The bar fridge, Grimm Friday, and my first brief


After countless applications, tedious interviews by imperious floor clerks and intimidating Silks who let you wait for hours, I finally received the phone call I had been dreaming about for weeks: I had been accepted on a good floor of criminal specialists!

The day a young barrister moves into his chambers is a day he never forgets. I certainly remember mine. It was chaotic. The removalists were late, they scratched the lift, swore at the floor clerk, and if that wasn’t enough, the furniture didn’t fit into the room. But somehow, after a lot of imaginative jiggling, we managed to cram it all in. Just. To get to my desk, I had to squeeze past the old Chesterfield and the two matching leather chairs I had bought at auction. The lot I had been bidding on included a carved cocktail cabinet I really didn’t want, but had to take because it was a job lot. The cabinet’s the problem, I thought, looking at my crowded room. I’ll get rid of it. Little did I know that this cocktail cabinet which, unbeknown to me at the time, contained a small bar fridge, would shape my future legal career.

 I don’t quite remember how it got out, but soon after I settled into my chambers, word somehow spread that I had a bar fridge in my room. This was quite a rarity at the time, and mine was the only one on the floor apart from the fridge in the floor kitchen which was strictly off limits. Then, one afternoon, our head of chambers – a senior QC with a fearsome reputation – came to see me.

‘They tell me you have a fridge in your room, is that correct?’ he asked me, a stern look on his face. At first I thought I had done something wrong and unwittingly broken an unwritten rule. Perhaps fridges were not allowed in rooms. I opened my cocktail cabinet and timidly showed him my empty fridge.

‘Splendid! You don’t mind if I keep a couple of bottles in here, do you?’

‘Of course not,’ I replied, relieved.

‘Nice furniture,’ said the QC, running his hand along the studded back of my faded green Chesterfield on his way out.

The next day, a case of French champagne was delivered to my room. The floor clerk put two bottles into my fridge, and wrote the QC’s name on the case which he then placed on the bottom shelf of my almost empty bookcase. When I returned from court a few days later, I found a further case of champagne and two cases of wine with different names scribbled on top in my bookcase which by now was rapidly filling up with grog.

 The real surprise, however, came at the end of the week. I had spent the whole day in a Magistrate’s Court in the suburbs with a hopeless bail application, and didn’t make it back to chambers until late in the afternoon. As I walked towards my room, tired and disappointed – my application had been refused – I noticed that the door to my room was wide open. Coming closer, I could hear raucous laughter and saw clouds of cigarette smoke drifting out of my room into the corridor.

‘What’s going on in there?’ I asked the floor clerk standing in the doorway.

‘Grimm Friday.’


Ignoring my question, which obviously didn’t warrant an answer, the clerk turned on his heels and hurried away.

When I walked into my room, I was greeted by three rather jovial senior members of the floor – all Silks in a state of advanced inebriation. Two of them were sitting on the Chesterfield, and one sat in my chair with his feet on my desk. The two leather armchairs were occupied by solicitors I had met before.

‘Where’ve you been? Get a glass,’ said our fearsome head of chambers, pointing to a half empty bottle of champagne on my desk. ‘We’ve decided to have Grimm Friday in you room; you don’t mind, do you?’

What the hell is he talking about? I asked myself, but wisely held my tongue. ‘Of course not,’ I said instead, trying to appear nonchalant, and poured myself a glass of bubbly.

 After the last of my self-invited guests finally staggered a little unsteadily out of my room two hours later, and I began to clean up, I found my desk diary under two empty bottles. The diary was open, and something had been scribbled on next week’s entry page in a tiny, spidery handwriting which I recognized as that of our head of chambers:

My junior is jammed. Trial starts on Tuesday; estimate, two weeks. Private brief. Noticed you are free; instructing solicitor happy with my recommendation. Conference arranged for Monday morning, 8am. See you then. Marcus.

 I had to read the entry three times before it began to sink in. A brief, I thought. A two week trial! Real work! Money!  I began to laugh. Noticed you are free; what a joke. My diary was empty!


As for Grimm Friday … I bet you’re as curious as I was at the time to find out what it all meant. Well, you’ll just have to be patient and wait a little longer I’m afraid, because that’s next week’s post …