Instructing barristers

What’s with the pink ribbon tied round a bundle of documents? I thought it was a quirk of Queensland lawyers, but the ribbon has turned up in the UK as well! I guess we inherited more than the queen, our political and legal system, a good smattering of our education …

I recall being the junior solicitor in a matter that I had done quite a lot of work on – prepared the witness statements, the bundle of documents, the brief to the barrister. I did not attend the first day of the trial because the partner in charge wanted to see how the new barrister we briefed performed, and because we expected it to settle. After the first day of what was looking to be a lengthy trial, she asked me to attend the rest of the trial as instructing solicitor instead. She had guaged the barrister’s ability and had given him the nod.

So I turned up on day two, having read through the partner’s scrawled notes of what happened on day one. No settlement offers made – barrister on the other side had suggested we withdraw. Partner in charge had politely declined. I introduced myself to my barrister and went to introduce myself to the instructing solicitor on the other side and his barrister. As I stepped from my side of the bar table, both opposing solicitor and barrister turned away from me. I raised an eyebrow at my barrister who looked a little taken aback; I did a half shrug and took my seat. I had a whispered conference with my barrister and then left the courtroom to go find our client.

When I came back from my short and harried lunch, only the opposing barrister was seated at the bar table. I smiled at him and he ignored me, so I sat down at my seat conscientiously rifling through my papers and re-organising the mess my barrister had made of our bundle. The opposing barrister was struggling with his own bundle, tied with the lovely pink ribbon that seems so popular in the legal world. He finally turned to me and said, “Miss, Miss?” I ignored him, pretending to be engrossed in my own bundle. He slid his chair over closer to mine and said, “Sorry to interrupt -” right up close. No more ignoring. I looked up and said, “Yes?” He passed over the bundle, lovingly bound, and asked, “Could you untie this? I don’t have any nails.” “Neither do I.” I said, flatly, holding up both my hands. “Sorry.” I said, not meaning it. “My name’s Oanh, by the way. Sorry I did not have the opportunity to introduce myself properly this morning.” He shook my hand and said his name. I then proffered the pair of scissors that I had in my briefcase.

Some barristers need instruction on simple courtesy, and a little feminist tutoring, too.



  1. I remembered this post a work the other day – i was shown a brief returned by counsel, but it wasn’t tied with a pink ribbon. it was a white ribbon!!! apparently the solicitor general uses white ribbon.

    hmmm there is more to this ribbon business than i first thought…


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