There are many different blogs in the world with very different takes on their many different subjects – as law blogs go Baby Barista manages to be one of the scariest to read.
Baby Barista is the fictionalised account of a trainee barrister as he goes through his pupilage at Chambers down in Oxford. I originally started reading it because it is written by a real world barrister and I hoped it might show me some of the things that training involves, at least in England, and what common problems do advocates and barristers suffer. As I read on, however, I found myself utterly terrified at the attitude of many of the characters of BabyBarista.
I have often said that anyone who manages to become a lawyer in today’s climate is razor sharp, hardened, determined and you can be assured has never failed a test in their life, and in one sense this is extremely good – even if you have a young lawyer that young lawyer will have worked staggeringly hard to get to a point to be able to represent you, but it also raises the concern that the young lawyer has almost literally fought off hordes of his peers to be able to represent you.
The English Chambers system for barristers means that the number of positions for barristers is practically nearly as fixed as that of the judges they appear before. Chambers are literally the offices in which barristers work and are often truly ancient. (In Scotland the system is a lot more open and instead of a stone Chambers building an advocate receives the use of a pigeon hole in the upper court in Edinburgh which means that they are much more flexible as far as numbers go.) Places often open up only on retirement of a current member and competition is terrifyingly fierce for tenancy in the most renowned Chambers.
Needless to say, BabyBarista is competing for tenancy in the one of the most renowned Chambers – one so elite they refuse to have names like “Shawn” on the members list outside and there are 4 or 5 candidates willing to spend years competing for the single tenancy spot at the end of the process. The author even points out that in every other field an interview of hours or at most days is considered perfectly able to select the right candidate for any number of roles. Only barristers (and advocates) have this process of years of fighting just to be selected for the job. Any similarity to Sir Alan Sugar’s “The Apprentice” is not wholly undeserved.
As BabyBarista himself says, if the system was set up to encourage cooperation he’d cooperate better than anyone but the system’s set up for a fight, so they’ll get one. So, rather than justice and wisdom we see a group of stunningly specialised professionals fighting with each other and any weapon is acceptable (even to the point of hiring a “girlfriend tester” to blackmail one of the other candidates). It might be dramatised for entertainment purposes – and it works, the blog is nothing short of enthralling from my perspective – but it makes altogether too much sense.
In contrast, there are the stories given by OldRuin, the “grandpupilmaster” of BabyBarista who appears periodically to give a snippet of wisdom and humanity. His stories are wonderful, touching and disturbingly come across as idyllic, he stands out from the rest of the crowd by simply being the decent, ethical professional most of us wanted to be at university but he seems to be a distinct minority in these Chambers.
As an aside, the character of TheBusker really interests me – this is a barrister who does the job as an art not a science and seems to benefit enormously from it, from the point of stress alone, and it may just be how positively he’s described but that’s who I want to be, the artful, eloquent, ruffled but just about still acceptable professional.
I think that would be fantastic.
BabyBarista is found at: