The biggest emotion in creation is the bridge to optimism.
January 23, 2022 – Brian May

We decided to have a New Year’s party in Chambers on the spur of the moment and it ended with a hard core of us decamping to a nearby hotel with a late bar after we had consumed the remaining scampi and some rather questionable Chardonnay.

I remember, as a pupil, always tagging along to social events and staying to the bitter end. I believed that somehow it was enhancing my chances of being taken on as a tenant and perhaps it did, although it was always fraught with the danger that close social contact with tenants might not necessarily produce the desired chemistry.

This time, I was sitting in a strange position on an hotel sofa with my right leg over its arm. At Christmas, I had travelled to see cousins. After driving about 20 miles, a pain started such that sitting became increasingly painful and I felt the need to press the spot, even though I could hear the Prosecutor’s opening speech: ‘and it appears, madam, that the defendant then inserted his right hand under his body somewhere in the region of his sciatic nerve while holding the steering wheel with one hand, travelling at slightly above the permitted speed limit.’ But pain is pain and I couldn’t help myself.

Naturally, my orthopaedic efforts on this occasion, caused comment which led on to a whole series of health moans from everyone: Paddy Corkhill’s six-week cough, Roderick Twist’s rather sensitive health problem (until we shut him up) and Hetty Briar-Pitt’s medical emergency with an animal from her newly purchased alpaca herd which a callous vet had diagnosed as its normal behaviour, given its origins were the camel family. No doubt he had enjoyed trudging around her fields on Boxing Day to make the discovery.

The spirit of late-night revelling had now reached its maudlin phase and the pupils told us of their struggles with accommodation, expenses and the career trajectory of the Criminal Bar, while we raised our eyes to the heavens telling them how much worse it was going to get.

Then Akin spoke. Akin Amadi is still in his first six. He had a rather stellar career at university and our only doubt about him was why he had chosen crime instead of walking into a commercial set where the conversations about fees would doubtless have been of a different kind.

He explained how he had many friends who had gone into well paid but very unrewarding jobs. And then we all started to think how millions of people actually spent their working lives, doing jobs they hate.

‘I become so excited at court even though I am just watching,’ said Akin. ‘I am so looking forward to doing it myself. Meeting the clients, outfoxing my opponent, taking on the judge.’ We were all smiling. ‘And you, William, if I may, what made you come to the Bar?’

I told him. A boy at school had asked a few of us if we would like to go and see a Magistrates’ Court as his father, who was a lay Justice, could arrange it. And off we went one afternoon, having been let off school, and watched a contested driving case. It went on until about 7pm and I sat there spellbound. It would be nothing now, but, then, I listened to everything and followed the arguments and wanted to know the outcome. When the other boys left as the afternoon wore on, I stayed right until the end. I even comforted the motorist after the verdict and spoke to his solicitor. That was the day I knew, and despite doubts, diversions and difficulties, that core desire has stayed with me always.

I looked at Akin and smiled and the years between us fell away. ‘I think you have reminded us of something we sometimes forget, Akin,’ I said. ‘We are often taken for granted and our fees and working conditions are driving a wedge between criminal practice and other work – one that may threaten its viability altogether – but, you are right, we are all supremely privileged to love what we do.’

For a moment the atmosphere held like a bubble in the air, and then Hetty, who as usual had not been fully listening said: ‘I’m tempted to report him. The animal wasn’t spitting. It was coughing.’