SILK – Purse or Sow’s Ear?

I’ve been confined to me bed the last couple of days with a grotty bout of tonsillitus (my ailment of choice when run down). This has meant that I have not only had time to listen to Charon QC et al’s latest collaborative podcasting adventure #withoutprejudice (ver gud), but have also watched not one but two episodes of the latest barrister drama SILK (BBC1 Tuesdays at 9pm). Magic Circle Minx summarises the story so far in a nutshell here and here. I say summarise, Oyez should produce a tick box form for this type of drama, they always have the same stereotypes, and they always lurch from pretty realistic to totally improbable in less time than it takes you to mutter “artistic licence” into your lever arch concealed in a fake cough.

This of course does not mean that I didn’t enjoy it. It’s not the done thing to admit it, but there is a particular satisfaction in identifying for all non-lawyers who have the misfortune to be watching with you the fact that “that happens all the time you know” or (with dramatic gasps / shrieks / laughs of disbelief “that would NEVER happen!”. This is why I am relegated to the bedroom to watch alone, whilst my non-lawyer other half searches increasingly frantically for an episode of American Dad or Star Trek.

And yet…some of the cliche’s are a bit worn. The blonde female pupil who is seduced within her first week by the charming but slippery womanising male barrister. Is anyone REALLY that stupid? Actually, no. They’re not. Not in the first week, anyway. The idealistic fiery one who doesn’t know when to shut up.

And the machiavellian mafia style clerk, the secret machinations, dark plots and back stabbing? I don’t say there isn’t a grain of truth in it but it is such a distortion of reality. I’ve yet to meet a clerk who doesn’t consider a good booze up with a local solicitor to be part of his job but the geezer who can make or break a barrister’s career on a whim is no longer a motif that amounts to anything like a balanced representation of the modern commercial relationship between clerk and barrister.

The clerk who pushes the men whilst expecting the women to oblige with all the donkey work? Now that I think is real. Not, fortunately in my chambers (where we work the men like donkeys), but it definitely exists in pockets. My sense is that this is probably more so in London where everything is that little bit more fevered. The expectations of what women will and won’t tolerate, particularly those with small children, single mums, who need to get back to earning quickly or to rebuild their career quicksmart after maternity leave, are somehow different from the expectations of men – maybe though this is because women WILL tolerate more for those very reasons?

But this is all getting very serious. What I really started out to say was simply this:

Silk was quite good entertainment for a barrister whose mind was numbed with lemsip and slightly too many painkillers. BUT there are some petty matters I need to share. These are:

  1. Barristers DON’T write “NG” in giant red lipstick letters on their brief when a case is complete. AND
  2. Pupils have actually got a law degree, done the BVC and attended a squillion mini-pupillages and interviews by the time they start pupillage so unlike Maxine Peake’s gormless explanatory device of a pupil, they actually know something about how things work (such as that barristers don’t shake hands – except me, who makes a point of doing it to annoy other barristers because it’s a dumb rule). AND
  3. Pupils do NOT go and do bail apps on day 2 of their pupillage. AND
  4. That wasn’t Bow Magistrates Court, it was filmed in the Queen’s building at the RCJ. AND
  5. All the robe shops in Chancery Lane undoubtedly have CCTV and how hard would it have been to have identified a 6ft male with striking cheekbones and a ridiculous bobble hat from amongst the pitifully small pool of new pupils? He’d never have got away with it! AND
  6. Has Maxine Peake actually got more than one pair of PJs?

AND….the pedant in me quite enjoyed it. Will be watching Episode 3, even though I will have to do so on my lonesome.

11 thoughts on “SILK – Purse or Sow’s Ear?

  1. i’ll take the tonsilitis any day…

  2. you have to watch silk for me – are you sure you know what you are doing???

  3. ah yes of course! i see where you’re going – you are going to palm your tonsilitis off on me and then withdraw from watching silk because it’s professionally embarassing.

  4. Provincial Solicitor

    We’ve decided that the clerk is the most accurately sketched character, albeit a decade or so out of date.

    It is the little snippets that give a sense of realism; ploughing through bundles at midnight etc.

    Bit a of busman’s holiday, but I can’t help watching it.

    • totally agree – thankfully clerking has moved on a bit. the last minute briefs and the taking it for granted that counsel will be able to drop everything and prep definitely ring a bell. My mum keeps asking me about how realistic it is, but then also about the plotline as if I should somehow know who the father is!

  5. I slated Silk to start with, but I really do miss it now. I got quite excited every time I recognised a temple landmark. I imagine that there will be a next series? Now they’ve got all the most obvious barrister cliches out of the way I think it would just get better and better. It’s funny because even though aspects are madly unrealistic it was quite compelling – a bit like ‘Deed’.

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