• Robert Spicer

Contradiction between public perception of barristers and efforts to present a classless image

This cultural divide is also illustrated by obituaries of barristers, for example:

  • “The affetato misto in the Jager-Stubli in the Bernese Oberland was transformed by his description from a decent, if ordinary, platter of charcuterie to the most mouth-watering fare in the world.”

  • “Away from court, no dressing down for him. One might occasionally see a flash of red braces but on the whole he saw himself as keeping up standards of sartorial elegance in an increasingly shabby world.”

  • There have also been reports of “a popular and eminent QC” who, while working on a case in Croydon, could not find anywhere which served a decent lunch. He was photographed holding a cigar in one hand and a bag of fish and chips in the other. His instructing solicitor commented that this was how he liked his QCs: extravagant on the one hand, down to earth on the other.

Language used in legal practice includes sporting metaphors, for example a successful prosecution is described as “potting” the accused, and a trial can be described as a “fight”. Cases are “won” or “lost”. This use of language illustrates the highly competitive and adversarial nature of current mainstream legal practice.

During a barristers’ conference some years ago, where the matters being discussed included the possibility of direct access to the public without the intervention of a solicitor, one barrister hissed loudly every time the word “solicitor” was mentioned.

These types of comment illustrate a cultural context which is very far removed from a profession which is strenuously trying to rebrand itself as modern, caring and in touch.

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