One strike and you’re out

Are barristers really going on strike? asked my journalist friend.

It depends on what you mean by strike.

Well, withdraw their labour mid-case, that sort of thing.

No. At least I have not heard anyone so far threaten that.

Why not?

Because we owe a duty of care to those we represent. You wouldn’t hear a surgeon speak of not turning up to do his list. Or a fireman ignore a fire in front of him.

What would you do if anyone suggested doing that?

I would confront them head on and tell them not to be so bloody stupid. And that they were letting the profession down, not to say their clients and everyone else affected by an adjourned trial. And I might also point out that there is no pot of gold to pay an infinite number of wasted costs orders.

You sound pretty angry.

On that issue I would be. I shall attack openly anyone who advocates that. Radio, television, you name it. No, that’s not the plan. The more nuanced approach is to seek adjournments or simply
not to be available for work.

And what do you think about that?

Well they are not the same thing. Seeking adjournments is simply denying access to justice for other people. Including your client. Of course it is for principled reasons.

Which are?

The future of our profession. It shows the depth of feeling and a huge fear of damaging change. It is noble and honourable.

Well one thing’s for sure. If barristers don’t turn up, our headlines aren’t going to be pretty.

Of course! Thats the point I am banging on about. We cannot fail to lose any support that a really good campaign may achieve. Particularly if you write up the real position fairly.

Ok, take the point. I’ll do my best. But lastly, what about just not being available?

That is more difficult. It will mean returning briefs and letting clients down that you have seen in conference. And the young will suffer particularly.

So what is the way out?

Talk. Canvas, recruit, explain. But if the chips are down, remember who comes first in life.

You mean your profession?

No, much as I love it. I mean my family. And ultimately, that will be the bottom line…


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