Thursday, 25 October 2007

Seventh Heaven

Week 4, Day 4

I speak not of The Arsenal but of PP himself who, I am happy to report, is currently tapping away from his cloud in the seventh and uppermost circle of Heaven. For PM has smiled upon him.

Last week PM asked me to produce a skeleton argument in relation to an interlocutory matter which is coming up in the Commercial Court. I beavered away in the library for 4 days digging up authorities and wading through practitioners' texts, getting to grips with the background docs. The fruit of my labours was a 30 page skeleton which represented my best shot at a pithy summary of the arguments which I had gleaned from PM's written advice and notes (I was not afforded an audience with His Grace to discuss the case as he has been extremely busy preparing for trial on another matter), together with a couple of arguments of my own based on my reading of the authorities which I managed to find.

Anyway, long and short of it is that PM expressed himself to be pleased with my work. He sat down with me for an hour to turn the pages on my skeleton and to discuss the holes and defects, but it was a very constructive session.

His main point was that it was far too long - the point of a skeleton (PM says) is to summarise one's case in almost bullet point fashion for an extremely busy judge so that he has an overview of the matter before him. If it is 30 pages, according to PM, there is little chance of the judge reading it in advance of the hearing, so you have missed a valuable chance to start his mind travelling in the direction in which you hope to take him in the hearing. He said that one shouldn't be tempted to seek to win the argument in the skeleton alone - this is presumptuous and misguided. The judge is there to test arguments and evaluate them, and the skeleton is designed to get him in command of the thrust of each side's submissions so that he can get straight to the point at the start the hearing and to test the hypotheses to see if they stand up to scrutiny. I can see some force in this point, and will keep it in my back pocket for my next attempt.

PM identified one point which I had made which he claimed not to have thought of, and which he said was a good one (PP attempted to restrain himself from beaming, but failed. Nevertheless he felt that he had done well not to have hugged PM for saying this).

PM identified two other points which I had come up with which he disected with the speed and dexterity of a field surgeon, exposing the flaws in my arguments in all their gory horror. Oh well, can't win them all. He did say that they represented a good try, but that it was important not to put all your arguments down, only your best ones, as if you have bad arguments the judge won't be able to help himself from concluding that you must be unsure of your good ones. This again sounds like good advice to me.

PM also said that he thought that I needed to be more disciplined in the time it took to produce things, as I could have done this a little quicker, although this would come with time.

PM then produced his own skeleton argument for me to read. I must say it was (as one would expect) considerably more compelling and to the point than mine. He referred me to a particular paragraph which brought out the point which I had identified in my skeleton and which he had claimed not to have thought of. I didn't know whether PM was being altogether truthful about this as he certainly seemed to express it with greater brevity and force than I had, and developed the point in a way which had not occurred to me and which made the point look far cleverer than my version of it. I suspected that he might have done his skeleton before I gave him mine, but either way it was very nice of him to say so.

PM then pointed to a few paragraphs which he had lifted verbatim from my skeleton, which made me positively glow with pride.

No doubt people will post about my pathetic gratitude and say that I shouldn't seek and value the approval of someone who has spent the best part of the last 4 weeks telling me that I am a worm, but I can't help it. If anyone has seen "House" on TV they will recognise the phenomenon. It is an immutable fact of human nature that we find praise coming from someone whom we have experienced as a harsh judge to be ten times sweeter than the same praise coming from someone who always says nice things.

Either that or I am a masochistic weirdo. Perhaps I am, but today I don't care, because on the Fourth Day of the Fourth Week PP created a skeleton argument.......AND IT WAS GOOD!


Tara said...

hey its tara, here is the website i was talking about where i made the extra summer cash.......... the website is here

Paranoid Pupil said...

Many thanks Tara. Since I assume that this is an automatically generated bit of spam, or indeed a trojan horse for some horrid virus, I hope that you won't be terribly offended if I don't click on it, much as "extra summer cash" would be welcome in October. I wonder how I would have earned it, perhaps as an escort - perhaps better paid than my pupillage and probably only marginally more humiliating, but in any event I think that I'll pass. PP

Nearly Legal said...

Good work PP. I recognise something of that glow from the first time a draft pleading of mine was used more or less wholesale. That first moment of 'damn, I can really do this' is worth remembering. (And, if it stands as an omen, I won that case, rather well, with -cough- the occasional assistance of Counsel.)

Baroness Suzie QC said...


I must say I'm a fan of your blog. Congrats for your good work on the skeleton argument! It's very hard to please pupil masters and for them to even feign you coming up with a point that they hadn't thought of shows that he must like you.

Best of luck, I shall continue to read this!

Simon Myerson said...

Your gratiutude is known as Stockholm Syndrome. It is normal - don't fight it ;).

Anonymous said...

...please where can I buy a unicorn?