Testing Times


A week later, I turned up at Two Oak Court. After introductions to some barristers in chambers, I spent a few hours with Jeremy Higgins going through the facts and pleadings of a case he was working on. He’d been on the pupillage interview panel and was a very upbeat, cheerful and enthusiastic man with a flourishing practice. In his late thirties, he was balding, lean and wore a sharp pin striped suit with a thin red tie. He graduated from Cambridge with a First Class Honours in law.

Jeremy handed over the papers that formed my assessment and told me to put them aside for the day while I went to the Companies Court with a junior barrister. After experiencing an oak-panelled, well-spoken afternoon’s applications before a judge, I got back to chambers in the late afternoon and was directed to Jeremy’s room. He explained that I could borrow his White Book, the rules of the High Court, and his bag for the evening to carry the papers. I could write the assessment in chambers the following day. But it was heavily hinted I should get a head start that evening. I left chambers with the warning that I had better not lose his bag because Jeremy used it during his pupillage and the White Book was very expensive.

I got back to the flat and discussed the day with my girlfriend, Michelle. By the time I’d eaten and showered off, it was about 9 p.m., so I settled down at the kitchen table to read the paperwork. It was a complicated case, but I identified what seemed to be needed for the written assessment. I had to draft a pleading and set to work. It was very involved and I wrestled with conflicting points, deciding what was relevant. By the time I’d finished, it was after 5 a.m. so I rolled into bed for a little sleep.

I was up by 6:30 a.m. and in chambers before 9 a.m. Running up the stone steps to Jeremy’s room, I tapped on his open door. Jeremy was sat at his desk directly opposite, facing the door. Large sash windows were behind him with white, open shutters either side. Streams of light cascaded over him and the desk, which was traditional oak with a green leather surface and fine, gold edging. Banker’s lamps were on each side with green glass shades and brass stands. There were piles of paper teetering by each lamp. In front of the desk was a table, smaller in height but larger in surface area. Three chairs were tucked into the table on the open sides. Every wall was covered with white bookcases filled with law reports, and a library of chancery and commercial law books. Underneath the fitted shelving were cupboards bursting with papers bound by pink tape.

“Come in, come in,” he beamed. “How did you find that case?”

“It wasn’t easy, but I worked through it all.”

“Well, you have the whole of today to write the assessment and meet other barristers here, but you must finish it by 5 o’clock, understood?”

“Yes, but I’ve already finished it.”

I handed the assessment over and returned his bag containing the papers and White Book. He took the assessment and smiled.

“You had better spend the day in court then,” he announced and picked up the telephone to arrange my day.

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