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Monday, 9 April 2012

The mysterious case of the lost client

I once lost a client in court.

Now to lose a case is annoying and frustrating but an accepted professional hazard. To lose a client is a far more alarming thing.

Mrs. B had a rock solid case against the Local Council for housing disrepair. She had got to her later years without ever setting foot in a courtroom. So it was a new and unnerving experience. I duly met her at the door and escorted her to a conference room where she met her barrister who was wigged and robed and ready for action. He went over the fairly straightforward facts. He assured her that all would be well and excused himself to deal with another matter that was on ahead of us.

I went to make a phone call. When I returned she was gone. I waited long enough to explain a trip to the ladies but still no Mrs. B. I began to search with increasing anxiety, of the sort you feel when a child wanders off on a busy beach. But no sign. The case was called and delayed but she did not show. Thankfully, an understanding opponent agreed to an adjournment as something serious must have happened. This was before the days of mobile phones!

Later in the day I called round to her house and was met at the door by a very relaxed looking Mrs B. It turned out that she though that she had had her day in court. She thought that the nice man in the wig was the judge, that the conference room was the court and that it had all been over far more quickly than she had expected.

It is easy for lawyers to forget that we inhabit a world which is very alien to others. Why shouldn’t a man in a wig be a judge? We use language which might as well be from another planet. ‘We thank you for your letter of 7th instant and will consider the same.’ Instant what? Same as what?? No wonder a solicitor was once told by his client that all lawyers were like bananas – ‘Yellow, bent and hang round in bunches….’

Can I say that if you ever hear me using strange words that you have permission to grab me by the throat and tell me to speak normally! Lawyers are mostly ordinary men and women doing the best for their clients. If you ever feel that we are drifting into another dimension – just tell us.

And lawyers – make sure you always tell your clients what is happening. Mrs. B is still a recurring nightmare after 20 years..

We’ll never lose you!!


  1. I agree, and understand why there was a campaign for plain English to be used, albeit I like the old fashioned language. At least your client wandered off as opposed to nodded off in court. Court hearings, particularly those to discuss costs can go on, and clients having a financial interest often want to come along to see how much they get....and then nod off.