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Edition 1DX TUE 11 SEP 2001, Page Law 12

How to be the perfect lawyer - by Henry Milner


Setting the Scene: you have just turned 40 and you've been cutting a sharp figure down at the Old Bailey for the past couple of years (or so all the female pupils in chambers tell you). You have jettisoned your heavyweight chalk-striped suit for one of the finer Italian variety; and your grandfather's pocket watch has been "heirloomed off" in favour of an understated number from one in a fashionable salon in Geneva.


You're a premier league player who could call on half a dozen High Court judges to give you a five-star rating. Your clerk has assured you that you are flavour of the year with virtually all the notable firms of criminal solicitors.


Well -very respectfully -here is a list of do's and don'ts to put under the fridge magnet right next to your letter from the Lord Chancellor's Department notifying you that the Queen has granted you a licence to print money: Try a little modesty: Never claim that a victory against the odds was due to your brilliance (and least of all to your instructing solicitor).


Most solicitors are just about capable of forming their own opinion. Bragging "I got him off" is as welcome to a solicitor's ears as news of a Friday night conference at Wormwood Scrubs. Far better to put on a look of stunned disbelief at the verdict -no one believes it, but it never fails. False modesty at the Bar is a sure-fire winner. Don't be mean: Don't "cheapskate" it with your car or your solicitor. What is the use in his assuring the client that you are "the man to see" if you roll up at court in a rusty Mini and park it next to your client's Porsche?


"Maintaining your right of silence" when a restaurant bill arrives might prove a short-sighted economy. Let your temper rip: What is possibly the most memorable sight any of us have witnessed at Wimbledon? Answer -John McEnroe losing his temper on Centre Court. It is the same at the Bar.


Nothing is guaranteed to ensure your next private brief more than a flaming row with the prosecution in court in full view of your client (the jury will love it, too). Your delicate submission of "no case to answer" will never be the subject of whispered conversation at Belmarsh. But the news of your stand-up row with "the pros", moaning about the unnecessary brutality in his cross-examination of your client's common-law wife, will reverberate for years from the Blind Beggar pub to the Old Kent Road as conclusive proof that you are not a brief who "sells his client down the river".


Avoid the cliches: Do you groan at Christmas when you find you are being offered a repeat diet of the Sound of Music, My Fair Lady and The Great Escape on television? Well, the legal equivalent are the cliches on parade endlessly at the Old Bailey. Expressions such as "let's take this in stages" (a euphemism for "Slow down -I haven't got a clue what you are talking about"), "as far as my client is concerned" (I don't really have anything very relevant to ask you); and, worst of all, "there is not a scintilla of evidence" (Judge, we all know he is guilty -but the law is the law!), call for nothing but an overdose of Rennies by anyone present. Try bowling the occasional googly; you never know, you may snatch a surprise wicket.


Conclusion: To be England's answer to Clarence Darrow, dress expensively, drive a fancy car, don't boast, avoid cliches, lose your temper in court, and pick up the occasional tab at El Vino's -and, oh yes, it might help to know a little law as well.


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