HHJ Pennyweather: Young barristers need to up their game

Posted on 23rd Jan 2014 in BabyBarista

 More musings from the bench with the most honourable and learned HHJ Pennyweather

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Now here’s something I never thought I’d hear myself say: it’s high time that barristers started being a little more confident. Now, I’m not talking about their current woes with the government. Nor am I talking about established members of the Bar who may lack many things but confidence or the complete absence of self-doubt most certainly aren’t among them. No, I’m talking about the young barristers plying their trade who increasingly seem as if the worries of the whole world rest upon their shoulders.

Gone are the days, it seems, when they’d be carousing until the early hours and then putting in fine performances in court the next day. Instead we appear to be breeding a whole generation of swots who roll over at the first challenge I throw at them even when I’m just doing it for sport. It’s far too much of the please and thank yous for my liking and too little of the rock star attitude which has the potential to mature into something truly great.

I don’t know whether it’s the fear of getting sued or just a lack of confidence in these younger members of the profession but in the last few years Skeleton Arguments for even the most measly of disputes have been getting longer as are the submissions. In my own time you were paid for the hearing however long it lasted and so there was always an incentive to be somewhat succinct in what you had to say. But these days it’s all ‘for the avoidance of doubt’ and ‘in the alternative’ without anyone ever daring to pin their colours to the mast and simply run their best point.

That is until a young pupil landed in court this morning and blew away his opponent’s bundle of fifteen irrelevant authorities with the following submission: “Your Honour, in answer to my learned friend’s, er, full submissions on the issue, I could perfectly well spend the rest of the day making lots of irritating, nit-picking little points in reply. But I’m sure you’d agree with me that that’s not what being a barrister is about. Instead I would simply refer you to the following case report from the ICLR online…” After which he sat down.

Talk about hitting the right note with what obviously turned out to be the winning combination of brevity and the most excellent ICLR. So if I have one message for the future members of our esteemed profession it is to ditch all the pusillanimous pipsqueaking and let the lion roar once more.