Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Cuisine of the Crown Court

The most hilarious misapprehension about those of us who have the good fortune to spend our time in the Crown Court is the amount of money we make. An oft-repeated anecdote:

Whilst dining at the house of a friend, I was told that a well-known television actor would be joining us for a drink or six. He swept onto the drive in a gorgeous Jaguar, obligatory blonde bit of fluff tagging along. We engaged in the usual polite chit-chat until I could ask him whether he'd really shagged that Blue Peter presenter, and he asked what I did for a living. I said I was a barrister, and his eyes grew wide.

"Cor, you must be minted then"
"Er, no, not really, no"
"Well, I bet you have a driver to take you to court at least"
"Sorry, what?"
"A driver, you know, a chauffeur"

Ha. Matey was making goodness only knows how much, and had enough left after his cocaine and women had been paid for to drive big fast cars. The car parks of the Inns of Court are stuffed with Astons and Porsches, true. But they belong to the commercial boys and girls, the real big-shots at the top of the profession, who can command £5,000 for an hour in conference.

Us hacks, we're on the peasant-wagons with the rest of you plebs.

It is common to operate at a loss in your early years of practice -- everyone dreads the clerk saying "Mention in Milton Keynes tomorrow, sir". That's £46.50 for a short hearing to adjourn a case, and it's a £30 train ride. If you buy a paper and sandwich, there ain't much left to pay the bills.

This misapprehension goes hand-in-hand with "lawyers' lunches". We usually eat sandwiches, maybe an M&S salad for a treat. Lunch is usually a frantic hour, editing transcripts of interviews and re-photocopying jury bundles, chatting with other counsel, badgering each other to get our clients to plead guilty because it's Friday and the wife wants to get away for the weekend.

So, the Cuisine of the Crown Court. When a big cheque's just come in (£150), a "proper" lunch is called for. What of the grub in the courts then? I should start a Michelin-style guide.

Kingston does a particularly nice English breakfast, Winchester has great bacon sandwiches, Exeter has a lovely restaurant right next door, Liverpool isn't up to much, but is smack in the middle of the centre of town, so it's not a problem. Maidstone is grotty as hell. Woolwich is in the middle of nowhere next to Belmarsh prison, the food is terrible. Any other suggestions?

Lawyers, please add the most hilarious misconception you've come across from members of the public. Bonus points for crackpot conspiracy theories from racists.


  1. Do the defense lawyers get paid more than you CPS types, by any chance? :)

  2. 1. That the Judge has a gavel which he bangs as he shouts 'order, order' or 'clear the court'.

    2. That both witnesses and defendant's routinely crack under cross examination and admit that they are lying, causing the 'truth' to come out.

    3. That people are routinely recalled to give evidence by Defence Counsel who have 'solved the case'.

  3. That justice is actually done!

  4. Wig and Gown -- numbers 1, 2 and 3 are due in large part to Judge John Deed et al. Your use of an apostrophe for the plural of 'defendant' is not something I can blame on TV, as much as I'd like to do that.

    Matthew -- Defending is actually less well paid than prosecuting.

  5. This was back of a beermat in-the-pub accounting, but a friend and I reckon that the average High Street solicitor makes less money than the average secondary school teacher at every single stage of his career - post-grad, training, and beyond.

    Anyone disagree?

  6. Apologies for the rogue apostrophe. I agree that the media are wholly responsible for the misconceptions I listed.

    As for pay - AP, the CPS still pay graduated fees at the 2005 rates, whereas defence grad fees are paid at the 2007 rates which are considerably higher.

  7. 4. That somehow, criminal lawyers have sleepless nights about 'defending the guilty' and 'prosecuting the innocent'.

    5. That the bar is made up of defenders of human rights, civil liberties who are all prepared to fight the good fight. Ha ha ha. [The truth, in my experience by and large, is a very conservative club of middle class white males who still act to exclude people who don't fit the description] (Bitter much?!)

  8. Could I just add for your good food guide, that there is a canteen in the foyer of Hastings Magistrates Court that does fantastic bacon rolls.

  9. Wig and Gown... I once had a prosecutino witness recalled on no less that 3 occasions. If anyone asks it was for the added drama and not because I kept forgetting to ask the officer questions!!

  10. ..badgering each other to get our clients to plead guilty because it's Friday and the wife wants to get away for the weekend.
    Oh, so you're not actually interested in seeing justice done, then? Because, clearly, taking the wife away for a bit of sex is far more important than seeing that the innocent are not actually convicted...

  11. Got a chip on your shoulder, "Kimpatsu"?

  12. Keep on working, great job!

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