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Obiter Dicta: A junior lawyer's tale

Obiter Dicta: A junior lawyer's tale

By Tully Anders

Young Persons 


Welcome to the first (and probably the last) edition of Obiter Dicta. A kind of ‘Eat. Pray. Love.’ for junior lawyers minus the Italian food. And the spiritual enlightenment. And Julia Roberts. In the tradition of classic primetime sitcoms like Full House and Spin City, hopefully this column provides you with a few cheap laughs and perhaps a lesson or two along the way. A few months back, this correspondent heard about a learned colleague’s first appearance at court. Now, as our more experienced readers will attest, one’s first appearance in court is a momentous occasion and our learned friend saw his first appearance no differently. Your correspondent can confirm that our learned friend donned his best attire, including but not limited to, a pair of ‘lucky’ underpants. The story of how these particular Reg Grundies attained ‘lucky’ status can be traced to our learned friend’s first law exam back in his university days: Contract A. Thanks to the fabulously reliable service that is the metropolitan Melbourne train service, our learned friend was running late for his exam. Now, he managed to just make it to his exam on time but on his walk back to the station after the exam, he spied a five dollar note on the ground. “That’s lucky”, he said to himself. How the discovery of the five dollar note can be attributed to the undies he was wearing at the time still defies me to this day. Needless to say, the underpants in question have not been washed since. Equipped with his lucky undies and the brief he had made for himself (our learned friend took particular delight in referring to himself in the third person as both ‘counsel’ and ‘counsel’s instructing solicitor’), our learned friend headed off to the courthouse where his appearance was commanded. Accompanying our learned friend was an entourage of sorts: a supervising lawyer and two work experience students, both of whom were champing at the bit to see advocacy and justice in action and perhaps catch a glimpse of what their futures’ might hold for them. Strangely enough, neither work experience student had been told that the matter to be heard was an uncontested directions hearing at which our learned friend would be seeking an adjournment. Eat your heart out, Atticus Finch. Your humble correspondent is advised that our crack team of legal myna birds entered the court room to find it was completely empty but for the judge’s associate, for theirs was the only matter in the list that day. Our learned friend cautiously approached the bar table where an appearance slip awaited him. He carefully put down his details and thought to himself that he would be able to look himself up on Austlii in a few days to see his name there for all to see as ‘Counsel for the Applicant’. Our learned friend then approached the bench to hand his appearance slip to the associate when a voice came from the gallery with a question: ‘…so this is your first appearance isn’t it?’ The associate shot an awkward smile at our learned friend. At that moment he wanted to crawl under the bar table and just hand up his proposed orders. However, our learned friend plucked up his courage, took his seat at the bar table and waited for the judge to take her place. The judge entered and he made his submissions. Her Honour must have agreed with our learned friend’s scholarly analysis of the law and his unflinching assessment of the facts, for the orders he sought were granted. Perhaps the success had to do with the fact that there was no-one else present to argue otherwise. Our learned friend puts it down to the undies. No person can be sure. Nonetheless, a victory; and a particularly special one for our learned friend. And someone in the gallery agreed, for when the judge left the courtroom, a slow round of applause broke out and the same work inquisitive work experience student from earlier let out an exultant ‘WOO! Yeah!’ Our learned friend slowly slipped back underneath the bar table to await his committal for contempt of court… Tell us about your first experience in court. Did you get a grilling from the bench? Did you call a Registrar ‘Your Honour’? Did you get the outcome you sought? We here at Obiter Dicta would love to read about it!

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