Christmas eve in the clerks’ room

I wrote this post for the CAM magazine. Please feel free to download it and any other editions that take your fancy

The incessant tapping of the rain on the window was about half a beat behind the throbbing in Steve’s head. It had been his first experience of a chambers Christmas party and he had thrown himself into it with some gusto. He was now paying the price of his Bacchanalian exploits and he wasn’t sure if it was worth it. It was Christmas Eve at Queen’s Court Chambers and Steve as the newest member of the clerking team had pulled the short straw. He wasn’t on his own. Mr Oliver St. John Daniels (or “Jack” as he was affectionately referred to by the clerks) had arrived at nine o’clock prompt[1]. Jack was currently in the library working on some obscure ecclesiastical covenant point for an opinion he was preparing. Steve didn’t really have a clue what an ecclesiastical covenant was but it didn’t sound like a great deal of fun. Jack didn’t present too much of a problem to the very delicate level of hangover care that was required[2] but Steve was not alone in the clerks’ room, Bob was in.

Bob was the senior clerk and right now he was making living with a gargantuan hangover very difficult indeed. He couldn’t believe it when he got in just before nine to find Bob scouring the back pages of the Echo intently. He had never seen Bob in the clerks room before eleven and his heart had sank. Today all Steve wanted to do was grind out the morning and shoot off to the pub at lunch for the hair of the dog and the commencement of four days of heavy festive drinking.  Bob’s presence, however, was keeping Steve from gently resting his head on the brief on his desk which he had been trying unsuccessfully to book on to the computer for the last half hour.

“So, errr, what time do we knock off today then Bob” asked Steve as nonchalantly as he could manage. “The lads said normally on Christmas Eve….”

Bob slowly looked up from the paper and fixed Steve with a weary stare.

“….well normally that we sort of go early…..ish……a bit”.

There was a glacial pause before Bob spoke. Steve could feel the sweat running down the side of his head and he didn’t think this was necessarily linked to the combined effects of his hangover and the fact that his desk was next to the radiator.

“Did I ever tell you the story about when I was a junior clerk” growled Bob, his gaze returning slowly to the paper in front of him. Steve started to answer, paused then thought perhaps he should just sit and wait very quietly.

“I was the tea boy at Fountain Lane chambers. Me and the senior clerk, Tom Wilson, was the only buggers working on Christmas Eve. Bit like you and me now” Bob paused for a healthy slurp of his tea. “A bit like you I thought maybe I was getting away early for Christmas, seems old Tom had other ideas. That old git made me sit there until five to six on Christmas Eve before he finally decided I could go.”

Steve leaned forward in his seat, he saw a glimmer of hope in where this story was headed.

“There I was just buttoning up me coat when the bloomin’ phone goes. Old Tom just sits and waits for me to get it. I answered it and the solicitor on the other end straight away says ‘I need to speak to Tom’. Marvellous thinks I. There I am trying to get away and Tom makes me answer the phone and it’s for him anyway. Well I spun on my heel and made to bolt for the door but something made me stop. To this day I don’t know what it was but as I turned back I saw excitement in Tom’s face. He waved frantically at me to come back in. I unbuttoned my coat with shaking hands. I didn’t have a clue what was happening but it was definitely big………you can breath you know lad, nobody dies in this story”.

Steve exhaled noisily and felt more than a little foolish. Why had he been so gripped and how the hell did Bob know, he hadn’t even looked up from the paper. Before Steve could work out quite what was going on Bob continued.

“So I did a bit of running around doing this and that. Tom made some calls and we got away about an hour later. We had fixed up a conference with one of the silks for the 29th December. I didn’t understand the significance at the time but later on it sank in. This case turned out to be massive, it was the first million pound brief fee. If we had knocked off five minutes earlier we might never have had it. It might have gone to them buggers at Equity Court”.

Steve could feel the adrenaline rush of the story ebb from his body and leave him feeling the full weight of his hangover again. He knew now that he would be stuck here all day. There would be no warm glow of alcohol in his system until long after six. No witty banter with the lads at the Red Lion until he did a full shift here. His shoulders slumped as he resigned himself to his fate.

“The thing is” said Bob, his eyes gliding up from the paper “I don’t think we are going to get any calls about million pound brief fees today”. Steve could feel his spirits starting to rise. “So you may as well get yourself down the pub, hadn’t you”.

Steve leapt from his chair thanking Bob effusively for his seasonal offering. He retrieved his coat from the stand and buttoned it up. He turned to leave and the phone rang. Without thinking Steve reached for the phone with one hand and unbuttoned his coat with the other. “Queen’s Court Chambers, Steve speaking how can I help. The sixth you say, let me just check his diary”.

Bob continued to stare at the Echo as a large grin spread slowly across his face.



[1] As he did every day

[2] Resting his head on the desk and praying for it to be time to go home


About notabarrister

Barrister's clerk of many years. Keen watcher of all things post LSA. Can't play golf very well. Likes beer and pies. Follow me on Twitter if you fancy @notabarrister
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