Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Starting as I mean to go on

I've just had my first appearance in a hearing before a real judge in a real case at the Employment Tribunal*.

Even more shocking, it was my first win. This is how it went:

- I was absolutely terrified.

- I was well prepared (this would be a surprise to my BVC colleagues, but apparently I can pull it out for a real life client dependent on me. Yay for not being negligent)

- I said very little (see above, terrified), the Judge took the best possible view on the law which meant that the Respondent had an uphill and pretty much impossible struggle to show that our presentation of the facts was not credible.

- It was a Friday afternoon, and the Judge was mindful that we (he) didn't want to hang about ideally and so was very proactive and crucially, did not let the Respondent dilly dally too much or get away with asking my client any questions that weren't relevant in the strictest sense possible. He didn't know what had hit him.

- The Judge was incredibly sharp. I'm not saying this just because he decided in our favour; I was most impressed.

The potential issues I had prepared for did not come up, but it was there in case I had needed it and obviously, it is essential to avoid any sort of surprise. I was a tad disappointed I didn't get to do a bit more Examination in Chief, and indeed any Cross Examination - but it was a good result for my client on this preliminary issue. It was also a fairly gentle first court room experience.

Finally, I loved every minute of it. In the midst of all the application mumbo jumbo and compulsively cross checking my skills against the qualities required there have, admittedly, been the occasional periods of self doubt as to whether I could actually do this, or whether I would be happy doing something else such as being a solicitor if the elusive pupillage fairy persists in eluding me; the fickle and flighty fae that she is.

Not a bit of it. I'll happily fight the other 1,645** odd applicants to feel that mix of terror and excitement*** throughout my career.

* In Watford. It don't get more real, bros.

** Obviously, esteemed colleagues in the blogosphere, I do not mean you. We can set up our own set where we will champion Human Rights, break ground in Chancery work, right the wrongs of the family law system, and there will always be chocolate Hobnobs in the kitchen.

***Yes, I could achieve this by doing lots more FRU. But I'm sure the terror and excitement is even more when your professional reputation, mortgage, and career are on the line everyday as well as the client's neck.


Law Minx said...

O, Well DONE, Mel! I am positively GREEN with envy! ( living in the sticks makes such HEAVENLY opportunities difficult to attain, so I am stuck with the education of the (increasingly BORED/THICK) MBC'S as my opportunity to speak and argue in public!)
PS : Doughty Street was founded by a group of friends who couldn't get tenancy,( this includes Helena KENNEDY FFS!) so they set up with a couple of experienced colleagues who were prepared to take a chance on them . Stranger things have happened Y'know......

Anonymous said...

OH Mel the excitement


My first case is in May - its been dragging on for months and I am so excited - but also TERRIFIED!

It is fun though - and terribly career affirming. I think this is going to be my only experience in the court room so I am going to make sure it counts and all that study wasnt for nothing!

Swiss Tony said...

Well done Mel, and if we do get our chambers off the ground, 1 Blog Chambers, can I be in charge of the chocolate hobnobs?

Nothing like a bit of court experience to reinforce your confidence in your abilities.


Mel said...

Thanks for the congrats guys! I don't deserve it - my appearance was very limited! But I was still pretty proud :)

Swiss - the Chocolate Hobnobs would be intergral to the operation. Clearly responsibility for these can only be left in the hands of someone as eminently qualified as yourself. Indeed, it would be beyond my skillset - I have been known to nibble the cows out of Malted Milks.

LG - First of MANY, I presume you mean! Your study will not have been wasted, but all that time and energy invested will repay you many times over.

We will need a titian-headed legal star on the front page of our website, which will look like a cross of those Benetton-ads and perhaps the pictures in Awake magazine (for those not in the know, it's published by Jehovah's Witnesses and features tableaus of people of all colours and creeds sit cuddling pandas and tigers in a sun blushed, verdant setting).

It will be a veritable utopia of legal services provision!

Miny, dare we dream?!

barmaid said...

I'm a fussy old bag, I will ONLY join the new and highly esteemed chambers if you will promise to have a ready supply of mint yo-yo's.

Well done on the win. First of many I'm certain.

Mel said...

Thanks BM :)

Yo-yos? Are they covered in foil, as befits all posh biscuits?

Ok, I'll allow it but I must insist Swiss that you not allow any shortbread to enter the premises. Otherwise I will not be able to fit in the door (it's my one weakness, to quote that bird off 'Lark Rise to Candleford').

Swiss Tony said...


Will Minxy be in charge of pens from the stationary cupboard? Or is that stationery? If it doesn't move is it a stationary stationery cupboard?

As you bake cakes, and do icing (I seem to recall) you could be in charge of gateaux for the Chambers Tea Party every Friday.

Barboy likes chocolate fingers, but I sometimes wonder where he has been poking his chubby little fingers.

I am quite partial to dunking a Custard Cream, so maybe we need to get a selection box.


Mel said...

I am - I should post the pic of the cake I made at Easter, complete with handcrafted tiny sugar flowers, a nest and little eggs.

Ooh, what do you think:

Interview setting, panel of barristers : What do you think you can offer Chambers?

Me: I do a really nice lemon drizzle. It would really sweeten up Chambers tea. *wink*

Panel: Yes, thank you. No further questions.

I base this on the fact that my mock interviewer scoffed when I said that I bake to relax. He felt bad when he realised I meant it. But I know you guys would appreciate my cakes.

Selection boxes ok. Just no Nestle. Even our snack selection will be politically correct.

Anonymous said...

Yes i do mean more FRU, but that FRU may be my only court experience!!

Perhaps you could ACTUALLY take a cake to your interview. Offer french fanicies iced with little hosehairs, and bands to the junior tenants? That would stand you out as different.

Michael said...

Well done, Mel!! Great stuff :-)

Mel said...

LG - I spent about 6 hours crafting little birds out of icing, complete with little feet and talons, and sugar flowers with individually shaped petals and detailed veining.

You don't know what you're doing by making such a suggestion, I'm crazy enough to try! However- I don't think horsehair would look appealing to eat. What about little square bits of cake, made to look like briefs, tied with legal pink fondant ribbon? Ooh that's totally what I should make to celebrate someone I know getting tenancy...

I will at least go in smelling of cake. You have to hire someone that smells like vanilla, apple pie, and delicious buttery cake like your mum made...right?!

Anonymous said...

That sounds brilliant with the birds.

You could start a cake business making cakes suitable for special circumstances - brief cakes for barristers, first aid cakes for nurses, Keyboard cakes for IT geeks - ohhhh the list goes on.

Then you would have a successful buisness that you enjoy and wouldn't even need to fag for a year.

Simon Myerson said...

Well done. My first real win was also in the ET and I vividly remember walking back to Chambers (on air) thinking 'I can do this after all!' Be inspired...

Mel said...

Thanks Michael, Simon!