So this is my current work set up: I’m still a member of Chambers back in the UK. I still pay 21% of all my earnings to them. The idea is that I do some paperwork based work whilst I’m out here, such as advices etc and then fly in for the occasional court hearing. This way I get to keep a hand in my practice there. But to what end? And how easy is it?
Today’s experience has left me feeling about ready to cry.
We still don’t have Wifi at home. We have been living here 6 weeks now. We have been waiting for the equipment for Wifi to be set up in our home for 3 weeks. The Danish postal system is proving remarkably rubbish for such an efficient country. Probably to do with this. Dan seems annoyed by this, but does not in reality have to deal with the fact for more than a couple of hours at the end of the day.
My work in the UK and my attempts to find work in Denmark are completely dependent on Wifi. I have spent this morning in two different cafes, both with intermittent internet connection. This is frustrating for everyone. But for me, today, it’s been utterly shite.
I was emailed yesterday by my clerks if I could have a conference call with a solicitor that afternoon. I emailed back saying no, I couldn’t. I had just collected my son from nursery (it was 4pm) and therefore wouldn’t be free until this morning. We scheduled the conference to take place at 12pm. I was advised the papers for the case would be with me ‘first thing’. I was excited. This was the first piece of work I had accepted to do since we arrived and I felt ready to take it on.
This morning I dropped Magnus off early and found an empty cafe which had wifi and plug sockets and started reading up on the area of law that I thought it might be. I had no experience of this particular area of law, and whilst I knew of it, no practical experience of procedure etc. I hoped that the sols just wanted clarification on caselaw, although I was dubious as to what I could really assist with. This is not an unusual position for a junior barrister to be in. We cannot grow as barristers without taking on new things.
I chased my clerks for papers. I was advised there were hardly any papers, it would take no time read up on it. The papers were on their way…
I couldn’t stay in the cafe I was in as it had filled with parents and babies and no environment to have a conference call in. But I still needed to have wifi to download the papers once they came. So I packed up, moved on, found another cafe with less babies in it. Set myself up, waited. Nothing. Wifi was dodgy, kept cutting out. I moved seats. Things improved and finally the papers arrived. 5 minutes before the conference call. There was about 50 pages to read. I emailed the clerks, asked for an extra hour to read and formulate an opinion.
I read the papers and realised that what the solicitors wanted was a full advice on the merits of an application , an estimate of all costs involved, what paperwork was involved and whether we could win our costs back. This was much more than an off-the-cuff telephone advice. But more importantly, it required experience. As much as I could read about the theoretical law and procedure, I had no actual experience of what these applications involved. None of my senior members of chambers were around to ask.
I emailed the clerks, explaining that I felt that the solicitors should know this. I was happy to take a punt and give a view, but they may not want advice from someone who probably had less knowledge than they did. I didn’t feel comfortable pretending to be an expert.
The clerks were not happy. They refused to let the solicitors know that. They said it would do my practice no favours nor chambers. They would find someone else.
So after 4 hours of work and stress and worry: nothing. I have spent more than half my child-free day on a complete waste of time. And I feel shit about it too. If I had bigger cajones would I have just done the work, pretended that I knew? My first duty is to my client, the person paying the fees. Do I not owe it to them to be honest about my competencies? I feel that I do. I’ve pissed off my clerks, I’ve probably pissed off my solicitors. And I feel rubbish. But surely better that than holding myself out to be knowledgeable about something that I am not.
Which leads to the next big question: what am I?
Read on, dear friends. Let’s see if we can discover this together.
discover this together.