Thursday, November 17, 2005

Are You Counsel?

I went off to a Magistrates Court that is a little off my usual path.

I spoke with the Prosecutor first of all about the case. As the case was listed for a first appearance today I collected the advance information from the Prosecutor who then wanted to know what firm of solicitors was representing the Client. The conversation went a little like this:

Her: Who instructs you?
Me: I do.
Her: Sorry?
Me: I am dealing with the case.
Her: Are you Counsel?
No: I am a solicitor.
Her: Sorry.

After finding and speaking to my Client I spoke with the Usher to let her know that my Client and I had attended at Court and that her case was ready to be called on. The conversation went like this:

Me: Hello, I am here representing Mrs X.
Her: Is your Client here?
Me: Yes.
Her: Are you ready to be called on.
Me: Yes.
Her: Who has instructed you?
Me: No, I am a solicitor.
Her: Oh sorry, you look like Counsel.

At some point during the morning I was approached by one of the duty solicitors local to the Court I was at, they spoke with me:

Him: Hello, what are you doing here.
Me: I am just waiting to be called on for a first appearance.
Him: I don't know if you can help me. I am the duty solicitor today and I have a Client who has a co-defendant. They are both in custody and the co-defendant has legal aid with a firm but they have not turned up. Would you accept a brief from the solicitors to represent the other chap?
Me: Erm, I'm not Counsel.
Him: Sorry, you look like Counsel.

It turned out the reason people kept mistaking me for a barrister was because I was smartly dressed in a pin striped suit. I dress smartly every day and do think that there are some shabbily dressed solicitors out there who have clearly grown to be too comfortable in their usual surroundings and dress pretty poorly. I did not mind being mistaken for Counsel on the basis that I was well dressed but I do think that people have the wrong idea when they suggest that in the general heirachy of things that barristers come above solicitors in terms of dress sense!


Anonymous said...

Ever considered the Bar Gavin?

Sounds like you look the part at least.

Anonymous said...

Well well well, This post made me laugh.. After reading back through your other posts however, as a police officer I am sickened by your 'interpretation' of the law. You sir are a disgrace. I assume that you have problems looking yourself in the mirror?

People like you cost lives.

Anonymous said...

Erm... I am the first "anonymous" on this thread, the original "anonymous" as far as this thread goes, and would like to state that I have no connection with the phoney "anonymous" who posted the "interpretation" of the law comment above.

He is clearly the sort of copper that believes that such things as the right to a free trial are unnecessary inconvieniences.

Good job we don't let the police make the laws in this country.

Bystander said...

Yes, pinstripes are usually a giveaway for Counsel. Sadly, a badly fitting suit and a non-matching coloured shirt and tie are sometimes the uniform of a solicitor(!). On the other hand since the male solicitor in the mags' court will be extinct within the decade, who cares?

Counsel who want the bench to know that they are real barristers usually start with "May it please your worshios" or some such. That goes down like a rat sandwich with a few JJs I know.

Anonymous said...

How amusing. Perhaps you should walk in with an orb and sceptre and see if anyone treats you differently ;)

Milton john said...

For members of the Irish Bar the wearing of the wig is now entirely optional. As I have opted not to wear my wig I now have one going spare and it would certainly suit your pinstripe suit.

First thing that we do let's kill all the lawyers _ Henry iv part ii Act iv

Anonymous said...


As a member of the bar, I was taught at Bar school and by people in chambers, that only Solicitors use the phrase "Your Worships"; Counsel use "Sir" or "Madam"!

I don't visit the Mags anymore but when I did, I would (wrongly I suppose) assume that smartly dressed bloke = Counsel, scruffy dress bloke = Solicitor. I think that this in part is driven by the fact that most Counsel in the Mags are pupils / junior tenants who have little choice but to ensure that they appear as smart as possible in chambers whereas most male Solicitors are a little older and have a slightly more ecentric dress sense (note, Homer Simpson ties, like the character, are not smart).

Female Solicitors on the other hand tend to dress just as well as their Bar counterparts and so its more difficult 'tell the difference'.


Unknown said...

Adversly, I have attended police station custody suites in a smart suit and have been mistaken for a solicitor. Despite the personal pain this causes me, it was interesting experience the general hostility aimed at solicitors by members of the police service...
I now carry a red book with my name and rank clearly marked!

Anonymous said...

Ha - I also am constantly asked if I am Counsel if I appear in a Court that is not local to me. I too dress very smartly and I'm afraid there are so many (generally male) Solicitors who do not which is probably the reason for this.

My view is that if you turn up looking like you sell second hand cars with a dodgy speedometer, you are likely to be considered in an appropriate light!

Gavin said...

I agree entirely

Anonymous said...

Well, members of the bar are generally better dressed... Peer pressure perhaps? By the way, you haven't seen shabby till you've seen some of the chaps they have on the other side of the Atlantic. Even if they are spending a couple of hundred quid on suits, the whole American cut is just really not very flattering....

dom_the_draftsman said...

I have to agree with wigandgown; its an age thing. I am a young-ish Costs Draftsman and have been mistaken for Counsel on a few occasions, mainly when I've been dressed in pin stripe suits.

Unfortunately, the Home Simpson ties tend to adorn more mature Draftsmen as well.