Judge Norman Lovett, looking the part
(photograph by Bob Slayer)
Two days ago, I lost my voice. Yesterday it was back though slightly weak and I coughed a lot. This morning I have no voice again.
At 5.00am this morning I woke, coughing, with my throat razor-blade raw from a dream in which I had been transcribing the ornate language of a medieval court case.
This was because, last night, I went to the Lamb Tavern, first built in 1309 in London’s Leadenhall Market over the Basilica at the centre of Roman Londinium.
I was there to see a sold-out try-out of This Is Your Trial, a comedy show in which three comedians are the judge, prosecutor and defence counsel in the ‘trial’ of an accused person who (as in real English court cases) is presumed guilty unless proven innocent.
The paying audience were mostly lawyers. The accused (on a rather vague charge of identity fraud and making over 100,000 Tweets) was legal blogger Charon QC, aka Mike Semple Piggot. Last night’s judge was the suitably bewigged Norman Lovett, with American Luke Capasso as prosecutor and sober Bob Slayer as the defence counsel.
When I started writing this blog today, I searched around for an adjective to describe members of the English legal profession and the best one I could come up with was ‘smug’. I suppose that is what comes of building your careers and high earnings on the back of so many innocent people being imprisoned by a system which does not even present a credible pretence of seeking to deliver justice. On the other hand, when I meet people involved in the game they are almost always intelligent, sophisticated, good company and have a sense of humour. So I guess the two words ‘amiable’ and ‘amoral’ cover the English legal profession.
And, last night, a legal eagle sitting in the same row as me did offer me a free sausage and a chip, so the profession may not be totally uncaring.
The evening started with Judge Norman Lovett saying he was looking forward to appearing at a gig on Saturday night – the Madness Weekend at Butlins, Minehead – though lamenting the fact he would “miss X Factor, the jungle programme and Match of the Day – three programmes on the trot… but the money’s good and so are Madness”.
An excellent piece of advertising – something which could perhaps be added to real court cases to lower legal fees.
Last night was also like a dream product placement plug for Apple, as the room was awash with iPhones, a few iPads and, behind me, even a Macbook laptop. Throughout, people were Tweeting while still managing to pay attention and laugh.
Bob Slayer, Norman Lovett and Luke Capasso last night
This Is Your Trial is a wonderful format. It would transfer seamlessly to TV as a sort of comedy Crown Court – and it could make a fortune on the corporate circuit.
Putting the case for the Prosecution, Luke Capasso’s opening line was “Charon QC… Charon? Isn’t that the ferry man of Hades?… Do you worship the Devil, sir? Do you suckle at the teat of Beelzebub?”
It turned out that Charon QC turned down a place at Cambridge because he had fallen in love with a girl and went instead to Leicester University. He had also, in his youth, mysteriously been approached by a member of MI6 “whilst wearing a skimpy pair of speedos” with an invitation to “work for her Majesty”.
“I wasn’t wearing the speedos,” argued Charon QC in his own defence.
“Her Majesty was wearing them?” asked an incredulous Luke Capasso.
“Her Majesty wasn’t,” explained Charon QC, “but the Commercial Attaché was. It was a surreal experience and, needless to say, I had little difficulty in turning the offer down.”
The prosecution argued, unfairly I think, that “bloggers are a subversive breed”.
Quoting the Daily Telegraph, it was suggested they have an annoying habit of pointing out when journalists make mistakes, that they are “disturbing creatures” who publish “any old thing they find on the internet” and “they engage in their activities for accuracy, for truth, for their own enjoyment and for the enlightenment of others rather than for money”.
Bob Slayer rather unexpectedly, given that he was arguing for the Defence, said: “Those who can, do… Those who can’t, teach… And those who can’t teach, blog…”
In a clever end twist to the evening, Charon QC was found guilty by a card magician.
In the bar afterwards, Bob Slayer was saying how disconcerting it was to have members of the audience Tweeting throughout the event on their iPhones.
“It’s a new dynamic you have to deal with somehow,” said one Paul Bernal.
“This audience,” he continued, “is made up of people connected with the law in various ways who Tweet – #tweetinglegals. I’m a law lecturer; I teach law. I have 2,950-something followers and I was Tweeting to them. They knew what was going on here tonight. We had the hashtag #TrialofCharonQC – I Tweeted maybe 20 times during the event…. These are the people who have re-Tweeted me,” he said, showing us his phone. “He’s in San Diego. These guys are in London. He’s in Canada.”
Another man at the bar, dressed in what appeared to be an orange Guantanamo Bay outfit, said: “I teach lawyers how to do social media like Tweeting.”
Paul Bernal said to Bob: “I Tweeted your joke about Those who can’t teach, blog and it has been re-Tweeted by three people around the world… @legalaware has got 6,366 followers. The other two are not quite so big but, even so…”
“Could you add @BobSlayer on it quickly?” Bob Slayer asked.
“It’s gone, I’m afraid,” said Paul Bernal.
“You should sue them for plagiarism,” I suggested to Bob, but my weak voice went unheard.
“I’ve got 650 followers and I’ve barely Tweeted,” Bob told Paul Bernal.
“But they’re all brewers,” I suggested.
“They are, yes,” agreed Bob.
“The thing that Tweeters want to do more than anything else,” said the Guantanamo Bay social media teacher, “is not get obsessed by numbers.”
“I’ve got this new phone,” Bob said, showing off his unimpressively non-Apple smartphone, “to specifically get into the Tweeting game.”
“The first thing,” the Guantanamo Bay man told him, “is to have fun.”
“Oh,” said Bob,”I have a lot of fun but, when I wake up in the morning, I can’t remember it.”
“You’ve broken the first rule of Tweeting,” he was told. “Never Tweet after you drink.”
“But I am constantly drinking,” explained Bob.
“In that case, you have to invent your own different rules for Tweeting. Do you know when you’re drunk?”
At that point, I left and went home.
This morning when I awoke, coughing, I found an e-mail from Bob:
“I learnt a lot about Tweeting from these lawyers tonight.”
I continued coughing. My voice is now returning a bit.
And now David Gilroy has Tweeted me to say he is Guantanamo Bay Man.
We live in interesting times.