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With all due respect?

Every Issue

Cite as: (2007) 81(3) LIJ, p. 88

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Criminal stance

Continuing my occasional advice as to what sort of a solicitor you should become, the most obvious kind of solicitor is, of course, a criminal solicitor.

However, this does not mean that you can steal stuff, although if you do embark on a career in crime, at least you will know what to say when you get caught (“I didn’t do it”).

No doubt you have all seen glamorous TV shows which have criminal law and lawyers as their central themes, but these tend to be a little bit fanciful; you are unlikely to see many defence lawyers who look like Bobby from The Practice, or a lot of prosecutors who resemble Alex from Law and Order.

Also, you will probably not see many interesting cases.

You will, however, get to spend a lot of time standing around in less-than-salubrious courthouses, waiting to enter a guilty plea for DUI (hopefully, you will mostly be entering that plea on behalf of your client, but specialising in criminal law tends to increase your drinking in the same way eating junk food day and night tends to increase your weight).

You will, of course, be standing, because when they design courthouses, architects are aware that these structures are intended to accommodate lawyers; after calculating that perhaps 100 lawyers will pass through each courthouse on any given day, they often provide almost six seats, as long as you count an overturned bin as a seat. “Stuff ’em, they are only lawyers” is the general feeling among architects (and, indeed, the rest of the planet).

Waiting is an essential part of being a criminal lawyer, because most magistrates and judges are guarded by ferocious defenders called “clerks” and “associates”.

It is the sworn code of these people to never allow any solicitor access to a court, because that might mean that a matter will actually be heard.

Many clerks/associates are worried that if they allow any matters to be determined, then one day perhaps all of the matters in the world will be over, and they will have to find employment more demanding than sitting in court and pretending to pay attention.

To prevent this grim future, clerks and associates have devised a complicated system whereby everyone stands outside the courtroom waiting to be called, and the clerks stay inside the court and watch TV.

After a while, they call a random name from the list using a special microphone which translates the name into its Martian equivalent, and when no one appears the matter is simply adjourned; in this way, some courts have not had a matter heard since the Menzies era.

Most solicitors now simply burst unannounced through the doors of the court and take whatever random matter that has been called, so that they will at least have someone to bill.

Of course, standing around a courthouse for hours on end isn’t the only opportunity a career in criminal law provides; you also get to meet people who can always help if you have locked your keys in your car, and who know where to buy really cheap laptops.

So that’s it – criminal law in a nutshell. I bet you can’t wait to get at it, right?

Just remember, though, that criminal law is a serious business and deserves far more thought than goes into a cynical and spurious article such as this one, because at the end of the day someone could go to jail, and it is very important that it not be me.

SHANE BUDDEN is a legal officer with the Queensland Building Services Authority. This column first appeared in the Queensland journal Proctor.

Miss Demeanour’s guide to life, love, law – and disorder

Dear Miss Demeanour

My new year’s resolution was bold: “I will move to the UK to work as a solicitor”. Anyway, it’s March, and I’m still in Melbourne. I’ve bought my ticket and packed my thermals, but now I’m having a mild panic attack at the whole idea. Am I making the right decision?

Regards, Regina

Dear Regina

Of course you are. You’re a fourth-year solicitor. The working holiday is a rite of passage, just like your first weekend spent in the office. Or your third straight weekend spent in the office.

Here are some more good reasons:

1. Work: In a commercial powerhouse like London, you’ll be working on transactions involving astronomical sums of money. The ancient legal dictum declares biggeri est bettera; ergo, it must be good for your career.

2. Life: Thanks to Easyjet and bank holidays, you can spend most of your time in England on jaunts to groovy cities on the Continent. I should warn you that not all long weekends away may eventuate: unfortunately, London firms have a reputation for not having much respect for work/life balance.

3. Love: My theory is that an accent makes a guy hotter. So that’s one thing British lads have going for them. Though if you plan on doing a Princess Mary, you’d best wing your way to London quick smart: young Kate Middleton was invited to the Christmas nosh up with the royals, so Will’s commemorative engagement display plate can’t be too far away.

Oh, and bonus, when you get back you can happily abandon the law for a life on TV. After a couple of years in the Old Country, you’re a dead cert for Australian Princess!


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