Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Barristers' Clerks: The Middlemen of the Law


Years ago, 1983 to be precise, a young and precocious academic published his first book. Barristers' Clerks: The Law's Middlemen has had a varied and storied life.

As it's out of print I have let it be downloaded for free from my website but that's out of action until I redesign it. So I have transferred the book to my SSRN page where you can download it.

If you don't want to do that, it's available on Amazon for £450! Here's the abstract from SSRN:

This is the text of the original book on barristers' clerks published in 1983. It is long out of print and Manchester University Press have assigned me the copyright.
This is the first piece of research I undertook in my academic career. It's an ethnography of a small but vitally important group of people who work in the British legal system. Most barristers work in units called chambers in which, though self-employed, they function as an organisation. In order to make this work barristers' clerks run the chambers. They do a variety of tasks: organise diaries, negotiate and handle fees, and advise barristers on how they should manage their careers, suggesting when to move into a new area of practice or become a Queen's Counsel (take silk).  
Barristers' clerks aren't formally qualified and have no legal training, but they know a lot about law and operate across the system to make the courts, trials, etc, work on time and in budget. They are experts in managing the system. I organise the book along the lines of relationships clerks form with salient others. These are their relationships with barristers; with solicitors; with the courts; and with each other which includes the role of favour banks.
The research is an anthropological study in which I spent time in a number of chambers observing and eventually participating as a clerk myself. Although the work predates computers and all, it still has relevance for the way the Bar operates. 
The book has had its own career independent of me. I first became aware of this, when on my return to England, I went to a Bar Council conference and saw some barristers' clerks on a panel. Struck by their thoughtful approach to clerking I asked for their help thinking I could update. I discovered they were using my book as the basis for their papers and moreover some were using it as a training manual for junior clerks. To have this kind of confirmation of the accuracy of one's work is unusual, but immensely satisfying. So I am making it available here.

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