Trolley Dolley

Ah. I remember the time when those of us with enough nouse to realise that a pull along suitcase would b*gger up only your elbow rather than your entire back / shoulder arrangement were labelled “trolley dolleys”, like some notionally airbrained stewardess. Yeah, laughing on the other side of your brown leather shoulder bag now aren’t you, macho barristers.

Alright, it’s still not the done thing for a proper pinstripey crim barrister. They can’t afford wheels. Even on suitcases. But in the civil world it is quite acceptable. And in family, well – I feel underdressed without a suitcase.

And so I have become an unwitting suitcase expert. This is a branch of expertise upon which I shall capitalise when the day arrives when I have no brief to put in my case. Yes, my next career will be as suitcase consultant. Until then though, I’m happy to share my suitcase related tips with you. They are drawn from a decade of suitcase selection, testing and breaking experience. I know from recent and bitter experience that these are rules that MUST be followed at all times*.

* NB rules apply to everyday court-based lawyers suitcase only. Other rules may apply to suitcases for different purposes and no warranty is given in respect of use in cases involving papers in excess of three lever arch files.

Rule 1. Suitcase must fit two lever arch files plus Family Court Practice or pair of heels and slim laptop, or three lever arch files at a push. Anything more and you need your backup BIG SUITCASE to which normal rules do not apply.

Rule 2. Suitcase must have two wheels not four. As I have discovered to my cost (specifically to the cost of several of my smaller toes) this week, four wheeled suitcases are differently mobile and have minds of their own. It is a wonder my four wheeler is not on the tracks at Swindon right now. They do not stop when you stop. They do not stay put in a luggage rack. You cannot perform neat handbrake stops with them.

Rule 3. Suitcase height must be not higher than the midpoint of the femur. This will ensure that when you hoik the suitcase up or down steps it does not bash each step as you ascend / descend.

Rule 4. Suitcase handle when extended must not be higher than elbow height. This will prevent an assortment of idiotic tripping incidents.

Rule 5. Suitcase must stand upright unassisted (no backpacks on wheels).

Rule 6. Suitcase should be soft shelled. Hard shelled suitcases are embarrassingly noisy when you scrape them on stuff and are unnecessarily heavy.

Rule 7. Suitcase must not be pinstriped or flowery. Just because this will make you look like an idiot.

Rule 8. Suitcase should not be over capacitous. Suitcases with capacity for four or more files plus a small chihuahua will result in excess cabin movement, knackered files, bent pages and torn FAS forms.

Rule 9. Always buy in a Bluecross sale. Never pay full price unless Rule 10 applies. Why would you.

Rule 10. Always make a mental note of your nearest department store in case of suitcase disintegration en route to court / to train. Department stores will usually dispose of your knackered suitcase upon emergency suitcase purchase. Don’t keep handcuffs or smelly socks in suitcase – you may have to conduct a contents transfer on the floor of Debenhams.

Rule 11. Don’t buy a black one. Every Tom, Dick and Harry will have one. It will lead to comedy accidental bag switches, accidental loss of papers and accidental £40,000 fines from the Information Commissioner.

Rule 12. Don’t run it in. Bash it up and down the kerbs without stopping. It isn’t worth the faff to stop and lift it every time. Suitcases are not that expensive and can be replaced.

I’m thinking of going for a PhD in suitcases. It’s practically a science.

16 thoughts on “Trolley Dolley

  1. If I might add my tuppence worth…..

    Small wheeled wheelies are quieter and seem easier to pull – (See rule 12) there exists a considerable case authority that bigger wheels are easier to smash up and down the kerbs….

  2. […] Trolley Dolley: a barrister's guide to buying suitcases [Pink Tape] […]

  3. Rap yourself on the knuckles for the superfluous “e” on “nouse”!

  4. Love it. Have never had a suitcase. When I started everyone had pilots’ bags which were a) heavy b) expensive and c) pulled your shoulders out of their sockets. I got a shoulder bag and never looked back. Now middle-age is catching up (according to the Times it now starts at 53 so I am young again) and my back is starting to feel the pain. The aim now is to have enough files to justify asking the clerks for the trolley.

    • Ah, clerks with trolleys. A London luxury that those of us hotfooting it from one end of nowhere to the other do not have… I did once get a clerk to carry my bag to court – but I was on crutches with my foot in a cast. And I had to pay for the taxi for us both…

  5. Provincial Solicitor

    Reference Simon’s tale of middle-age.

    I was going into court some little time ago, and met a colleague heading in the same direction. We were both armed with the ubiquitous ‘trolley’. “What did we do before we had these?” I asked. “We were young, dear boy; we were young” came the reply.

  6. As one who’s been doing a lot of travelling lately, I’ve been looking into suitcases intensively. The best one to get is the Rimowa flight case. It fulfills all your requirements above. It fits every airlines conditions. It’s made of aluminium, silver color, and very tough. Two wheels and plenty of handles. OK, I admit they’re expensive but you’re not going to need to buy another for a long, long time unlike the usual suspects that are cheap and nasty. Go on, you’re worth it!

    • *googles Rimowa flight case*… Crikey, At £500 a pop academic salaries are clearly better than legal aid rates John! Plus it looks like the sort of suitcase you should have handcuffed to you because it contains a million pounds in used notes….

  7. […] with Pink Tape, written by the Bristol based family law barrister Lucy Reed. Her posts range from mildly whimsical discussions of suitcases to useful features on topical case law. To my mind she is better on the law than the whimsy, but […]

  8. Any suggestions on best type? I can’t take carrying them anymore!!

    • I’m back on cheap and cheerful since this post. My four wheeler didn’t cut it at all. It lost a wheel early on. Fixed wheels are better for hoiking up pavements. I reckon those plain ones that are often in the blue x sale in debenhams are the best. Having said that I’m due to do a review for a v whizzy one soon – which I have to say does have some plus points in terms of durability and security – but doesn’t score well on the weight front….

  9. What about noisy do you fix that?

  10. If there is an additional rule it is that you will rue every pound you saved, every day you use it, if you buy a cheap one.
    Buy the best. Always.

  11. Excellent tips. Big, rubberised or otherwise robust wheels are best; I’ve had normal plastic wheels crack from runs along uneven paving and rough tarmac. Am currently eying up this one for when my current one gives out.

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