Farewell Silk, Now Time To Come Up With a New Mythology For The Bar

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By Alex Aldridge on

The defining images in the second series of BBC legal drama Silk – which drew to a close last night – were (arguably) 1) Clive Reader’s beautiful New York style loft apartment and 2) Clive Reader’s exotic sports car.

Both are way more commercial Bar than publicly funded Bar. Yet Reader (pictured) is a criminal barrister. How could he afford such extravagances?

I know, I know, Silk’s not real. But it’s the propagation of this sort of misleading have-your-cake-and-eat-it myth that’s behind the massive oversupply of wannabe barristers who enrol each year on the BPTC.

To set the record straight: the commercial Bar = geeky, intellectual, dry, not much time in court, but loads of money.

The criminal bar = like Silk, but without the money.

Don’t believe me? Read this recent piece by criminal barrister Jerry Hayes on iaindale.com. In it, Hayes memorably declares:

“Most of us worried sick about how on earth I am going to pay my next tax bill. Sometimes I have only been paid a couple of hundred pounds in the space of two months and wake up at five in the morning stressing what will happen to the mortgage. And I am a success. What about those poor sods, particularly young barristers, who are less fortunate. I know some who are having to borrow the money from friends to get to court.”

So, what sort of new Bar myth should we create?

How about: the bohemian criminal barrister, who jumps Tube fairs, spends their lunch-hours busking, and evenings doing poetry slams with the other residents of their squat?

Allied to which we could introduce a new narrative around a moderately wealthy barrister who specialises in the steady areas of employment and private family work, shops at Waitrose and enjoys the occasional extravagance of an Inns of Court dinner but is equally at home at Pizza Express.

And finally there’d be the weirdo commercial barrister nerd who is a millionaire several times over but as a result of inexplicable common sense failings is constantly getting done over by Nigerian email fraudsters.