Friday, December 4, 2009

University of Kent's 'The Argument' reviews BabyBarista

Nice review of BabyBarista and the Art of War at the University of Kent's The Argument.

Life at the Bar – BabyBarista and The Art of War by Tim Kevan
written by Shirah Zirambamuzale on Dec.03, 2009

BabyBarista and The Art of War by Tim Kevan
(Bloomsbury 2009. ISBN 9780747594642)

I agree with many that this book may be a true portrayal of life at the Bar, but I would also argue that this is true of many successful professions and success in general. Based on a Times Online blog by the same author, the book traces the life of a law student who acquires pupillage at a prestigious set of chambers in London. An Oxford law graduate with a first, the student is in stiff competition with other baby barristers with top-class degrees from Cambridge and Harvard. And, as if this was not enough, BabyBarista has to contend with his mounting debts and those of his mother, a working-class single woman who has borrowed heavily to pay for her son’s legal education. This background sets the plot where BabyBarista is left with no option but to outwit his fellow competitors by all means necessary. Through a combination of dubious tricks and the aid of his manual, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, BabyBarista concocts a series of measures which see him facing moral dilemmas, fighting to pay off his mother’s heavy debts and competing for the only tenancy available at Chambers. Beneath all the drama, tragedy and comedy found on every page of the book, the author also provides a satirical yet vivid account of life at the Bar. The book portrays most barristers as being arrogant, pretentious, corrupt and unrealistically aloof. Solicitors too are not spared as some are painted as being money hungry ambulance-chasers while others are ‘ClichéClangers’ and ‘skilled in the creative art of billing’. It isn’t all ghastly portrayals, however, as the book also has several examples of barristers who have coped with the pressures of the legal profession and gone about their business with integrity. One thing that I sympathise with is the debt one incurs during the endeavour to become a barrister, but the appalling thing is that the financial difficulty does not end with one succeeding at the Bar but evolves into one continuing a lifestyle they cannot afford just to fit in with the other tenants at Chambers. Finally, I was very impressed with the author and his style of writing, as it was imaginative and very captivating, and contrary to the preconceived notion that life at the Bar is tedious and not half as exciting as we soon discover in the book. Overall, this book reflects well on life at the Bar. Another issue that the book competently addresses is the notion of the ‘class ceiling’ and the bias of established chambers towards the Oxbridge class. This book, however, suggests that this traditional bias may be nearing its end. The author perfectly highlighted this when he captured a moment when an ageing barrister bemoaned the changing face of the Bar, complaining about the fact ‘… that over half of our next-door chambers’s [sic] tenants are now non-Oxbridge’. One can be optimistic from this alone. This, as the author puts it, is ‘the wonderful modern Bar’.

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