One morning, I walked from the clerks’ room across Oak Court toward Jeremy’s room and saw Bertie Dewitt speaking to Giles Twatte, who had his back to me. As I got closer, they continued talking.
“It was focking unbelievable, I haven’t done that in yonks,” Giles Twatte drivelled animatedly.
“I always find it a dreadful bore,” Bertie sighed.
“Well quite, absolutely, I was only joshing…”
Giles Twatte paused as I nodded at Bertie, who looked through his silver-rimmed glasses and grinned. I smiled back, but didn’t stop.
Work was at a grinding pace. I got into chambers early and left late. I might spend all day in court or maybe working on an assessed piece of work. I researched law in the Inn of Court library, drafted pleadings, practised speeches and tread very carefully whenever I met a barrister in chambers. My assessments were building up (with little indication of how well I was doing) and the impromptu testing of my knowledge of the law continued. The intensity of absorbing the law was unrelenting in this environment.
At Bar School, we were given lectures on the pressure and stress that came with practising as a barrister. I witnessed first-hand the strain that barristers were under. Before an important hearing we had prepared for, Jeremy put his wig and gown on in his room as he always did, but stopped before opening the door. He yelled “Shit, Shit, Shit” whilst banging his head against the inside of the door. When he finished, Jeremy turned to me, apologised politely and we strolled to the High Court as if nothing had happened.
However, the most stress I saw him under was when he had to make an application before a High Court judge to an empty court room. This may sound easier than speaking in the usually packed court rooms, but this particular judge was his ex-pupilmaster. As we walked to court, Jeremy explained that every word, every intonation would be scrutinised and he would be pulled up on anything less than perfection. I sat to one side and further back from Jeremy as he stood to speak. His hands clasped behind his back were visibly shaking.
“My Lord, this is a matter of utmost importance. If your Lordship could turn to page fifty-seven of the bundle…” His speech was delivered to the exacting standard required.
The first three months of my pupillage was almost over and Jeremy had to attend a hearing at the High Court. We walked hurriedly along the various barristers’ chambers fronted with wrought iron railings. I was carrying his bundles of court papers wrapped in legal tape.
Jeremy smiled and looked over. “I do feel a lot safer walking beside you.”