Being a senior clerk is a very odd job. It can be very lonely as different groups of people expect you to be on their side. The clerks’ room looks to you for leadership, to protect them when things go wrong and to fight their corner when the need arises. The barristers need to be managed, marketed, mothered and molly coddled. The solicitors and other clients need quality of service, rabbits pulled from hats when things go wrong and flexibility especially concerning fees.
Most of the time you stand carefully spinning plates and just about keeping everyone happy, eventually though you drop a plate. The only thing to do when you hear the porcelain shatter is to fess* up. Even that is easy enough to sort out, explain what went wrong and why and then discuss how this can be avoided in future (you do of course then have to try make sure it doesn’t happen again).
Now and again the plate doesn’t fall off and shatter it just floats away onto someone else’s pointy flexible balancing stick thing.
The one thing you can’t prepare yourself for as a senior clerk is the loss of a barrister to another chambers. It is hard to put into words the mixture of sorrow, anger and sense of betrayal. It is a gut wrenching painful kaleidoscope of emotions which drives you close to madness. The closest thing I can think to relate it to is when your first serious relationship ends. You wonder what you did wrong, why they never loved you like you loved them. You get drunk and swing from rage to melancholy. You picture yourself bumping into them in a year or so and they are on the slippery slope living off returns in Workington Magistrates whilst you have recently been to the RCJ to have yet another member of chambers rise up to the bench or silk. Instead of listening to I am a Rock by Simon and Garfunkel (worked for me in several break ups) you read old Rumpole stories and wistfully think of happier times.
And then it stops hurting. The pain goes away and its as if it never happened. Until the next time.
I would like to say the pain diminishes over time but it doesn’t you just get better at dealing with it.
This may all sound overly dramatic but I spend more time with my barristers than I do with my family. I watch as they grow, deal with their diary when a sudden tragic bereavement occurs, listen to their late night egotistical collapses, share all their highs and lows. And then they leave you as if those years meant nothing.
It hurts and when it happens you realise just how lonely it is being a senior clerk.
* I have no idea if it is still street/fierce/the shit etc to say fess up but it seemed to fit.