I tweeted on Friday about having to prep a trial during a 3 day ‘break’.
To-date the tweet has been seen by over 115,000 people and the response I’ve had has been incredible.
Now, on the break, I can add that the prep is only half of it. The other half is the constant tension of knowing the prep is outstanding. It nips at my ankles as I do anything fun. It hangs over the trip like a pissy, dark cloud. Several times I’ve contemplated cutting the trip short so I can return home to do the prep properly without the distraction of a life.
I could angrily shake my fist at the sky. I could blame the clerks, my client, court listing, my career choice as a young woman when I could have taken the journalism job at the BBC I was offered.
But I’m too tired to do any of that.
The truth is the buck stops with me. I have to look after myself.
The clerks have a job – to fill our diaries. The client wants his case dealt with competently and I will do my very best for him because I’m a conscientious barrister. I prepare a case well, read everything, cross reference every point, do all I can to present a good case.
The court system is as overwhelmed as we individuals are.
So, I will do the following:
- Stay on my break
- Take a few hours today and tomorrow to do as much preparation as I can (the ‘advantage’ of a staycation in the UK is that it rains a lot. So the resentment about having to work and stay in the hotel for a while can be more measured).
- Run myself ragged during the trial which I have to attend in person. Then try to rest over the bank holiday weekend, unable to give my loved ones the best of my energy because it’s depleted.
- And then, I will take stock. I’ll take a proper break, making sure I have time either side to pack and prepare when going and to recalibrate when I return.
- I will start the process of getting myself out of the conditioning so many barristers develop; that we must put everyone else before ourselves: the clerks who say ‘but if you don’t do take it, the brief will have to go out of chambers. The solicitor who says ‘I won’t be able to get the brief to you until the morning of the hearing, is that ok? The client who wants to send you a 50 page rebuttal of the other side’s case at the 11th hour (none of it in their statement).
- Then I will decide how I want my practice to continue in future.
None of the above is criticism of the other people involved. Everyone in the family justice system is overwhelmed. I have sympathy for the clerks, the solicitors, the clients and court staff. But I can’t dictate how they work. I can only change things for myself.