I was tested every day – sometimes it involved a reasoned application of law to facts – and other times it was off-the-cuff. While working on some papers, Jeremy asked me about a legal principle. From memory, I gave him the name of the relevant court case. He asked for the law report and year.
“Appeal Cases, 1964.”
“I don’t have the Appeal Cases. Try again.”
I looked around the rows of white shelves and pointed to the All England Law Reports.
He nodded. “Which year?”
Jeremy walked along the packed shelves and stopped. “Volume?”
He smiled and picked up the book. “What page?”
I thought for a moment. “About page 500.”
“Not bad, but you’re 75 pages out.” He sat down and got back to work.
One afternoon, Jeremy handed me some lever arch files and explained this would constitute an assessment he always put his pupils through. The instructing solicitors were to attend a conference with him about the case and it was up to me to summarise the instructions, facts, any relevant papers and the advice to be given. That sounded okay, so I set to work and soon got through it. The case was not mentioned again over the following week. The day of the conference arrived and there was still no talk about it. We were sat in his room and the telephone rang. Jeremy answered it, listened and put the handset down. He looked at me in silence for a moment.
“That was the clerks’ room. The clients are on their way over here now. You have about sixty seconds to tell me everything I need to know.”
I stood, gave him the files and quickly told him the information. The clients arrived and the conference began. It all seemed to go quite well and the clients left happily about an hour later. Jeremy told me I was in “Good form” for that exercise. Later in the day, he confided about a past pupil who apparently had bad breath. When doing the exercise, that pupil refused to summarise the case and marked certain pages in the file that were all blank. Jeremy winged the whole conference with the client and fired the pupil at the end of the day.
I guess the message was either work hard and apply yourself or rebel and fall along the way. One particular barrister in Chambers took me aside soon afterwards and told me this was an intense process where they broke each pupil down and put them back together as a more complete lawyer. But it didn’t feel that way to me. I worked hard, refused to be broken and performed as well as I was able.