Arrived at Chambers for a 09:00 start – met with all the clerks and was shown around the place, meeting with lots of different members and people on the way. It’s a great building with a terrific vibe of work in progress, people on the move and justice to be served. I was told that for each of my five days, I would be with different barristers in different practice areas so as to get as broad an experience as possible. This sounded like just what someone in my position needed to decide whether the Bar is somewhere you could see yourself working in.
I was introduced to the barrister that I would be shadowing for the day. She – Shantarra – was the most recent addition to the member’s list of the chambers having completed her pupillage there last year. We set off for the County Court for a case that was scheduled for some time in the morning. The dispute was about the sale of defective goods. Shantarra was acting for a foreign manufacturer of the goods who had sold the goods to a company in the U.K. The U.K. Company had then sold the goods to what would be the end-buyer. All that is know for sure was the goods were defective – everything else, including where the defect occurred, was unknown. We talked about the case during our journey to the court; at court I had time to read through the case file in full. According to the U.K. Company, a previous court hearing had taken place in which they were ordered to recompense the end-buyer the full sum. Strangely, though, they were not forthcoming with any documents that would support their claim. It seemed as though they simply paid off the end-buyer without involving the European manufacturers and were now seeking that sum from the manufacturers. The manufacturers, however, had a clause in their sale agreement with the U.K. Company stipulating that they had 7 days in which to ensure that the goods received were of a good quality. This was not used.
What happened next was that we went before the judge who had already read the case-file and was satisfied that the claim of the U.K. Company could not stand. Shantarra put forward a very well-organised and forceful argument that was a pleasure to observe (I told her so afterwards, but she wasn’t very forthcoming in accepting the compliment – in fact, I think she ignored me completely.).
In our walk back to Chambers we talked about my career situation. I told her that was in between places really: keen to go to the Bar, but as yet with no place on the BVC because of a late application. Then we talked about the Chambers and Shantarra herself which was far more interesting. It seems to me that the route to gaining pupillage and tenancy, whilst very difficult, does allow for people to have some great additional life experiences. This was the case for Shantarra too. We talked about pupillage applications including who was involved in selection, what the application process involved etc. Its all quite typical really: there are a couple of rounds of interviews and there is an interview panel whom conduct the interviews. I asked whether Chambers currently had any Pupils and was told that there weren’t any. Before I could ask the obvious question I was informed that Chambers had not been impressed by any of the applicants in that year and so did not even take on any one for Pupillage. “Oh”, I said without further ado and a face which suggested, as best as I could, that I was not in the least bit perturbed.
The afternoon was very interesting too. I would be back in the County Court with a different member of Chambers to observe a road traffic accident case. I didn’t think this would be particularly interesting when I first heard about it but actually it turned out to be quite something. The case involved a collision which occurred at some point on a roundabout. Both parties were saying that their opposite collided with them; there was no consistency in which direction the parties said they were travelling (even though they both claimed to use the roads regularly for the same journey); worse still, there were no photographs of the damage done to both cars (which could, I believe, have helped understand better the circumstances leading up to the crash). The time in court was quite long. The judge insisted on hearing what happened from both sides (who were present in court) through their respective representatives. I particularly enjoyed the time each side spent cross-examining the other. By the end of the final speeches from both sides, I calculate that there must have been (what each side knew had happened on the day, what they told their respective counsels, what the judge understood at different points throughout the hearing and of course what actually happened). It was absolutely fascinating to watch. Obviously, one of these sides was lying. I couldn’t decide myself who I believed more. The judge did what I had hoped, as an objective observer, he would do – he accepted facts which were agreed by both sides, tried to understand the physical damage to the cars as best as possible and based his decision on that. Although the advocacy on both sides was forceful, I don’t believe it could have made that much of a difference to the end result.
That was it for the day. A great day, I thought, in which I had learned a lot. Four more days to go!
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