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Archive for August 4th, 2006

I happened to find myself on Geeklawyer’s forum (a good place to relax) – and I decided to try and sum up what it MIGHT be like to walk down Fleet Street when the legal year has ended… I probably have not succeeded… but, having spent a happy half hour on his site reflecting on this… I thought I would also put it on my own blawg until I feel it necessary to ‘redact’ it… which may well be on the morrow.

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SCENE: Fleet Street, London – August 3rd – a desolate place. Not a new instruction in sight. Charon is in the role of John Simpson (BBC) liberating Kabul some years ago….

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I walked down Fleet Street at the head of a small band of very tired barristers (many of whom had not been paid by the law firms which had instructed them in the previous two months of conflict). The wine at lunchtime from various local hostelries had inflamed them. It was not 1381. There was no Watt Tyler… and these people were not peasants in revolt. They were Barristers. Angry?… yes. Looking for ASBOs? – No.

I did not intend to get caught up in this melee. I just happened to find myself in Fleet Street after an afternoon of amusement at Goucho Grill in Chancery Lane. I am always discreet, so I cannot mention who I was with – OK… It was Sven Goran Charon, a Swedish cousin, who had an idea that he might like to manage a set of chambers just to see what would happen.

I was happy to give him completely useless advice in return for a small, but pleasingly satisfying, fee. I carry my own PDQ machine these days. He paid by Amex. The card was not declined.

They were not all young men and women in Fleet Street this afternoon. Some were Silks, newly elevated – the realisation that Silk brought with it sacrifice, troubling them – the sacrifice of seeing their income plummet because solicitors do not always find it attractive to have their ‘favoured’ counsel double or treble their fees.

We walked down past The RCJ – unusually quiet – just a few news crews from Channel Z who were behind the curve and who did not appreciate that the long vacation has started.

… The barristers were battered and dusty after a long Trinity term. I interviewed some of these members of the Bar as we walked past Hammicks and down past Lloyds Law Courts branch where so many legal overdrafts are kept. Their spirit had gone…they were exhausted… but..I understood. Some of them had planned holidays in Tuscany, others were hoping to buy a small property in France. Their dreams were shattered by Clementi, others were shattered by The Lord Chancellor’s view that the state paid far too much to lawyers through the legal aid system.

I watched as one barrister – he cannot have been more than 45 – collapsed on the pavement. I gave him some Rioja from my hip flask. He told me that he would probably not receive any instructions until early October.

I did my best to console him. I tried to tell him that that it was not the fault of New Labour – that we could not blame Lord Protector Blair for this – but he would not listen.

He told me that he could not understand how, when John Reid had promised to work Eighteen F*****g hours a day, there was not more work for prosecution and defence barristers.

He became agitated when I suggested that he should not read too much into press releases from The Home Office.

It was an unusual way to spend the late afternoon – but, as I walked down Aldwych and then into The Strand, en route to The American Bar at The Savoy, with this ‘Band of Brothers/Sisters’, I felt a sense of pride that there is, still, a small group of men and women who make themselves available, in the best traditions of the cab rank rule, to defend this island from the onslaught of governmental indifference to the legal profession, the laws they don’t like and the difficulties faced by lawyers who have served this sceptred isle since time immemorial.

I was moved.

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