Monday, August 31, 2009

Review of BabyBarista at Lee Solicitors' blog

Nice review of BabyBarista and the Art of War by Lee McIlwaine of Lee Solicitors which you can either read below or click here.

Babybarista and the Art of War - A new fitting new young barrister to join the set of Rumploe and others

Its rare I ever feel compelled to review a book much less on this site but this is an exception. Babybarista was initially a blog published by the Times newspaper. The identity of the author was kept confidential and the blog was widely read. I came to it late. The authors identity was recently revealed and he is a widely and well respected Barrister in his own right.
The book is a “rollicking read” and it to my mind exceeds the hype on the cover. Personally I thought the story a promising hybrid between the great works of John Mortimer (Rumpole) infused with a feel of James Herriot. When finished I wanted to read the next instalment and I hope one arrives darn soon!

The plot is as one would expect from a Barrister tight and precise. The characters are sharply and quickly defined and that’s good because it leaves the story to concentrate on the central theme which is the unnatural selection fight between the central character “babybarista” and the three other young hopefuls. In the story we see how the dog eat dog world of the advocate is played out and how on occasion the skills that will keep this barrister afloat in the career ahead start to take shape in a world of hidden alliances and submerged risks. Somehow even though some of the things babybarista does are darn sneaky you still kind of think that he’d have survived anyway……

By the first chapter I was hooked and a few chapters in chuckling out loud expecially where some of the exchanges between the senior barristers and the Judges took place. I always wondered what happened to those whom in a sort of Harry Potter manner had the “sorting hat” of life select them for a life at the bar. I do hope this is not how it really is but yet how some of the barristers treat the Solicitors in the book makes me wonder if its not a bit more honest than it pretends. Tell you what …you buy a copy and let me know. Its a veritable bargin and worth every penny. I hope the author reads this and whats more some television producer does too because I could see this as a TV program I really could.

The link to amazon is below:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Nice review of BabyB by blogger and solicitor Michael Scutt

Nice review of BabyBarista and the Art of War by Michael Scutt, a blogger and a partner at Dale Langley & Co which you can either read below or click here.

What are lawyers really like?

Now, if this doesn’t provoke a whole heap of comments, no doubt mainly derogatory, nothing will. This being the silly season it seems like an ideal time to ask the question. And I’m not going to tell you the answer. Instead I suggest you read Tim Kevan’s new book “Baby Barista and the Art of War”, just published by Bloomsbury and which is based on his blog in The Times. Tim is also a barrister, albeit he is currently taking a break from practising in favour of surfing in Devon and walking his dog.

It’s a thoroughly amusing read and should be required reading for anyone contemplating a career at the Bar (or as a solicitor, we don’t come out too well either). It’s the story of a “Pupil” (newly-qualified) barrister training in Chambers trying to outwit and outmanoeuvre the three other pupils in the hunt for the holy grail at the Bar; a tenancy in Chambers. The characters are all vividly drawn and credible; the situations the characters find themselves in all give a real flavour of litigation from the side of the practitioner. There’s plenty to amuse both lawyers and non-lawyers alike.

It’s not just a comedy though. He also touches on big issues such as the independence of the Bar which will become much more of a live issue now that solicitors and barristers can go into partnership together since the introduction of Legal Disciplinary Partnerships last April. For instance,

“For all their supposed independence, most barristers seem to live in a state of complete paranoia and spend so much time kowtowing to solicitors that their independence is worth even less than their pride”

You’ll also read the best explanation of why you shouldn’t sign up for a no win no fee agreement to fund your case, but instead get legal expense insurance in advance so that the lawyers don’t start worrying about how they are going to get paid. No win no fee agreements do create a conflict of interest between lawyer and client and the question of how they (we) get paid becomes “a big fat ugly screaming beast jumping up and down on their head”. Too true.

It’s a good holiday read – list price is £11.99, but considerably cheaper from Amazon.

Another review for BabyBarista in The Times

Another review of BabyBarista and the Art of War in The Times which you can either read below or click here.

Baby Barista and the Art of War by Tim Kevan
The Times review by Iain Finlayson
Write about what you know, is the baseline advice to first-time novelists. Kevan, who practiced [sic] as a London barrister for a decade and writes a blog for Times Online, seems to have taken it to heart. His novel is presented in diary form, a year in the life of Baby Barista, ambitious young London lawyer, part-time Starbucks barista and pupil barrister, who pitches his youthful wits against three competitors for the big prize - a place in a prestigious set of chambers. Baby’s relentlessly racy, rumbustiously Rumpolean humour is faintly reminiscent, in a high-end, modern manner, of the series of funny, frothy, sometimes fatuous novels of Richard Gordon, beginning with Doctor in the House and the single legal novel, Brothers in Law. He comes across as a spirited student of Sun-Tzu, Machiavelli, Brigid Jones and the Artful Dodger.
Bloomsbury, £11.99. Buy it from Books First.

NB Due to a mistake by The Times, this review first appeared in hard copy on 15 August 2009 in a slightly different version of which the corrected version read as follows:

BabyBarista and the Art of War by Tim Keven
(Bloomsbury, £11.99; Buy this book; 288pp)
This is “The Legal Apprentice”, a high-concept TV show disguised as a smart book. It is faintly reminiscent of the funny, sometimes fatuous novels of Richard Gordon, beginning with Doctor in the House and the single legal novel, Brothers in Law. BabyBarista, part-time Starbucks barista and pupil barrister, pitches his wits against three rivals for the big prize: a place in a prestigious set of chambers. Keven’s book began life as a blogspot, went to The Times as a column, and has now been clapped between soft covers. He comes across as a spirited student of Sun-Tzu, Machiavelli and The Artful Dodger.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Jack the puppy and BabyBarista both in Western Morning News! (Click to enlarge)

Great review of 'BabyBarista and the Art of War' in The Times newspaper

Great review of BabyBarista and the Art of War in The Times newspaper yesterday. To read it either click here (second review down) or see the text below.

Baby Barista and the Art of War by Tim Kevan

This book’s genesis is in an anonymous blog started in 2007. The book emerges as a cross between The Talented Mr Ripley, Rumpole and Bridget Jones’s Diary.

The reader is pitched into Baby Barista’s manipulative, scheming and, often, downright evil battle to gain tenancy over his competing pupils. The plot burns up the pages and the characters that range within are all highly observed and coloured with Kevan’s acerbic wit.

Few people have names other than the nicknames bestowed by Baby Barista. This technique alone seduces smiles. They include Old Smoothie and The Vamp; there is a junior clerk “Fancies Himself”, while solicitors provide the characters of “Slippery Slope” and “Cliche Clanger”. There are some decent moral legal figures such as Old Ruin and The Busker. However, it is the selfish, lying, money-grubbing and duplicitous lawyer characters who dominate the narrative.

It would have been refreshing if Kevan had lingered longer over his decent lawyers to counterbalance his voracious characters. However, the emphasis on the grotesque does have the effect of ratcheting up the plot.

Ultimately, the book is a gallop of a read. It is a clever legal romp, a comedy mixed with ruminations about life, liberally peppered with black humour and layered in farce. It firmly proclaims, and disclaims, that it is fiction but there are many Bar absurdities from which Kevan has accurately drawn. As to whether any of the cast represent generic legal characters lurking in the profession, all I can say is that you may very well think that; I couldn’t possibly comment.

Baby Barista by Tim Kevan, Bloomsbury Publishing, £11.99
Review by Kirsty Brimelow

Monday, August 3, 2009

BabyBarista reviewed by leading employment barrister Daniel Barnett

Nice review of BabyBarista and the Art of War from leading employment barrister Daniel Barnett. To read it either click here or see the text below. To sign up to Daniel's employment law mailing list, click here.

BabyBarista and the Art of War. Bloomsbury 2009

Having followed the BabyBarista Times Online blog avidly now for three years, I approached the book with concern that this would be a 'cut and paste' job reproducing what has gone before.

But, to my delight, the author has produced a hugely expanded version of the famous BabyBarista blog, with characters fleshed out, plotlines expanded and Machiavellian intrigues bursting out of every page. It is an incredibly funny satire of life as a pupil barrister, seen through the eyes of the eponymous 'BabyBarista' (or BabyB as he endearingly refers to himself throughout).

BabyB is a charming yet ruthless cross between Sir Humphrey Appleby and Frances Urquart, but without the grey hair and instead with a eye for the ladies (in particular, the sultry character known as TheVamp and his good friend Claire - the only character with a real name throughout the whole book). Plotting his way around the intrigues of a fictional set of Chambers, BabyB manipulates the hopes and fears of his rivals in an effort to win the golden chalice at the end of pupillage - a tenancy.

Tim Kevan's view of the Bar is far more worldly than that of John Mortimer or Caro Fraser. This is no whimsical portrayal of a collection of eccentric individuals. Rather, the author describes a world of individuals motivated by ambition and money living side-by-side with the more traditional, honourable barrister most frequently seen in fiction.

This book deserves to be on every bookseller's Top 10 list - it is screamingly funny, bitterly satirical and hugely informative about the problems of life during pupillage, told by a man with great love for, and knowledge of, his profession.

Don't shatter this puppy's dreams!

At only 8 months old, Jack the (long)border terrier puppy is possibly the youngest surf dog in the world ever! As you can see above, he's already ripping it up on the waves of North Devon and his puppy dreams for the future see him travelling the world and competing against the very best as a professional surfer. But if he's going to get the full tuition which he needs to succeed in such a competitive environment, his owner Tim Kevan needs to be making some money from his new comedy novel BabyBarista and the Art of War. So, go on, don't shatter this puppy's dreams - buy the book now and tell your friends to do the same! It's just £7.19 on Amazon and hey, as well as supporting Jack you'll also be getting a great Summer read, something broadcaster Jeremy Vine has described as "well-drawn, smartly plotted and laugh out loud".

The picture is copyright of the professional photographer Susanna Stanford. She has kindly given full permission to re-publish it wherever you like subject to mentioning or linking to her website which is at If you would like more pictures of Jack surfing or a high resolution image then simply email Susanna at

Leading American Blogger reviews 'BabyBarista and the Art of War'

Very nice review of 'BabyBarista and the Art of War' from leading American blogger Colin Samuels on his blog which you can read Infamy or Praise which you can read here and below. It is also re-printed at Blawg Review. To order the book at a heavily discounted £7.19 (incl p&p) on amazon, click here.
I'm often frustrated by book reviews for the simple reason that most tend to avoid answering the question "Is this book worth reading?" I'll not make that mistake in writing about Tim Kevan's BabyBarista and The Art of War. This is a book worth reading; it's entertaining and insightful, building upon the best aspects of the much-praised BabyBarista blog and providing greater depth and color (or should that be colour?) to its characters and stories. It's not a flawless novel, but it's well worth your time. Kevan's publishers were kind enough to send me a pre-release copy for review (the book will be widely available on 3 August), but I enjoyed it so much that I ordered a copy for a friend rather than part with my own. I can't think of higher praise to offer than that.
Kevan is a witty and observant writer, skills he's honed at his formerly-anonymous blog. While many other blogs have had decidedly mixed results in translating what worked online into dead-tree success, Kevan shows a keen appreciation of his online audience's tastes. He keeps his pacing brisk without being too choppy; he adds to the roles played by secondary and incidental characters without losing focus on BabyBarista and his circle of friends and rivals; he offers insight into the arcane and insular world of the barrister without playing-down dark satire.
BabyBarista and The Art of War focuses on BabyBarista's death march through his year-long pupillage, a final-stage apprenticeship during which law graduates gain work experience with practicing barristers and compete with other pupils to for a position as a barrister in an established chambers. He describes the process in his diary of his first day:
[T]he ordeal through which the Bar Council continues to force its brightest and best.... A sort of upper-class reality show in microcosm every one of your foibles will be analysed and where a blackball system exists so that if you annoy one person, you're out. [Y]ou're playing to the lowest common denominator. Attempting to be as inoffensive as possible in the sound knowledge that it won't be the votes in favour that get you in but the lack of votes against.
The novel's principal characters come to life without intrusive exposition. BabyBarista is spare with details of his own situation, but what he provides to his friend, Claire, to his mentor, OldRuin, or directly to us serves to illuminate the financial desperation which drives him to succeed in his pupillage both by displaying his own merits and by subtly destroying his fellow pupils' chances. His three (later four) co-pupils seem at first to be mere caricatures of familiar personalities — Worrier is details-obsessed to the point she's unable to function professionally; BusyBody's instinct to be everywhere, to have her hand in every project, and to be all things to all people makes her a whirl of unproductive but frenzied activity; TopFirst's stellar academic achievements and social connections mask a wicked soul. As time goes by, however, these characters acquire greater depth and by the time a fourth pupil-competitor joins the fray, all of their behaviors become understandable. This is not to say that they, or BabyBarista necessarily, become invariably sympathetic characters, but they become real, something mere caricatures cannot be.
BabyBarista's pupillage experiences provide some startling criticisms of the practice of law generally and the pupillage system particularly. BabyBarista and his mother have essentially locked themselves into a high-stakes wager that, against exceptionally-long odds, BabyB can complete his climb from modest origins to lucrative barristers' chambers. As he nears that objective, the added (often unreasonable) financial pressures of the pupillage year heighten his sense of desperation and drive him to trade what he knows to be right for expedient gains or short-term personal or professional advantage. He laments that "[I]t's no different to bear baiting or cock fighting. They plunge us into debt before we get here and then leave us to fight it out, Deathmatch style." Later, after a particularly appalling incident, he warns that "[W]hatever you do, don't let the lawyers start worrying about getting paid. However much they protest otherwise, it's there in their mind. Not even at the back of their mind." His experiences highlight a system which seems designed in part to focus pupils' and barristers' minds on their own finances rather than clients' best interests and to effectively filter out those without independent means from the practice of law.
The practicing barristers who mentor BabyBarista illustrate both the best and worst aspects of legal practice. OldRuin provides an aspirational view of the lawyer as a professional, held by others and himself to a higher standard of conduct; he is at times unrealistic about the realities of modern legal practice and unwilling to challenge its more base practitioners, but he also offers some insights which should make clear to all of us who practice law that ours is a profession and not merely a business. TheBoss is a cautionary tale from start to end; he behaves unethically and cowardly, but even he becomes more real as we come to understand that he is like a Ghost of BabyBarista Yet to Come (apologies to Dickens). TheBoss is in many ways the product and victim of the finance-obsessed side of legal practice which afflicts BabyBarista; whereas BabyB sees the riches of practice, rightly or wrongly, as his and his mother's salvations, for TheBoss it has become a damnation, trapping him into an increasingly-desperate cycle of misdeeds to perpetuate his lifestyle and social position. In lesser hands, characters like OldRuin and TheBoss would be like the stereotypical angel and devil perched on the protagonist's shoulders, whispering in his ear, but Kevan writes his secondary players far less clichéed.
As I've said, though, BabyBarista is not a flawless novel. Structurally, the ending is a bit too abrupt and convenient; considering how effectively Kevan paced and plotted his novel to that point, he could have arrived at his destination with greater style and less haste. More broadly, while Kevan ventures beyond the constraints of his successful blog, he doesn't venture very far beyond. It seems that BabyBarista's chambers are meant to be at least somewhat representative of other chambers and of the larger bar. Nonetheless, the exclusive focus on the misfeasance, malfeasance, and nonfeasance within BabyBarista's chambers without even passing looks at others' (despite his extensive interaction with Claire and other pupils in the shared library and elsewhere) creates an impression that BabyB's chambers are an aberration. This tends to undercut the universality of his struggles and experiences, diminishing them as broader commentaries on pupillage and legal practice. Those on the inside of the profession, barristers particularly, will relish the satirical elements but may find it somewhat too easy to dismiss Kevan's deeper criticisms when his satire strays a bit too far in places into broad comedy. If readers find Kevan's insights into the practice of law easier to dismiss for these reasons, that's an opportunity lost; these issues deserve to be considered and discussed seriously.
It's churlish of me to note that what Kevan's done, he's done very well, but to then mark him down a bit for expanding on an excellent blog but not transcending it. Please understand, however, that this is the criticism of someone who greatly enjoyed BabyBarista and The Art of War and recommends it highly, but who can still imagine how much more it might have been.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

BabyBarista reviewed in Western Morning News (click to enlarge original or see text below)

Comic capers in chambers
Sarah Pitt meets a barrister-cum-author whose irreverent look at the legal profession has even the Bar Council laughing.
BabyBarista and the Art of War By Tim Kevan. Bloomsbury, £11.99

So what’s so funny about being a barrister? The answer is here, in Tim Kevan’s hilarious account of the life of the fight for supremacy among pupil barristers in a London chambers. Our hero BabyBarista is up against three other competing for the prize to be taken on permanently at the end of the year of pupillage, by fair means or foul.
In diary format, the book – originally a blog on The Times Online – sees the author sink to increasingly levels of low cunning as he seeks to outwit his fellow pupils, who include the arrogant TopFirst, Cambridge graduate with a prize-winning CV and ego to match. As it says on the cover, “it’s sort of Big Brother, but with little horsehair wigs”.
Tim, 38, now lives in Braunton, North Devon, where he goes surfing at the merest hint of a swell. His book, though, published this month, started life as a blog he wrote while working as a barrister on London, something that consumed 10 years of his life.
With its catalogue of larger-than-life – some might say grotesque – characters the novel struck a chord with an audience far wider than the legal profession (though it made Tim’s colleagues in chambers laugh too). Steeped as he had been in the legal environment for so long, his characters just flowed from his imagination.
And they are all deliciously ghastly. There is BabyBarista’s oily, corrupt pupil master TheBoss, the raking-it-in sexist OldSmoothie, constantly sparring with female contemporary UpTights, and the kleptomaniac JudgeJewellery, who can’t stop herself nicking cheap earrings from high street jewellers CheapAndNasty and wearing them to court.
Tim says he enjoyed being a barrister just as much as he enjoys lampooning the profession in his fiction (he is planning to return to the Bar when writing permits). But he can see there is more to life than arguing legal points in a stuffy courtroom. He is the author, with psychiatrist Dr Michelle Tempest, of the motivational book Why lawyers Should Surf.
In BabyBarista and the Art of War, it is lawyer TheBusker, into surfing, who laconically wins his cases without even trying, by leaning back in his chair and suggesting, as his opponent gets increasingly heated, that they all stop sweating the small stuff. In one case, in a court in Minehead (the Somerset seaside town where Tim grew up), he persuades a judge, in a few calm words, that pilfering can be excused as an example of the age-old tradition of “gleaning”.
“My two favourite barrister characters are OldRuin and TheBusker,” says Tim. “Those two characters are how a barrister should be, whereas the others are caricatures mostly. They are grotesque, but you still like writing about them, and reading about them.”
BabyBarista gets his name from the coffee-making that seems to be his most crucial responsibility as a pupil barrister; TheBoss is most particular about the way he wants his coffee ground – finely “so that it has as much surface area as possible”.
BabyBarista is not Tim. He is from the generation below, the twenty-somethings, who might plausibly be adept at the most contemporary methods of stitching up opponents; setting up fake e-mail accounts and using mobile phones as covert camera. “I’m 38, but his is really a voice 15 years younger than me, and I love the fact that his voice just popped out,” says Tim. “He is really modern, up to these modern tricks.”
While the book has drawn comparisons with Rumpole, John Mortimer’s barrister would be old enough to be BabyBarista’s grandfather or even great-grandfather. Tim himself looks back on his own year as a pupil-barrister fondly. In his case three out of four of the pupil-barristers were given a tenancy, and, no, he didn’t resort to the same strategies as BabyBarista to get his place, though he makes excuses for his fictitious creation’s behaviour, saying “it is a very stressful year”.
The book flowed all the more easily and hilariously because it was made up, he says. Even his professional body, the Bar Council, has been sufficiently tickled by his depiction of the pantomime that is chambers life to recommend the book for holiday reading.
A particular gem is his description of afternoon tea, which none of the barristers ever miss.
“Despite the fact that the members collectively earn enough to buy their own factory, the chocolate biscuits are always treated as a great delicacy, probably due to the fact that chambers only provides the cheaper plain biscuits for client conferences.”
It’s reassuring to know they’ve got their priorities right.