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When worlds collide part two

Sometimes grudges which commenced at the Bar remain lifelong. It is probably because such grudges are few and far between that those which occur are memorable.

I know of two particular instances where barristers have had virtually lifelong grudges against one another. In each case they have arisen from personal matters rather than from the position in court.

The first two we shall call Mr Gold and Mr Silver. Mr Gold and Mr Silver were pretty close to being contemporaries. They did not have their practice in London, but were in the same provincial city. They were both Jewish and so consequently in the particular place where they lived they came across each other relatively frequently in religious and social as well as professional contexts. It is probably fair to say that Mr Gold was considerably more popular than Mr Silver, but Mr Silver, although he could sometimes be difficult, was not wildly unpopular. Mr Gold was one of those people who seemed to generally get on with people, with the conspicuous exception of Mr Silver.

No one ever knew how this apparent feud began. However it can literally be described as lifelong. Eventually they both ended up appointed as circuit judges, again operating in the same city. They still could not stand each other. It was the talk and joke of the local professional community. Each relished any successful appeal which any litigant made against the judgment of the other.

Eventually Mr Gold died of a heart attack. There is a story surrounding how this came about. It may be one of those urban myths, or it may be true. It is said that on the particular day when Judge Gold died, that he was told that there was a report in the Times in which the Court of Appeal had been particularly critical about the decision of Judge Silver. By ill chance he had not bought the Times that day. In the mid-morning break, he therefore literally ran out of court to the newsagents in order to get a copy of the newspaper. The exertion apparently brought on a heart attack which killed him. The general view was that if he had managed to buy the paper and read the piece first, he would at least have died happy.

There is another instance where two barristers have both been very successful, were both well respected and made lots of money at the Bar, and have gone on to hold very high judicial office. They were colleagues together for many years, and will still meet on various occasions as a result of their positions. There has never been a moment during the period they have known each other when they have remotely got on well. Nor will there be.

This perhaps illustrates that most dislikes at the Bar do not stem from opposition in court, but from being colleagues in Chambers. It is often easy to assume that if people are from the same Chambers, they are to some extent hand in glove. Every barrister you know will be able to think of some people who individually are easy to get on with, but who have the same explosive effect if put together as nitrogen has if added to glycerine.

This is why one of the most excruciating experiences at the Bar can be the Chambers meeting. It is not just the fact that the Chambers meeting is the classic instance of too many self appointed generals and not enough soldiers, or the fact that since barristers like to make speeches and hear the sound of their own voices, but are not generally required to show any wider administration skills, you can expect a lot more talking than doing. It is because the Chambers meeting can be a way of fighting out grievances that have nothing to do with the subject in hand. You will frequently know that if X speaks in favour of a subject, Y is obviously going to oppose it.

Michael J. Booth QC