A clerk's ransom

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News that barristers' clerks are earning more than most of their barristers will surprise only those happily unacquainted with the law and also blessedly ignorant of the full range of nuance and irony still available within the English class system.

News that barristers' clerks are earning more than most of their barristers will surprise only those happily unacquainted with the law and also blessedly ignorant of the full range of nuance and irony still available within the English class system.

Turn off Fleet Street into the ancient maze of walks and courts and gardens that lie behind it; feel the weight of precedent and the absence of hurry; check your wallet; enter any set of chambers. The first people you will encounter will be the clerks: sharp of aspect, vowel and suiting, deferential of manner and clear that they are of inferior position, mere simple, incidental facilitators of the greater glory and earnings of their barristers.

Do not believe it. These people combine the wiles of the souk with the managerial skills of Sir Alex Ferguson and the logistical ability and tactical nous of Field Marshal Montgomery of Alamein. They are also, in the manner of non-commissioned officers and butlers, running the enterprise. They exercise, in the allocation of business to their barristers, a mighty patronage. That is why many of our learned friends will regard grumbling about the clerkly percentage as a trifle injudicious. Uxbridge Magistrates on a Monday morning can be a cruel place.

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