Nasty piece of work" should hand back the silk gown

Bret Walker hits back at anonymous barrister who belittled the selection process for silk. Bret’s farewell epistle as President of the NSW Bar & Lounge


Bret Walker, as he farewells his presidency of the NSW bar, pens a nippy response to the anonymous silk’s recent letter to Justinian. See: A silk’s shame

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November 11, 2003

“Dear Richard,

This is my last day in (on? at?) the upper echelon of the Bar Association. I cannot speak for other members of the Bar Council while I have been a member of it, as to their innermost sentiments concerning you personally, but I can speak for myself. And I do know what I have and have not heard from my colleagues.

So I hasten to tell you, in response to the anonymous work of fiction (as I assume it to be) from a supposed new silk that he or she (it?) has got it all wrong. I certainly do not loathe you to the contrary. You are a charming and useful member of society. No one has cursed you in my hearing but maybe that is because I am renowned for my sensitivity against foul language.

Long may you continue your journalistic commentaries on the legal profession. The fact that, from time to time, I and other presidents of the Bar Association have disagreed, do disagree, and will almost certainly disagree in future with some of your comments is quite beside the point. For example, quite a few of your facts in your Sydney Morning Herald column about the last appointments of silk were wrong, but life is too short.

See: Sydney Morning Herald column on the new silks

The anonymous text in question is, I must say, remarkable for its factual errors, and none more cruelly so than the deception which your publication would practise upon the bank managers of the Floor members of Blackstone Chambers. The phenomenon has never been noticed in the past, elsewhere, that the price of chambers reflect the advent of junior silks in place of senior juniors. Why it would occur at Blackstone during 2004, I have no idea. No doubt our respective predictions can be tested a year from now. As for the fuddy-duddy image of complacent advocacy in the Equity Division of the Supreme Court offered in this confection, I must protest. I doubt there is any jurisdiction where the dialogue between Bar and Bench is more pointed, terse and robust. That was the real giveaway that your correspondent is a fantasy.

But opinions about having a silk system, and if so how to run it, are of course reasonably open to radical differences. What is unfortunate is the dishonestly ignorant tone by which the authorial persona claims to know so much more than anyone else, to detect secrecy where there is none, and to jeer at the sincere efforts of a lot of people trying to do their best. That your supposed correspondent believes those efforts are misguided is never an excuse to imply misconduct, let alone self-interested anti-competitive misconduct.

Of course, if your correspondent were a real person, then he or she is quite a nasty piece of work altogether. Thus, he or she would have realised that he or she should never have applied for silk and should at least now ask to have it rescinded. I suspect that any such request would be rapidly granted.

With best regards

Yours sincerely,

Bret Walker

President”