‘I DO HEREBY call you to the Bar and do publish you utter barrister.’

The Master Treasurer of the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn took my outstretched hand, shook it limply, and turned to the next student.

Poor old buffer, not long for this world, I thought, as I made my way back to my seat, hot and uncomfortable in white tie and tails, and looking for all the world like a tailor’s dummy.

In spite of the heat and discomfort, I was barely able to contain my excitement. In those few short words, I had been transformed from chrysalis to butterfly.

A question fluttered briefly through my mind – cabbage white, or red admiral?

But I dismissed it. I had no doubts. The legal profession, one of the oldest and most revered in the civilised world, was about to be shaken to its very foundations. How I envied those whose good fortune it would be to instruct me in their cause, to fight the good fight and emerge triumphant or, tant pis, to be comforted in the knowledge that their life savings had been well spent.

Only dimly aware of the ritual unfolding around me, my thoughts wandered back to that fateful day when I had taken my first hesitant steps on the path towards a career at the Bar.

I was in the lower sixth at school when old ‘Tripod’ Biddle, the Head of Physics who also doubled as the Careers Master, had organised a Careers Day in the Great Hall. Various stalls were set out to promote suitable careers for the sons of gentlefolk, and we washed around aimlessly in the best traditions of gormless adolescents without a single creative thought between us.

It must have been a depressing sight for all those old boys who had taken the time and trouble to sell their wares in return for drinks and luncheon with the Headmaster and Governors.

I was about to resign myself to an agreeable life of debauchery when Tripod bounded over and took me gently by the arm.

‘Hello, Potts,’ he said. ‘Seen anything you fancy?’

‘Frankly, sir, not a lot.’

‘Then take my advice. If you can’t find a proper job, how about the law? According to Jean Giraudoux, there is no better way of exercising the imagination than the study of law. No poet ever interpreted nature as freely as a lawyer interprets the truth.’

He chuckled, and bounded off in search of another lost soul.

During the holidays, I mentioned my nascent interest to my father.

‘Splendid idea, my boy,’ he said, with an indulgent beam. ‘A good solicitor is the pillar of his community, and highly respected.’

‘Well… actually, I was thinking of becoming a barrister.’

‘Good God,’ he spluttered, the beam disappearing in an instant. ‘Whatever for? They’re pompous idiots in fancy dress, who talk the hind leg off a donkey and charge the earth for saying bugger all. What you need is a proper job.’

And that was his last word on the subject.

To be continued…………………