For the last two weeks I have been in the Isle of Wight dealing with the aftermath of a scandal. I can feel your reel away from the worried that this will be another maudlin piece about missing P. However, this time I was not on my own: I had a “junior”.
As your career as a trial lawyer progresses, the cases that you are assigned become ever more complex and require ever greater quantities of paper to analysed. Inconsiderately, the day never gets any longer, sticking dogmatically to itsÂ policy of never consisting of more than 24 hours. At first you are able to keep up because as you acquire experience you become a little more efficient. Then you surrender your weekends. Then you cut back on sleep. Then you start scheduling your working week so that even trips to the lavatory are allocated 6 minute slots. Then you start eating at your desk and missing family birthdays and finally you end up standing dazed on a railway platform with no idea where you are and with ketchup in your hair.
It is at this point that itÂ dawns on you that a junior would be a good idea: Someone to whom you can allocate tasks so as to create time in which you can re-acquaint yourself with the sorts of personal hygieneÂ practices that others supposedly consider essential. It is not always easy to persuade the solicitor instructing you to pay for another barrister. It helps that we have members of chambers who are still, technically, in training and are therefore charged out at an hourly rate that is comfortably less than that of any hairdresser that does not include “demon barbering” as part of their repertoire.
Sat with me on the catamaran ferry to the Isle is R. R is bright, efficient and has a sense of humour that is drier than the Atacama. She has never been a junior before, I have never been a leader. Some leaders are an easy ride. They never adjust to allowing others input and use you to make tea and proof-read. Others go on holiday and phone you from seaside restaurants to enquire whether the case is ready. This week I get to find out what sort of leader I am. Â
It turns out I am a “good delegator”. As I hand file after file to R she takes them from me without complaint and setsÂ about delivering what I have asked for. She has yet to learn theÂ first rule of junioring. You should always let your leader down early. Do something wrong. It should be easily remediable but it should be enough to shkae their confidence even if only subliminally. If you do not do that they will keep handing you work until inevtiably you fail spectacularly, irremediably and at the door of the court.
I suspect that if I could read R’s mind what is bothering her is not the quantity ofthe work that I am giving her but another, previously undiscovered character trait of mine. Part of me has apparently decided that since young R is still crawling around in the dewy-fresh morning of her practice, she would benefit from being exposed to my “wisdom”. I find that I haveÂ anÂ infinite poolÂ of excellent advice from which to draw. I know that despite her glazed look and her endearing habit of digging her fingernails into the table and gritting her teeth that she values what I have to offer.
Since we are working closely together, I am gratified to discover that there are very many opportunities for me to hold forth and precious few for her to distract me long enough to roll out of a second storey window and make off into the dusk.
We arrive at our hotel. It is late on a summer afternoon. The hotel is close to the sea and, as our taxi pulls up outside we find ourselves in the middle of a regatta crowd. There are men, faces flushed from lunches in the City, their hair slicked back, their bellies resting on top of their belts, calling to their wives. The wives are in their early fifties and have, through a life devoted to sailing, had their skins cured brown. Their faces are like teak with lines scratched in with a bradawl. They too are shouting but in the baritone of a county wife. They are shouting at theirÂ children who are darting about in wetsuits and dragging dinghies back and forth.
As the cab door opens and R and I step out, I feel as if we are draining the sunlight from the scene. We are dressed in black. Beside us at the hotel entrance are our cases. They too are black and inside them are our black files in which a thousand pages of photocopied black and white allegations and evidence await our attention. Contented fathers sat on the hotel’s terrace look up from their beer and lose their smiles. All eyes are on us as we walkÂ towards reception. We are DarthÂ Vader striding into Princess Leia’s ship. We areÂ Lee Van Cleef arriving in a small town on the WesternÂ frontier.Â We are buzzkill. We are bad news. Highly paid unhappiness. We have come to ruin someone’s day. Sharing this experience R learns something about the life she has chosen I had not felt up to telling her.