The Legal Mire

Max Hardy reviews The Legal Mire, a fundraising event for the Kalisher Scholarship.

Not withstanding the manifold challenges that face the criminal Bar enduring reassurance can be drawn from the ever growing numbers wishing to join its ranks. Those who embark on the daunting path that leads to the Bar do so because they acknowledge the value that barristers can and do add to society. The spiralling costs associated with making a bid for the Bar will be well known to younger practitioners but by way of example a place on the BVC at City Law School for 2008–2009 costs £13,250.

 


There are many more worthy applicants than there are Inns Scholarships and for those that miss out the next port of call is likely to be, given the times, a very wary bank manager. The work of the Kalisher Scholarship has therefore never been more important. Set up in 1996 in memory of Michael Kalisher QC, its primary purpose is to award an annual scholarship covering the cost of a student’s BVC tuition. This is given on a rotating basis through the generosity of each of the BVC providers. Cloth Fair Chambers kindly fund a further scholarship so that two students can benefit from this generous assistance. A £3,000 bursary is also awarded annually paid for by the attendees at the Criminal Bar Association’s dinner.

Theatrical fundraising

In 2007 the Kalisher Scholarship held its first fundraising event, a theatrical re-enaction of Dickens’ Trial of Bardell v Pickwick. In 2008 two episodes of the BBC’s series Misleading Cases were staged.

On 26 April 2009 Gray’s Inn generously threw open its doors for the staging of a theatrical miscellany entitled The Legal Mire. A sell out crowd was entertained for two hours at the hands of theatre director Guy Retallack and a cast comprising Martin Shaw, Patrick Malahide, Nicholas le Prevost, Ray Fearon, Tim Frances, Daniel Hill, Maggie Steed and Zoë Waites. Th ese heroic luminaries of stage and screen, as with their forebears in 2007 and 2008, gave up their time and skills for free.

The miscellany consisted of a variety of vignettes introduced with the Lord Chancellor’s Song from Iolanthe and included the unforgettably disgusted clerk George from A Voyage Round My Father catching a young John Mortimer rifling through his “personal drawer” for a much needed cheque. Perhaps the most affecting part of the evening was Maggie Steed’s reading of an excerpt from Dickens’ 1836 A Visit to Newgate in which he imagines a condemned man briefly envisioning freedom in fitful sleep hours before he is due to climb the gallows.

The interval was introduced by Bob Marshall-Andrews MP QC as an usher who sends the jury back to their room when he feels they have reached the “wrong” verdict.

Much is often made of encouraging diversity and broadening access to the Bar. The work of the Kalisher Scholarship ensures that these do not merely remain fine sentiments.

Max Hardy is a barrister at 9 Bedford Row


Annual essay prize

The Kalisher Scholarship also awards an annual essay prize open to all who are currently pupils in criminal chambers. The prize is £5,000 with £2,000 for the runner up. This year the title is: “Does the difference between action and inaction (that is, between doing something to kill someone and not doing anything to keep them alive) provide an adequate shield for medical practitioners against allegations of unlawful killing?”

Chambers sponsor participating pupils—a maximum of two per set at a cost of £100 per pupil. Chamers are asked to indicate and provide sponsorship by 10 July. The essays, a maximum of 2,000 words, must be submitted in hard copy by 27 July to Max Hardy of 9 Bedford Row. Enquiries to max.hardy@9bedfordrow.co.uk.

The awards will be presented by the Lord Chief Justice at the Kalisher Lecture at the Old Bailey in October.

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