Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it

April 23, 2023 – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Paddy Corkhill, my old friend, and I met last Friday, ending up at a well-known hostelry near Chambers now thriving again after the pandemic. It felt like the days when we used to go into Chambers instead of nowadays ‘working from home’ and binging on episodes of Judge Judy, who bears an uncanny resemblance to a judge from my early days at the Bar. Appearing in front of Judge Diane Esher gave one fresh insight into the heroism of Perseus when he faced Medusa, the Gorgon. The first time I encountered her she looked rather tame, despite the fame that went before her. Suddenly, I felt a stinging sensation in my lower face. It was a box of tissues that she had thrown across the courtroom, the corner of which had struck me.

I must have looked rather pained. She peered over her specs. ‘It wasn’t meant for you,’ she said. ‘It was meant for you.’ The latter comment was directed to my opponent, a young woman whose name was Gilly Myers. She is a judge herself now. We had met for the first time in the robing room. She was very pleasant. What had caused the judge’s ire? That soon became clear. ‘Wipe that muck off your lips!’ This was apparently a reference to Gilly’s rather pale pink lipstick. Makeup, jewellery and loose hair below the neck in court were forbidden then – certainly for women. This seemed to me rather tough as the judge herself was wearing bright red lippie. I learnt then that, rather like the Strawberry Poison Dart Frog, the colour of her lips was significant. Bright red meant an attack was imminent.

Anyway, I am rambling. Paddy and I had bumped into each other in a ghostly Gutteridge and, despite both saying we had work to do, were soon knocking on each other’s doors for a break. We called it a coffee break, and our first drink was indeed coffee. It was rather bitter and Paddy suggested a glass of claret to wash away the taste. We reminisced about our great days in this watering hole. Paddy reminded me of the time when as a pupil I sat in someone else’s chair. Some of the tables had an unusual form of reservation. Certain names were beautifully inscribed in gold paint on the backs of the traditional chairs. ‘You sat in Sir Simon Eccles’ chair,’ Paddy said. I remembered. Eccles had been tipped to go to the House of Lords as Lord Chancellor. It was permissible to sit in those chairs if the designated personage had not shown up by around 8pm. It was, however, 6pm and no sooner had I sat down than some large old geezer was towering over me. ‘Get your bum off that seat!’ he said. I later realised it was Sir Simon. Sadly, at the time I thought it was a joke…

‘Those were the days!’ said Paddy. ‘A real Lord Chancellor.’ ‘Except he never made it,’ I countered. ‘No,’ said Paddy, ‘but he would have been the genuine article.’ A few seconds later we toasted our latest modern-style House of Commons Lord Chancellor to bite the dust. I used to record the statistics but I’ve given up now. ‘Shelf-life worse than under the Tudors,’ said Paddy. ‘Worse than the Black Death,’ I replied. ‘What did this one do wrong?’ he asked. ‘We live in a terribly sensitive age,’ I said. Judge Diane Esher came into my mind again. ‘Talking of sensitivities, you had one of those clients yesterday who wouldn’t play ball by coming into the dock to be sentenced, didn’t you?’ asked Paddy. ‘Do you think they should be forced?’

‘Makes me feel a bit uncomfortable,’ I said. ‘I understand why people want it, but it seems a tiny bit like a Roman circus. We raised him finally on the prison video-link and he said it took forever to get from the prison to court, you missed all the hot food and usually lost your prison cell. He liked his.’ Paddy thought for a moment. ‘We are losing the skill of human management,’ he said. ‘Threatening some kid in a gang with the majesty of the law and six months on top isn’t very effective when he is about to get His Majesty’s Pleasure with 25 years to serve.’ ‘You should stand for Parliament, Paddy,’ I suggested. ‘Do you know,’ he said, ‘I should. I could be the next Lord Chancellor but six.’