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Barristers risk trashing profession’s reputation by being ‘clever dicks’ on social media, warns top blogger

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Does the bar have a PR problem?

A leading blogger has delivered a stern message to her fellow barristers: stop being “clever dicks” on social media or risk making the bar a pariah profession.

Lucy Reed, author of the long-running Pink Tape blog and tenant at St John’s Chambers in Bristol, details a long list of unattractive qualities that she believes barristers on social media are inclined to exhibit:

“We are too often pompous, tone deaf, macho, always bloody right, sanctimonious, pedantic, holier than thou — and we have a specialness complex. And we just seem incapable of saying nothing (lawyers really should know the value of silence).”

Acknowledging that tweeting lawyers perform a public service when explaining the law, Reed questions the way in which some of them do it.

“[M]ust we be so gleeful, so irritating, so oblivious to the impact of our interventions, to the basic psychology that says the way you intervene affects the way people are likely to respond? Must we shred everyone in the process of making a point?”

Having cited “a number of high profile incidents and illustrations this year — at least two in recent weeks — of barristers badly misjudging what is appropriate conduct on social media and how the public will respond to it”, before clarifying that “this post is NOT about them”, Reed turns her attention to QCs:

“I am bracing for rotten tomatoes when I say that the general public might think it is a teeny bit odd that so many QCs feel the need to put ‘QC’ on their twitter profile (I’m sorry, I love many of you, but it is true). Does our special status matter so much to us? Do we think people will listen more because we put QC after our name? It may not be what we intend, but that seems to be what people read into it, when they mock real QCs by sporting fake ‘QC’ handles. And why should they listen more, just because we parade our importance in such a context?”

Ouch.

The way to win back the general public? A bit of humility, and a focus on earning respect rather than simply commanding it.

Advises Reed:

“What 2019 has shown me is that we may have great judgment in the confines of our litigation bubble, but we do not always have such great judgment in the real world. However, all is not lost. I like to think we can be useful and informative and interesting and witty — without behaving like prats with clodhoppers. I like to think we can deploy our knowledge and skill with kindness and with humility. I like to think we can express our true selves, but that we can do so more thoughtfully. I like to think we don’t need to self-censor, but that we just need to engage our capacious brains before we open our melifluous gobs … our problem is that we assume we should command respect when the truth is we have to earn it.”

84 Comments

Anon

Does the bar have a PR problem? Yes, Twitter barristers are awful.

(65)(0)

David West

I quite agree..am always suprised that allegedly intelligent people can be so stupid.
Hardly material for the Bench !

(6)(1)

Lotus Eater

Jessica Simor.

(15)(0)

Quintin Compton QC

Work hard for 20 years or so and you earn the right to put QC after your name. Being preached at or into not using that, whilst not appreciating the irony of citing ‘holier than thou’, is precisely the sort of wonky twaddle one expects from the those on the embittered fringes of a provisional practice.

That said, the day the so called ‘Bengal Tiger’ take silk, will be the day I sail upon the open seas, in an empty and heavily punctured life raft.

(40)(31)

Anon

Is this a reference to the health and safety silk who shares part of your name?

(3)(0)

Law student

Are barristers in regional sets usually salty and envious of their London counterparts…?

(6)(16)

Anon

Haven’t eaten any. Don’t know.

(16)(0)

Keith

Is the law in the provinces different to that in London?

(2)(0)

Anonymous

A lot less zeroes.

(7)(1)

Carlos 2

Bengal Tiger?
Who Tipu Sultan?
Thought he lost head in seringapatam
Or someone alive?

(2)(0)

Birmingham Trainee

Bengal Tiger was my first thought!

(2)(0)

Hugh Bryant

I thought lawyers were supposed to be articulate. This is nonsense.

(3)(3)

DC

“provisional practice”? Are you being ultra-condescending or merely suffering from malapropism?

(5)(1)

DJSMITH

It seems that most “professional” people have a vastly overinflated sense of their own importance. By professional I mean those who are good at remembering things and passing examinations.

They mistake their “expertise” in their chosen field for expertise in everything else. Politics. Art. Life. Philosophy. Existing, et al.

It’s insufferably misplaced. For instance, if a pilot has a heart attack as you’re flying to your Tuscany retreat, no one shouts “Is there a Barrister on board”.

If your plumbing fails, no one calls the Barrister.

As a member of the great unwashed, I happened to wander past the Supreme Court on 19 Dec. I didn’t even know it was there, except for the Sandwich board outside saying come in. As it was peeing down, and I’d missed the state opening of parliament, I did.

Apart from security, the place was deserted. Had a good wander around all three courts. The staff were mainly foreign and friendly. Best free toilets in London, if you can hang on past the 10 minute security check to get in the building.

And there were big TVs everywhere replaying Lady Hale’s goodbye spiel. My impression listening to these presumably bigwigs drone on and on with their unfunny anecdotes– well, I wouldn’t book any of them for an after-dinner speech.

On my way out I got chatting top the very nice security lady originally from Ukraine. She told me that I wasn’t the only person who wandered in at random, having only just noticed the place. She often had visitors who were literally working around the corner who only just noticed the SC too.

The point of this rambling tale? Most people don’t think at all about QCs at all. Only when they start make an arse of themselves with the big “I am”.

Moral. Don’t be that QC.

(17)(0)

TubaPete

Pity a qc who cannot spell provincial

(4)(0)

Blower Bentley

Or mellifluous…

(0)(0)

Lamia

“the sort of wonky twaddle one expects from the those on the embittered fringes of a provisional practice.”

Did you mean ‘provincial’? Allowances must be made, I suppose. The past month must have been a horrible experience for the metropolitan ‘elite’ class. 🙂

(3)(0)

Anon

Provisional practice? You mean provincial? Or are they the same thing…

(15)(0)

Barrister 2011 call

Above poster demonstrates the problem. Barristers, with some justification, think they are really clever by virtue of being a barrister and can’t wait to tell everyone about it.

See also doctors.

See also Oxbridge grads.

Fact is, most people don’t care. If you want to persuade people to your point of view, don’t start by letting everyone know you are a really clever barrister. And don’t make submissions as you would to a Judge.

The Bar is a pompous, constipated profession in many respects and pretty detached from the real world in terms of making convincing arguments.

(69)(9)

Anon

I think a lot of insecure people went into the profession hoping to be ‘liked’ and ‘respected’, only to find that it’s no fun being surrounded by other angry, insecure people.

How very dare people not be impressed by what another person does for a living? The only people who care are members of the Bar themselves.

Lucy’s rant reeks of entitlement, desperation and victim-seeking. The public don’t owe barristers any more respect than anyone else.

(48)(2)

Anon

‘Barrister 2011 call’

…you left out ‘awaiting pupillage / 9+ years as LPC advocate / 2:2 and competent’

(26)(2)

Barrister 2011 call

Try harder. 2011 call, London tenant, 3 figures billing within a year and a half of tenancy.

Don’t play the man just because he speaks the truth and you don’t like it.

(10)(8)

Anon

You billed a maximum of £999 within a year and a half of tenancy?

(32)(1)

Anon

What do you mean ‘3 figure billing’?
3 figures is 100 – 999.

(6)(0)

Barrister 2011 call

6 figures for the clever dicks. I think in Ks.

Getting Wiggy With It

Just earning £100k though, I wouldn’t bleat about that sort of practice.

I only think in K

Presumably his chambers profile says “regularly instructed in some of the most complicated four-figure disputes on the small claims track”

(6)(0)

Anonymous

Four figures ironically being the amount which should be allowed to be recovered in many cases, instead of five or six.

Anon

Oxbridge graduates are by definition clever.

(9)(24)

Anonymous

I find the bottom half of them are quite indistinguishable from the top half of the next tier universities. What is tedious is when the ones in that category think they are something special just because they lucked out in the interview lucky dip for borderline candidates.

(27)(7)

Anon

Oxbridge graduates are by definition brighter and better educated than anyone else. Any assertion to the contrary is perverse and dishonest. Oxbridge dons are trained to spot the intellectual cream of each generation. If you do not get in to Oxbridge, it is simply because you were not clever enough.

(41)(35)

Anon

Theoretically. In practice who you are at 17 does not set the course for the rest of your life. A person who is bright in his younger years could grow up to be an idiot. Maybe he grew lazy and overconfident and stopped working hard. Maybe he thrived in a school environment only to crumble when he came out into the real world. Conversely, someone who was a lazy idiot in school could grow up, mature, work hard and find himself an intellectual heavyweight.

That is not to say that the students who get into Oxbridge aren’t smart. They are and should be proud of it. But being a smart student does not guarantee you’ll be a brilliant adult.

Oxford grad

I literally can’t tell whether you’re trying to be funny or not. Or, like, what you’re going for in general there…

realitylite

No doubt in the opinion of Oxbridge graduates. Others are not too sure. There’s a world of difference between being educated & being smart.
It’s worth noting that Britain’s decline from being a world power to an also ran was largely managed by Oxbridge graduates

Real

Oxbridge graduates are the intellectual best of their generation. Those who dispute that are lying or delusional.

(2)(8)

_

What barristers don’t seem to get is that the actual law is only a relatively small part of a case, and an even smaller part of life in general. The worst ones are almost as out of touch as academics.

(25)(3)

Getting Wiggy With It

“Actual law”. “Actual” used thus is a marker of the vapid.

(3)(2)

My Opinion

I think Billable Hour was never about Yemen or Syrian people.

It will always be a PR exercise to rehabilitate the reputation of barristers against the fox-bashing, pupil-groping, alcoholism, snobbery and deep dislike by the general public.

(33)(4)

Anonymous

I don’t think barristers have a reputation for ‘pupil-groping’ at all among the general public.

(2)(7)

Anonymous

‘Behind the Gown’ and the infamous IBA Sexual Harassment survey?

And that’s just the ones who dare to speak out…

(16)(3)

Anonymous

Neither of which the general public are likely to have heard of. Did either of these initiatives result in proven allegations of ‘pupil-groping’? The IBA survey was indeed infamous, and widely ridiculed as an example of being a self-reporting survey which proved nothing.

Its illogical to attribute accusations to people who haven’t come forward.

(6)(6)

Anonymous

Behind the Gown and the IBA report were widely reported in broadsheet newspapers and in online articles too. These are read by millions outside of law.

Pretending that sexual harassment doesn’t happen at the Bar won’t magically make it disappear.

But then indeed, many at the Bar simply don’t care about other people. Perhaps Lucy is right?

Anonymous

The “data” in these surveys were junk as was the self-serving methodologies adopted in them. They show nothing.

Anonymous

The idea that ‘millions’ of the general public are familiar with ‘Behind the Gown’ and the IBA report is laughable. The latter was a self-reporting survey with nothing to confirm that its contents are true and as such doesn’t in any way show that barristers are ‘pupil-gropers”, far less in the eyes of the general public.

False accusations of sexual harassment at the Bar don’t magically mean that real sexual harassment is worse than it actually is, but a lot of people with this agenda simply don’t care about other people.

Near Willesden QC

It’s it’s btw

Anonymous

If that’s all you can fault with it shows the rest must be right.

And it’s by the way by the way.

60022Mallard

As this item has been a featured link on the Guido Fawkes web site, you may find that rather more people are now aware.

Anonymous

Although it still remains wrong to say that it’s a concern of the general public, especially since the IBA survey was widely discredited.

Anon

8.39 is right. The surveys were a disgrace and the Bar organisations seriously let down the profession by fawning over them in a predictable wave of Me Too fervour rather than dismissing them as misguided tosh that evidenced nothing. Sadly the media churn out these “findings” whenever some moaning barrister says they have suffered discrimination.

Bill Ablehour

No, just among pupils

(0)(0)

Anonymous

The ones pointing out the difference in male/female ratios can be explained by the women who marry rich men, have kids and then can’t be bothered working again?

(0)(0)

Dr Bonham

I can’t help but think this is aimed at someone in particular…

(6)(0)

Anonymous

It’s a jolly holiday with Jolyon, tweeting like a clever dick.

Thinks everyone’s awestruck with praise, but really they just brand him a prick.

(36)(0)

Anon

I actually think she’s referring just as much to the Secret Barrister, who can be incredibly patronising and haughty.

(11)(4)

Anonn

I find Sean Jones QC cringeworthy and patronising to read too.

(21)(0)

Anon

Good example of how you can be right but turn people against you with your rude tone https://twitter.com/BarristerSecret/status/1213803333129003009

(2)(0)

Anonymous

The insipid and dull.

(5)(1)

Carlos 2

And the Bengal Tiger?
I still don’t know who this is?
It’s definitely not Tipu…
Come on someone cough it up

(0)(0)

LinkedIn Lurker

Sham Uddin, a Birmingham solicitor advocate

(2)(0)

RIS

Having used barristers in the past I found such a difference from being condescending, totally committed and listened too other than one who ” knew what was best” and failed me which I have never forgotten.
Sadly its a lottery unless you are rich then you get someone who will listen and more importantly not be afraid of a bullying and sexist judge.
Maybe there should be a discussion about Judges and the CPS.
However my 2 grandsons Intend to become Barristers. I can only hope they will be professional ” compassionate and show respect to all of their clients no matter what.

(4)(5)

Anonymous

Was the sexist judge male or female? I’ve seen examples of both. Elderly male and female magistrates with a 1950s view of what men and womens’ places are, female judges with an agenda that would make it difficult to have confidence in them being impartial if hearing any case related to sex, and a male judge whom a female barrister had lapping out of her hand with a bit of light flirting. Also, the UK family court has a reputation for being sexist against men.

(6)(1)

Steve

It’s not like barristers can be seen as any worse than they already are thanks to our kimono sporting friend.

(3)(0)

Sir Quentin Hawksworth QC

I killed a fox today
I looked into its eyes – both of them, one at a time – as it cried for help
Help me said the fox !
Help
I raised the bat and in a
single
downward
stroke!
stroke!
I took the head clean off
Discuss that in your bars, pubs and restaurants
I am the fox killer
Champion of the bat

(10)(1)

Ian Dodd

Reading these comments it strikes me how introspective, trapped in the barrister bubble and pointless most of them are.

The original blogger is making valid, accurate and helpful comments; most of which are true.

Having worked (management) in and for chambers for 20 years I seldom hear much about what the clients really want from barristers. It’s, sadly, me, me, me. Even more rarely do I hear much about how, without the underappreciated staff that run chambers, most barristers couldn’t cope.

I once called the, soi-disant, ManComm of one set an ‘autistic elite’. They thought it was a great compliment.

(11)(1)

Anonymous

Won’t change until there are more barristers so it’s not so exclusive and they can’t charge so much.

(4)(1)

Anonn

It’s relatively easier now to open your own chambers, but the big hurdle is still getting your foot in the door through pupillage and getting started.

Is the cream of the crop really getting through when barristers have to beg one another to show good judgement and find a life outside the internet?

(2)(0)

Anonymous

No, they probably aren’t, but shouldn’t really be needed for most cases.

I think there should be far more barristers, making it more affordable for people who need representation in low level civil and criminal matters. No reason these couldn’t be handled by someone on £20 an hour max or a very low fixed fee.

(2)(1)

Anon

Tbh, the fee quoted is not manageable once you factor in chambers contributions and travel expenses. Or are you suggesting abolishing the current chambers system and having everyone instructed from some sort of centralised system?

Anonymous

Potentially yes. And there are plenty of people earning far less than £20 per hour who manage to cover their travel expenses.

Thon Brocket

Civil engineer here. Just stumbled in here by accident.

And I thought the upper echelons of my profession were stuffed with constipated blowhards.

Jesus Kevin Christ.

(15)(1)

Goffpop

Oh dear, the comments here exemplify the problems the legal profession has, namely that having legal qualifications implies that the holder is thereby far more intelligent than us mere mortals.

When will you learn that having a legal qualification does not mean you have the common sense to just keep quiet nor that you’re opinion has no more validity than anyone else

(9)(3)

Anonymous

“Common sense” is only valued by the Daily Mail reader with a degree from the University of Life. Very Brexity.

(4)(6)

Basil

Are you talking about Jolyon the fox killer?

(0)(0)

James Wyburd

How many mouths does a lawyer feed, how many wounds does a lawyer bind? And they become judges. The public sees the law as a closed shop whose inhabitants complicate and delay in pursuit of money, and demonstrate that only clever people are really stupid. No Lord Dennings now. You go into a shop to buy something because you want it, you see a doctor because you want to get better. Who wants to see a lawyer, except by compulsion? You may be lovely and amusing to meet, but the public hates you.

(5)(2)

Anon

Don’t care what the public thinks. And we don’t cite Denning nowadays either.

(6)(2)

Anonymous

The public know that, that’s the problem. Nobody ever cited Denning seriously.

(1)(0)

Barry Gimp QC

Jolyon Maugham and ultracrepidarianism springs to mind.

(1)(1)

I did BVC unfortunately.

I don’t think that the self-righteousness coupled with Aspberger’s et al helps them.

They have always appeared to me to be a very lonely lot. Maybe twitter is the easiest place to be listened to without any confrontation in person.

Maybe they count their twitter friends at night and it makes the poor buggers happy!

(3)(2)

Barrister

Didn’t get pupillage then?!

(3)(0)

Barrister

Didn’t get pupillage then?

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Posting twice then?

(1)(1)

Barrister

Yup

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Let’s hope you don’t bill clients twice.

Comments are closed.