Thursday, December 10, 2009

Review of BabyBarista at CaseCheck ™

Nice review of BabyBarista and the Art of War at CaseCheck ™ which you can also read below. CaseCheck ™ is a legal resource used by lawyers, law students, in-house lawyers, paralegals, claims handlers, barristers and advocates throughout the UK and the rest of the world. Register at to establish your own profile, access their full functionality and receive their weekly bulletin.

From Blogger to Bloomsbury: BabyBarista and The Art of War

Many of you will be familiar with Tim Kevan as the barrister behind PI Brief Update, PI Journal and Law Brief Update.
You may also be aware of his involvement alongside Daniel Barnett in the innovative CPD Webinars, which offers you the full benefit of CPD instruction for your whole office, without the hassle of having to travel anywhere.

You may be less familiar with the fact that he co-authored Why Lawyers Should Surf with Dr Michelle Tempest before Bloomsbury published his first fiction novel ‘BabyBarista and the Art of War’.

‘BabyBarista and the Art of War’ is a comedy revolving around one pupil barrister’s attempts to secure the only tenancy place available in a character rich set of chambers. The ‘Art of War’ in the title refers to Sun Tzu’s influential book on military strategy which BabyB’s pupil master presents him with on his first day:

“Litigation is like war, Baby Barista. Read this and learn.’

Instead of deploying Sun Tzu’s strategies to assist him in court, Baby B focuses on how he can secure the coveted tenancy spot at the expense of his three fellow pupils. Financial pressures at home serve as justification for his actions.

I generally try to keep away from legal fiction, but I must say that I really enjoyed BabyBarista, particularly through its link with the ‘Art of War’. The book was also made more enjoyable for me as a result of my assumptions that there must be a few individuals at the English bar squirming at lightly veiled descriptions of their worst characteristics.

‘Everyone will be able to identify him as being ‘X’ and her as being ‘Y’, I thought.

But when I asked Tim about this he clearly pointed out that this was not the case - even after I had asked him the same question, in a different way, approximately fifteen times.

“Not in the slightest – the book is fiction – full stop.”

“But how, then, did you come up with such rich characters if they are absolutely 100% fiction?”

Tim then explained;

“For me they were almost like real characters in my mind. I wanted to write a legal thriller, but what came out, initially as a blog, was this comedy. The characters just came into my brain and I tuned, almost like a radio, into their frequency.”

“The blog,, was picked up by the Times Online and then, following a review by the Lawyer magazine, I emailed a whole load of publishers. Bloomsbury got back to me after that and I also managed to get a literary agent around the same time.”

“ The support of the Bloomsbury editors and my literary agent was invaluable in terms of helping me with the structure and character development. (i.e. BabyB’s private life, aspect of his mother’s life, physical details, romance etc). They helped me to introduce different angles to the story, making it a more rounded, fuller novel as opposed to the blog, which was more like a race to the finishing line.”

Writing is probably seen as being a solitary existence in which one labours away on an idea for months unsure as to whether it will ever see the light of day but Tim’s experience shows that this has perhaps changed.

Using a free tool like Blogger, Tim could immediately access a publishing platform for his creativity and thereby permit the characters to grow and develop within an environment where he could measure take up, reaction and returning visitors. Suddenly there was an audience, returning for the next instalment. Think of a legal Belle Du Jour, without the sex, but with wigs.

As Tim says;

“Writing a blog is definitely a very useful tool in that it facilitates the process of writing in a first person narrative and it is also a very good way of presenting your work”

In terms of spreading word of his blog Tim did use his own newsletters but he also says that getting involved in the legal blogging community helped in that he promoted the blogs of others and they, in turn, promoted his. The legal editor of the Times Online became a member of his audience and this editor’s suggestion that the Times Online should host his blog drastically increased Baby Barista’s reach.

For Tim the path has ultimately lead him from online to offline, from free to paid for and in Tim’s explanation of the effort Bloomsbury and his literary agent put into helping him turn a blog into a novel one feels that £11.99 (or £8.36 on Amazon) is a price worth paying for a well crafted, highly enjoyable chambers based comedy.

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