Apparently by popular demand, I have been asked to entertain you like some type of clown... to amuse you...
There is a serious part to my anecdotes however, and that is to impart to you some of my experience spanning over 20 years as a front-line trench-warfare Solicitor-Advocate with higher rights of audience in both Civil and Criminal Higher Courts having dealt with all manner of people.
My first experience as an advocate (representing in court, rather than having sat behind many a great and good barrister: learning their patter, their form, their body language, their interaction with court staff, with the other side, with their clients, with the Judge), was as a trainee solicitor.
Picture this: A Lord Justice of the High Court Family Division, presiding over an abduction claim brought by a ‘concerned’ mother (‘M’) under The Hague Convention against the young boy’s father (‘F’).
In the left corner, representing M, a Queen’s Counsel on the second from front bench. In the Row behind, a junior barrister. In the row behind, a solicitor, and in the row behind, M.
In the right corner, an over-confident, ready to take on the world, entirely clueless, but full of...enthusiasm, trainee-solicitor...me :)
The first thing to remember is that unless you are a litigant-in-person you have no voice in the high court unless you are a barrister or have accepted higher rights of audience or you ask the usher outside to ask the clerk to the Judge to ask the Judge if you can speak. That is what I did and he said yes.
I had no idea what was going on. The room seemed huge, and I felt so very small. I bowed at the right time, introduced myself, and explained that...I had no instructions but that I was asked to attend. My client was on his way from an immigration centre and I had yet to take instructions.
Case adjourned until late morning.
Client arrives in the cells of the High Court. I take instructions and it seems that M left their son with him when he was just three in a Paddington Bear type of way with a ‘Please look after your child’ tag around his neck.
F became a father to a child he didn’t know existed. He looked after him, loved him, clothed him, fed him, educated him. M did not feature for three years and then claimed F had abducted him.
Two narratives diametrically opposed, with a young innocent child at the very heart of a legal wrangle.
The QC spun the yarn of M and then I don’t know what got into me. I became a mad man. Passion took over, and well...I lost the plot and argued vociferously about the child’s best interest being of utmost importance. The child was with his paternal grandparents, housed and in school.
M wanted the child released to her immediately. F was opposed.
The QC held his head in his hands. The solicitor found it amusing and the junior barrister was poe-faced. The Judge was not amused.
He called for the tipstaff and put me in the cells to call off and to reflect upon the error or my ways.
The managing partner of my firm was called to explain. Favours were called from senior barristers . Apologies all around but
I was successful in opposing the application.
Lessons learned: Perspicacity is key. Know your place. Be passionate when the need arises but never get angry in court. When you are angry, you lose your rationality. Moreover, the Judge thinks you have lost your rationale, and your experienced opponent will keep quiet and let you quietly destroy any taint of respect you may have had. Keep your cool and keep your nerve.
Professor David J Rosen LL B (Hons), PgCert (Counter Fraud and Counter Corruption) (Portsmouth), CFE, Solicitor-Advocate Higher Rights (All Proceedings), Hon. Professor of Law, Brunel University