leaving law
i'll get my coat

leavinglaw invites your stories of embarrassment and humiliation in the workplace, which, were it not for any wider symptoms, would be reason enough to leave law on their own. Currently taking the biscuit…

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Several years ago, when I was a trainee, my then flatmate was moving to America and had arranged a big mid-week leaving bash. Since neither my supervising associate nor my senior partner were in the following day, I decided to take full advantage and get smashed at this party.

Eventually, the next morning dawned and I quickly began to regret many of my decisions from the previous night. I was completely content to sit at my desk, aimlessly staring at a file, until the senior partner called up and said we needed to make an urgent court application. Since the court deadline for making this type of application had already passed, I was told that I'd have to personally convince one of the sitting judges to grant the application. I hadn't previously done any work on this file so it was very much a matter of memorising exactly what I had to say and hope that the judge was feeling in a good mood.

The documents were duly prepared and I made my way up to the Royal Courts of Justice. This was during the height of summer and despite the cool air in the RCJ, dressed in my full suit and tie, I began to sweat out the booze from the previous night.

Once called into the sitting judge's chambers, I quickly gleaned that the judge had been through the application and wasn't impressed by our timing. I then had to repeat exactly what had been relayed to me over the phone by the senior partner, whilst trying so sound like I knew what was going on. It was horrible. I was dehydrated, my eyes were bloodshot and my head throbbed.

On my return, I was congratulated by the senior partner on getting the application granted and told that I had a bright future in his department.

To this day, I still think that the judge only granted our application to get my stench out of his chambers.


As a summer placement many years ago trying desperately to impress and thus obtain the prize of all prizes, a training contract, I clerked for a small family law firm in Brixton. On my second day I was informed that at 9am the following day I was to appear at Court with our client in tow. The instruction from my erstwhile grey-hair-in-a-bun "1 of 2" Partner was that it was a custody hearing (his wife seeking custody of 2 children from him) but that our client was a chronic alcoholic and thus unreliable with regard to attending without my having to go get him.

The next day at 8am I was outside the address banging heavily on the front door to get my client's attention. By 8:30 and knowing I had a 20 minute tube ride to the Court I was becoming anxious. At this point a neighbour poked his head of his bedroom window and in very clear language regaled me of what I should expect if I continued to knock on the door and that the only way to raise my client was to go in through the back and wake him directly. Not wishing to delay any further, and believing that showing some initiative would be seen as a positive by my prospective new employer, my 6ft 4" antipodean frame leapt the fence at the back of the property, walked in through the unlocked back door, searched the house and located the client and proceeded to rush him out of bed, into the shower, dressed and out the door and down to the tube within the space of 15 minutes. I was going to make it, just. The tube ride was uneventful and the client was very quiet, displaying a "sheepish" demeanour.

As we alighted from the tube and walked to the Court, I attempted to chat with him and prep him for what was about to come, talking in vague terms about being before the judge, telling the truth, questions being asked of his current position and generally ascertaining worthiness. Still nothing from him save for a nod of acknowledgment. As we entered the court I was met by my Partner who immediately asked "Who is this and where is my client?", at which point I turned to the gentleman standing beside me with an expectant and quizzical look on my face. Following a large sigh of relief, he bolted out of the court saying over his shoulder "I thought you were a bailiff" as the doors were left flapping. Although I protested I'd gone to the address they provided, it turned out that when I went around back I had actually gone into the opposite neighbour's property. Needless to say the Firm decided that kidnapping was not a penchant they felt desirable in a new trainee, and I left about 10 minutes after he did.


I have one particularly embarrassing memory of which, after 15 years, I still get reminded. It was when I was celebrating the completion of my first day of Articles down the Bung Hole in Holborn. After a couple of glasses I noticed a fairly attractive colleague and went up to her as I noticed she had a black pearl earring in one ear and a white pearl earring in the other. I immediately knew that these had been bought at the Metropolitan Museum in New York (my sister had a pair) and so I twiddled her earrings and told her where she had bought them. I was right, of course, and so I felt bold enough to ask her who she was a secretary for. It was only the next morning that I discovered she was my new supervising partner.

(We like the fact that she was only "fairly" attractive. It makes you wonder why he bothered in the first place... ed)

Rob from London

As a new trainee in a medium-sized city firm, 2 assistant solicitors asked me to submit a 200 word biography for the internal newsletter, to introduce myself. It was a complete spoof. I had been invited to ham it up, in order to show a bit of character. I duly obliged by saying things like I was 'between girlfriends', I lived in the 'desirable neighbourhood of...', my favourite foodstuff was quiche etc. The photo I gave was of a bit of acrobatic goalkeeping. They went to the trouble of creating an 8 page document around my profile, including articles on the CPR, industry news etc. and copied it round the firm. I had people giggling at me for weeks, bringing in quiche, asking if I had a girlfriend yet, how house prices were going where I lived...


I turned up for an interview for a training contract at a small to medium sized City firm. I arrived on time and was put in a waiting room. After an hour and a half I came out and everyone had gone home for the day. They had completely forgotten about me. A cleaner let me out. (The interview was rearranged and I was ultimately offered the job - possibly out of guilt. I took it).


In the first week of my training contract I was sent to make a routine application in a contentious property matter... and returned in tears to inform the partner that we had, in the event, somehow been completely struck out. At the end of the week I got drunk at drinks after work, fell off a small wall, and broke my leg. I was off for the rest of that seat (probably a good thing in view of the early track record). So I made an impression. It got better after that.

Michael from London

“Produce the Body”

In my days as a litigation clerk, before going on to qualify as a solicitor, I was given the task of obtaining a Writ of Habeas Corpus against a Plaintiff in a construction case.

We acted for the Defendant and were seeking a striking out order against the Plaintiff; for failing to particularise and/or properly pursue his claim. The Plaintiff was in Ford open prison for, of all crimes, handling stolen engines from motor boats. Counsel advised that if he didn’t attend then we would not get the case struck out - so we must get an order compelling the Warden of Ford to deliver the Plaintiff up to court. Our Counsel had a meeting in the Wig & Pen, meaning he was unavailable to make the application.

I duly headed off on a Friday afternoon with a copy of the Habeas Corpus Act 1679 in hand (still in force today) to see the judge in chambers. I was sent away with a “flea in my ear” and told to research matters properly before attending with such ridiculous applications, the White Book clipping my forehead as I was ordered to come back at 9.30 on Monday.

That Sunday the judge in question made the front page of the British institution which is the News of the World. Long before mobile phones and their bugging were common place, he was caught in a sting with his trousers down in the company of three young “solicitors” - ladies of the night rather than graduates of law school. His penchant for bondage gained the judge an immediate suspension and my application was granted, without any further ado, by his deputy on Monday morning.

The Plaintiff was duly delivered up and the case struck out at the trial (by a different judge). On being advised by the judge, with the well used hint, that he “was not without further remedy” and should seek further advice, the Plaintiff replied that there are plenty of lawyers with spare time in Ford.

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