Ask Uncle Julian - July 2008

Uncle Julian is on a busman’s holiday far away in the sun. Sarah, my PA, says that I should wear shorts and sandals in the evening “like all the other silks”. “Excuse me,” I replied, “I did not reach the magic height of 5ft at my prep school, thus entitling me to wear long trousers, only to revert to shorts 50 years later…and as to sandals...” Now to my questions...


You may remember that we did Bar Finals at the College of Law together back in 1971, though judging by your photograph, I think that I am wearing a good deal better than you are. But I am sure that you feel just as uncomfortable as I do about the current explosion in “marketing” (i.e. touting) by the Bar. I have done my best to keep up with the young thrusters in chambers, entertaining solicitors at the races, paintballing, go-karting, quiz nights and champagne receptions at the Wallace Collection. I have to say that I have found it all pretty tiring for someone of my years, and I have not, so far as I am aware, received a single piece of work for all my efforts. The latest proposal from my chambers’ marketing consultant is an evening at a night club, which I believe is a “lap dancing” club, entertaining male City solicitors. I do not wish to appear old fashioned, but surely this is a step too far? On the other hand, it just might just lead to some new work. What should I do?

Just exactly when the Bar began to behave badly is a very interesting question. It was certainly after 1985 and before 1995, but to pinpoint the precise moment in that decade will be a task for historians. But we must adapt or die. So get tough. Do not go into chambers on the day of the entertainment. Find some way of spending the afternoon so that throughout the evening at the lap dancing club, the naked girls will be of absolutely no interest to you. Obviously do not dress as a barrister when you go to the club. Take plenty of cash and buy everybody lots of drinks. But you must personally do as Stalin did on all public occasions and drink water, pretending it is vodka. When everybody else is drunk or nearly drunk and you are sober, take lots of pictures and videos on your new digital camera. Then go round each solicitor giving him your card (yes, I know that having a business card is frightful) and saying that you will send him your photographs of this happy occasion, if he gives you a call. Then go home. For the rest of your time at the Bar, you will be flooded with work.

Having been brought up on the stories of those great advocates, F.E. Smith, Marshall Hall and Patrick Hastings and listening to Edgar Lustgarten on the radio, I always wanted to be a criminal barrister. But now, after many years in practice, I absolutely loathe going to court and I have come to the conclusion that this is because I really dislike the sound of my own voice. Criminal work is mostly advocacy; I am not qualified to do anything else; I had my pension with the Equitable Life, I am never going to be a judge and so I must continue to work until I drop. What am I to do?

This is a very unusual problem for a barrister. Indeed it is possibly unique. It is, of course, quite usual to loathe your opponent’s voice and sometimes even the judge’s, but to dislike one’s own voice, is a serious state of affairs. I discussed the problem with a Chinese friend who lived as a teenager throughout Mao’s Cultural Revolution, in Peking. I should say immediately that Uncle Julian takes the Churchillian view that every Englishman is entitled to call any foreign place by any name he chooses. Mumbai for example is ridiculous and, as a new name, is not even supported by the majority of Bombay’s population. But I digress. It must be the heat, as it is certainly not the light. Anyway, back to Peking in 1969; my Chinese friend tells me that it was then the practice of the Young Red Guards to make their oppressors, harmless citizens such as Uncle Julian, continuously repeat their confessions, until the mob of peasants judged them to be sincere. Some people say that there is now a whole generation of Chinese men and women, who cannot speak above a whisper, because they came to hate the sound of their own voices. This is why you will only see young people in the arenas at the Peking Olympics. Most of the older generation can only whisper and obviously therefore cannot cheer. In your case you have reached this stage without the brainwashing. The solution is to buy one of the new voice amplification microphones with a couple of loudspeakers. This radio microphone hangs around your neck in an unobtrusive way and you place the loudspeakers, strategically near the judge and the jury. No wires are involved and the batteries last all day. Then you do as the middle aged Chinese do and you whisper your submissions and speeches into the tiny microphone. You will find this very relaxing. You will grow to like your whisper and, I am sure, retain your practice and prosper.

Here in the Caribbean we have been following the dire effects of your introduction of the Woolf method of civil litigation, which you call the CPR. We have also watched with amazement the gradual erosion of the use of the wig in civil cases in England and Wales. We are sure that it will cheer your readers to know that we have no intention of following the mother country in either of these dangerous experiments. Wigs are essential for keeping the clients, especially American attorneys, in their place and the 1999 White Book, together with its 4th cumulative supplement, which we now get printed in India, is regarded here as perfect in every way. Counsel readers can go off on their summer holidays reassured in the knowledge that there remain a number of sane, albeit small, jurisdictions in the common law world.

Uncle Julian was delighted to receive your letter. When Empires collapse, they collapse at the centre. I am sure that the last civil trial under Roman law, recognisable to Cicero, was held in York in about 400 A.D. (Uncle Julian does not accept B.C.E. and A.C.E.). Keep up the good work.


Julian Malins QC

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