Congratulations – Julian McMahon named Victorian Australian of the Year

Julian Mcmahon speaks to journalists during a visit to Kerobokan prison earlier this year. Picture: Nashyo Hansel. Credit: Herald Sun

Julian Mcmahon speaks to journalists during a visit to Kerobokan prison earlier this year. Picture: Nashyo Hansel (Herald Sun)


Newlawyerlanguage sends a warm congratulations to barrister Julian McMahon. Julian was recently named Victorian Australian of the Year. Julian is a human rights activist who has spent over a decade working pro bono for Australians facing the death penalty overseas. He is the lawyer we all aspire to be. Put simply: he does our profession proud.

A Day in the Life of a Criminal Defence Lawyer


By Jack Leitner

We can all attest to having watched one or a number of crime dramas or movies on prime time television. Central to these dramas are not only the suspects and the police who try to catch them, but also the lawyers who star in televised court room drama. The ruthless badgering of witnesses, questions littered with multiple propositions and, in the case of American dramas, getting in the face of witnesses or the jury are all too often scenes in all manner of crime dramas.

Many are led to believe that lawyers only have a select handful of cases within their practice and that their work is confined almost exclusively to the courtroom.

The stark reality, however, is very different. What does a criminal lawyer really do? Is it really like what you see on television or on movie screens? I’ll take you on a journey about what really goes on behind the scenes in the life of a criminal defence lawyer. Continue reading

The Misery of the Mockingbird


By Finchley Atticus

“I’m your number one fan.” Annie Wilkes, Misery (1990)

Twenty five years I was enthralled by the suspense motion picture Misery at the cinema, watched between Monash law lectures.  Adapted from the eponymous Stephen King novel, it chillingly depicts a devoted fan running amok when the author she idolises goes off script. Paul Sheldon (a brilliant, sympathetic and restrained performance by James Caan) achieved fame writing a series of romantic novels featuring the fictional Misery Chastain. Paul is injured in a car accident during a snow blizzard whilst travelling back to the city, but fatefully is rescued by nurse Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates deservedly earned her Oscar for her unforgettable performance).

Annie gushingly proclaims to a bed-ridden Paul that she is his “number one fan”. Annie is awed being in the presence of her literary hero and whilst nursing him back to health in her farmhouse, revels in tidbits of information gleaned from Paul about her favourite heroine Misery. Frighteningly for Paul, his surprising news that he killed off Misery in his latest novel unleashes an unrelenting and disturbing wave of wrath and fury from the somewhat obsessive Annie.

Oh Paul, how dare you kill off my Misery!! In dramatic and threatening fashion, Annie forces the recuperating Paul to bring Misery back to life by furiously typing up a new manuscript. For those unfamiliar with the movie, you’ll have to get the DVD to see the breathtaking and frenzied denouement.

What hasn’t been pretty recently is the recent revelation that Atticus Finch, our Atticus Finch, esteemed defender of justice for the under-privileged, has become a pro-segregationist who once attended a Ku Klux Klan meeting, harbouring at the very least bigoted and possibly racist views towards African-Americans.

What? Yes Atticus Finch, portrayed in To Kill a Mockingbird (the 1960 novel and 1962 movie where Finch was perfectly personified – some would say glorified – by the great Gregory Peck), the Alabama lawyer who in the face of segregation, stood up for an innocent African-American client in the face of ingrained prejudice from those white southerners.

“We chose the name Atticus for our son over a year ago because we felt then that it embodied a beautiful form of selfless integrity. In light of To Set a Watchman…we no longer feel comfortable using his name. We have decided to legally change his name to Lucas.” Colorado parents David and Christen Epstein’s Facebook post after reading To Set a Watchman.

Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee’s purported sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, is the 2015 novel that would cause Annie to redefine the Richter scale of wrath and fury even though Atticus didn’t die.  Well not physically. But judging from the reaction of anyone who idolised Atticus and what he stood for, for those who were inspired to enter law school because of Atticus, and those who even named their sons after him, his ideals are unequivocally six feet under.   We weren’t even invited to the burial.

I won’t speculate what motivated Harper Lee chose to publish Watchman 55 years after To Kill a Mockingbird hit our bookshelves, or why she decided to instil the bigotry that Atticus displays post-Mockingbird. Although it’s worth noting that Ms Lee originally wrote Watchman but her editor at the time decided she should best write it from the innocent perspective of Scout – Atticus’s daughter. This became the author’s crowning achievement, the 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird. One could also surmise the editor’s shrewd decision was a crowning achievement in the annals of book editing.

What’s fascinating is how many Atticus fans and acolytes are upset, distressed and disturbed by the fortunes (or misfortunes) of a fictional character. Without stating the obvious, Atticus Finch isn’t real.  He is the creation of an author, just as Misery Chastain was the creation of Paul Sheldon.

I’m afraid that Atticus Finch doesn’t belong to us. He is the creation of Harper Lee. Of course that’s not to disrespect the idealism of his fans. If anything we need more lawyers devoted to helping the underprivileged in a world where decent legal representation is a luxury many cannot afford.

It’s understandable to be emotionally attached to fictional characters especially those that display near heroic qualities that embody a sense of justice, hope and fairness in a nasty world. I’m sure though that no Atticus fans are in the same disturbing league as Misery’s Annie.

I can’t help but wonder how much Gregory Peck’s outstanding portrayal of Atticus Finch in the 1962 motion picture To Kill a Mockingbird did to further shape and influence a student’s career path or their child-naming choices.  I don’t think his depiction of the principled, courageous and gentlemanly Atticus can be understated.  After all, Gregory Peck gave us a sympathetic portrayal of a model of integrity, a widowed father to cute kids well before Ted Danson and Co showed us how to raise a newborn in Three Men and a Baby, and well before John Stamos and Co in Full House demonstrated how to raise the Olsen twins. Besides, Danson and Stamos didn’t defend underprivileged African-Americans from the death penalty.

In real life Gregory Peck displayed admirable traits. To his credit he was very prominent in social causes, advocating gun control and denouncing the Congressional witch-hunts of alleged Hollywood communists.  He opposed America’s involvement in the Vietnam War.  Thankfully Peck didn’t have any skeletons in the closet. But what if he did? He would need a top-notch legal team and A-grade publicists for one thing, but putting that aside, I wonder how such indiscretions would have lowered Atticus Finch down a notch or two in the eyes of his fans and devotees.

“How will the new portrayal of Atticus Finch affect lawyers of that generation who were really young when To Kill a Mockingbird came out and were inspired to go to law school because of that?” Laura Marsh, “These Scholars Have Been Pointing Out Atticus Finch’s Racism for Years”, The New Republic, July 2015.

Well it shouldn’t really. Let’s not forget some academics have previously highlighted Atticus Finch’s motives were not entirely honourable (if one’s motives can ever be entirely honourable 24/7 – we’re human after all).  Maybe his blind spot only became visible when To Set a Watchman was published. Yet it’s understandable that law students hold Atticus Finch, especially as embodied by Mr Peck, as the ideal role model (the fact that some law students extol Harvey Specter as a role model is cause for concern). Mary Badham, the actress who will forever be idolised for her role as sweet and innocent Scout, recalls the ostracism she suffered when she returned to segregationist Alabama after her six-month stint in California filming To Kill a Mockingbird. Friends who previously welcomed the actress into her home declared her persona non grata. Not surprisingly, Ms Badham is continually adored by fans as she represents a living link to the innocence and integrity of To Kill a Mockingbird – the book and movie – that was an essential part of many people’s childhoods.

“Have you ever considered that men, especially men must confirm to certain demands of the community they live in simply so they can be of service to it?” A question asked by the uncle of Scout in Go Set a Watchman

Heroes aren’t perfect. Atticus Finch may have been a hero to many maybe because of his outstanding qualities in a world needing heroes.

Shock horror, news flash – a lawyer can be a true professional even if they hold views we find uncomfortable and even repugnant.  No-one has ever suggested that Atticus tanked his defence of Tom Robinson, although he was reluctant to take the brief. But the reality is lawyers can still act professionally despite their personal motives or who they represent.

We barely flinch when prosecutors “swap sides” to become defenders and maintain their professional edge and ability to defend hardened criminals, the ones they would have prosecuted earlier, although strangely I don’t know many defenders who cross the floor to become prosecutors.

“Harper Lee’s Lawyer Teases Possible Third Book” Vulture, 13 July 2015

The publication of a third Mockingbird book may be too incendiary – perhaps Scout marries a Klansman?  While we’re at it let’s transform Ella and Anna in the Frozen sequel into blossoming cougars preying on Malibu college students. But there’s hope. As a child of the 80s I remember the outrage when Bobby Ewing was killed off in Dallas, only to be brought back a year later at the stroke of a script writer’s pen. Remarkably it was all a dream. Sure, it stretched the bounds of credibility but at least the loyal viewers got their Bobby back.

We can only hope a third Atticus Finch book (maybe Mockingbird Redemption) reassures us that Watchman was one long nightmare which we endured for the sake of eventually ensuring our Atticus is truly redeemed. Besides it would give idealistic and well intentioned parents the opportunity to re-name their sons Atticus all over again.

Specialisation Does Not a Lawyer Make?

by Dean R P Edwards

I had been recently discussing the future prospects for a generalist practitioner with a fellow young lawyer. Specialisation is the buzzword these days and every other lawyer appends to their legal practice some kind of niche – be it Property & Real Estate, M&A, Insolvency, and so forth.

It is with some relief that Jonathan Sumption QC, a Justice of the UK Supreme Court, thinks this is a rather bad idea. (You can read more here, although the original story is hidden behind a Sunday Times paywall.)  Continue reading

Arna Delle-Vergini


When did you know that you wanted to be a lawyer?

A long, long time after I became one. I was young and restless and no matter where I was in my life, or what I had achieved, I was always searching for the next Troy to burn. At first I thought this was because I had potentially chosen the wrong career, but eventually I realised it was actually a pattern throughout my life, and what I really needed was to learn the simple art of contentment. It sounds easy, but it is one of the hardest disciplines I have ever tried to master and I am a long way from achieving it. The best I can say is that I am committed to trying.

What attracts you most to the profession of law?

I am one of those people who loves through acts of service. Even when I was a teenager I was volunteering in social justice projects.  I believe it is incumbent upon all of us to contribute to our community, and the more skilled you are, the greater your commitment should be. To be able to do this as a means of earning a living is an incredible privilege. People might say that makes me an idealist. I don’t believe I am. I just have an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the rare opportunities that I have had and a strong feeling that if you are given a gift (which is essentially what our privileged existence is), you really must share it.

What was the single moment, case or event that you feel defined you as a lawyer?

The defining moment of my career was, oddly enough, not even related to my practice. I undertook a subject in my Masters of Laws because the times of the class suited me. The subject was called ‘Dealing with High Conflict People in Legal Disputes’ and it advocated a completely different style of lawyering to the adversarial style that I was trained in. To say that this subject annoyed me would be putting it mildly. In fact, I wrote a 10,000 word, fairly defensive, paper on how adversarialism was a necessary prophylactic for lawyers. I actually received top marks for the paper but it was a Pyrrhic victory because by the time I had finished writing, I didn’t even believe in my own thesis. By the time I finished writing the paper, I was a convert to therapeutic jurisprudence and I haven’t looked back since.

What would you say are the hazards of this profession?

In my view, the hazards of this profession relate solely to the personal cost of practice. Most of us in the profession know by now that lawyers are disproportionately overrepresented in the professions for depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol addiction and marital breakdown. There are a lot of theories as to why this might be and trying to work out the answer to this puzzle keeps a lot of us in the ‘health and well-being for lawyers space’ gainfully occupied. I don’t have the answers. If I had the answers, I wouldn’t have started a website to promote dialogue about the meaning behind being a lawyer with a strong emphasis on health and well-being. Essentially, being a professional should not cost you your health or your well-being, or, indeed, your life. It’s pretty simple really.

If you could only give one bit of advice to new lawyers, what would it be?

There is a quote that I love: ”The first forty years of childhood are the hardest”.  I mentor many law graduates and they always shift a little uncomfortably in their seats when I share this with them because they’re often still in their twenties.  I deliberately share that quote with them though because they need to understand that it’s okay not to have all of the answers now. They’re not supposed to. Nor will they ever have all the answers for that matter. I don’t have them. Neither do our (legal) heroes, the judges and justices of the higher courts. New lawyers need to take the pressure off if they want longevity in their career. They expect to have ‘arrived’ the moment they get their practicing certificate. Unfortunately, that’s effectively where their journey starts. The process of becoming a good lawyer is a long one. This is why I ultimately focus so much on self-care and how you conduct yourself as a lawyer. I’m sorry but knowing and applying the law is the easy part. Being a ‘good lawyer’ though is a real challenge and one that is likely to be a life-long career journey. This is the next level of lawyering and it is arguably more of a challenge because lawyers are only trained in what the law is and/or how to apply the law, but not how to be an actual lawyer.

If you had your time again, would you choose to practice in law? If not, what else would you choose to do?

I did a Law/Arts degree at Melbourne University. My focus in Arts was Classics. In fact, Classics has been a life long passion. I traveled to Italy in my twenties to get my copy of Roberto Calasso’s “The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony” signed by the author himself. He was a little surprised, but mostly delighted, that his novel had so much appeal to a lawyer as his father was a Law Professor. I still occasionally dream about being a classicist and spending a life attending archaeological digs all around the world but I daresay, if I had my time again, I’d make the same choice. Firstly, I dislike heat. Secondly, I am afraid of snakes, spiders and scorpions. That rules out probably 99% of all digs. I think this is why sometimes I like to toy with the idea that there are parallel universes. It makes me happy to think of myself somewhere in another Universe living the life of Indiana Jones, but I would never go so far as to give up my comfortable little patch of green on Earth for it.

How can one distinguish himself or herself as a legal professional?

Be yourself. After all, as Oscar Wilde so aptly puts it, everyone else is taken.

Arna Delle-Vergini is a Victorian Barrister, accredited mediator and a legal coach. A therapeutic jurisprudence convert late in her career, Arna has developed a particular interest in practitioner health and wellbeing. In 2013 Arna convened – a website she hoped would promote dialogue amongst lawyers about the meaning of their professional role in a dynamic legal climate. She also explores her interest in practitioner health and wellbeing through her Masters, her role as a member of the Victorian Bar Health & Wellbeing Committee, and by regularly facilitating training and workshops with new and emerging lawyers.

Eureka: Democracy on Trial

On the 18th and 19th of March of this year, 160 years to the day, BottledSnail Productions, (in conjunction with the Supreme Court of Victoria) produced a reenactment of the trial of Timothy Hayes. Eureka: Democracy on Trial. A condensed version of the original transcript from the trial itself was performed in the Banco Court by a 16 person cast, largely made up of members of the Victorian Bar.

Mutton chops and live Irish fiddling included, the production retells the story of a man on trial for his life during one of the most controversial periods in our history. The trial, which recounts the incivility of the Ballarat goldfields, the bloody history of the Eureka stockade and the unrelenting protest of diggers against injustice and unfairness, came to life inside the Victorian Supreme Court on 18 and 19 of March.

The reenactment was performed in the incredibly ornate and well-preserved Banco Court; providing the ideal setting for the piece. The production commenced with a rousing Irish fiddler (Chris Fitzgerald of The Corkman) – immediately setting the scene and transporting the audience back in time. The script, skilfully put together, mimicked a modern-day trial, and we watched, as members of the public gallery, as our ‘learned friends’ opened and closed their cases. It was remarkable, given that the script was extracted from the original transcript itself, to observe how much things have (and haven’t) changed since 1855. Perhaps, most poignantly, what it means to be on trial for your life.

Timothy Hayes opens the trial by informing the judge, Justice Redmond Barry, that he will be represented by Mr Cope, a different lawyer than expected. One shudders to think about commencing proceedings with a new lawyer, and yet every year, hundreds of litigants arrive at court hoping the duty lawyer will be able to squeeze them in. Some don’t even seek representation.

Throughout the reenactment, a number of witnesses are called. Many of the witnesses for the prosecution talk of their involvement in what took place the morning of Sunday the 3rd of December, when troopers stormed the stockade. A large portion of the examination centres around who fired first, and whether or not the diggers rallied with an intention to overthrow the authorities, or to simply protest the excessive licence fees.

Although it may be hard for someone to relate to the experience of the miners (although I did just receive my car registration fee the other day, and my word that is expensive), one can’t help but reflect upon the tenacity and vivacity of those who did rally. The actions of the diggers speak volumes about the potential strength of a community when unity and purpose coincide, immediately bringing to mind current issues in the social and political domain.

The transcript is littered with verbose passages (thank goodness for Plain English), and occasional inappropriate comments from Counsel (“I would further remind you, gentlemen, that this charge of high treason has already been rejected by two juries, and I trust that, although you have been passed under the benign smile of the Crown Solicitor, you will not be harsher than others”). Justice Barry surprises counsel with part of his summing up (“My opinion is not to convict the prisoner”), and then before the reenactment ends, Timothy Hayes interrupts proceedings to speak directly to the judge.

Hayes’s interjection is both shocking and humbling at the same time. As the accused begins to talk, you can almost feel the lawyers in the audience begin to cringe. Anxious, desperate and indifferent to the potential consequences of acting out of turn, Hayes requests that his Honour allow the recall of a witness on a particular point. However, formalities and court etiquette aside, Hayes’s last-minute plea is not so surprising. Litigants, even those with representation, often feel voiceless or misunderstood during court proceedings. Whilst such feelings can manifest in the form of a ‘difficult’ client, it is a harrowing reminder that the lens through which the accused views proceedings will inevitably be markedly different to that of the lawyer. In a similar vein, Hayes’s appeal to the judge is equally shocking because one almost forgets that he is there, sitting in the dock, patiently observing. The focus of the trial resting upon the arguments and presentation of facts, it is easy to become absorbed in the ‘legality’ of it all. That is, perhaps most poignantly, the reenactment subtly comments on the humanity of the justice system, and what it means to be on trial for your life.

Jessica Terrill*

Jessica Terrill was the Assistant Director of Eureka: Democracy on Trial and is a law student at Monash University.

BottledSnail Productions has also launched a choir for the legal profession. Habeas Chorus is open to all members of Melbourne’s legal community, including practitioners, support staff and students.  An open rehearsal will be conducted on Monday, 30 March. Find out more and register your interest at:

Ashley Halphen

Ashley Halphen

When did you know you wanted to be a lawyer?

At age 9. Watching Antony Petrocelli swoon a courtroom, left me with a hazy dream about a future path that now, almost four decades later, is paved. I studied law with the sole view of practicing in criminal law. An area of practice that compels a deep insight into the human condition and requires strong skill in communication.

The boundaries of human behavior never cease to amaze. The challenges of communication from the ground up…to the heights of addressing twelve impartial members of our community from all walks of life is an art – the art of advocacy. Like all art forms, it is a skill that can never be perfected, rather it forever evolves with the experience of the advocate. The key is versatility – knowing and appealing to your audience. As Dale Carnegie once wrote, ‘you can’t catch fish using strawberries as bait.’

What attracts you most to the law?

The practice of law has taken me to some of the most remote locations on the planet: death row jurisdictions in America’s Deep South; remote indigenous communities in the far Northern parts of Australia; impoverished African provinces where the rule of law has not effectively reached; and even the frozen streets of Mongolia where the rule of law is being transplanted from more established legal-democratic systems.

The practice of law has exposed me to some of the most brutal acts one person can do to another, and also to extreme examples of grace, courage and dignity. This dichotomy of exposure has profoundly enriched my character as a member of society.

What makes an advocate a great advocate?

The process that envelopes a trial to verdict is like the manufacturing of a product on a factory assembly line: Raw instructions are infused with legal principle and life experience along the procedural timeline to finally produce considered and persuasive arguments.

What makes an advocate great, is the ability to communicate…effectively! Argument that is executed with precision and economy; fashioned in a manner that befits the personality style of the audience; and delivered with self-belief and empathy.

The great can go to any part of an argument at any given moment; the great can swiftly and effortlessly deal with any anticipated response or rebuttal; and the great hold their audience in the palm of their hand from beginning to end.

The great immediately command attention and are simply breathtaking.

What is it that defines you as a lawyer?

To empower a client with a complete ‘grip’ of all procedural, legal and evidential aspects to a case; to dignify a client with realistic expectations; to prepare a case upside down and inside out; to run a case with courage and tenacity; and to finally walk away from a courtroom knowing fairness has dictated and justice has prevailed, makes me proud to be a member of the Victorian Bar.

A tip for maintaining sanity in the law

Find your tribe, your people. A beauty in the profession is the number of like minded others. Find them and share time with them, exchanging ideas, issues and work pressures. Most of all enjoy the unique company of those who share your unique career and have fun. Real happiness is shared!

What are your hopes for the profession?

It has been a privilege to step outside the box and conduct the pro bono work I have to date. I would urge any aspiring lawyer to pro bono commit, for whatever period of time to whatever agency, in a manner or context that is outside the comfort zone. So enlightening and enriching is the experience, the experience to give, I would be thrilled to see the profession mandate and support work of this nature as a requirement of admission and/or part of continuing professional development.

Advice to new lawyers

  • Be humble.
  • Be yourself.
  • Be true to yourself.
  • Believe in yourself.
  • Knowledge is a bit about learning but a lot about understanding. As Oscar Wilde once said, ‘education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that some things worth knowing can never be taught.’

Ash Halphen was admitted to practice in 1992 and signed the bar roll in 1999. He is a jury trial, criminal defense advocate. In addition to his pro bono work, he has conducted advocacy courses in Nauru, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea and assisted the training of readers at the Victorian Bar Readers Course.


The Good Fight

Chan and Sukumaran

Photo: Anita Kesuma courtesy of The Age

We are so saddened to hear of the executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. Our thoughts are with their families and friends.

We would also like to acknowledge and applaud the tireless work of the legal teams who fought – right to the final moment – to save these men’s lives.

It is a none too subtle reminder of why our work as lawyers is so vitally important. Sometimes politics prevails over the rule of law – but we should never give in.

The unbearable lightness of being a (female) lawyer

by Arna Delle-Vergini

female lawyer pic

One of the frustrations of being a blawyer (lawyer/blogger) is that, more often than not, one cannot blog about one’s own clients. And yet, that is where all the best stories happen: in and around court. How to get around this? Well, this is this blawgers attempt. To protect my real identity, in this blog I’m going to call myself “Andy”. Oh, and I’ve made up a whole different country too. Just for added protection. 🙂

Once upon a time, there was a land called “Mysonia”.  It was a strange, half-forgotten land, where the quality of people’s lives was predetermined from birth essentially, according to the colour of their hair.  Basically, in this land, if you were born a brunette, you were considered to be a second-class citizen, blondes were first-class citizens and redheads were the ultimate rulers. Gender was irrelevant. In any event, there were rules and regulations about whom one could marry and have children with (as there are in our own country of course) but, since there were so many more brunettes than blondes or redheads, exceptions were allowed. These were rarely happy marriages though, as the brunettes would be routinely treated awfully by their partners and whilst there were laws that protected second-class citizens from being victimized, in practice, it happened all too often and little was done about it. Anyway, a great war broke out in this country and many people, of all different coloured hair, fled. Some fled to the US. Some to the UK. Some to France. Some to Sweden. And some saw fit to flee to Australia.

Our story picks up in Australia where “Andy” a lawyer is briefed to appear in a bail application on behalf of “Felicity” a blonde Mysonian who recently arrived in this country. Felicity had been charged (again) with breaching an intervention order. This was her third breach. She had a history outlining multiple assaults against her partner, Phillipe, who was; you guessed it, very much a brunette. On this occasion, Felicity bashed Phillipe so hard that he had to be hospitalized. After her arrest she made it very clear to the police that she had nothing but contempt for laws that protected brunettes from violent assaults and made it clear that she would repeat her behaviour the minute she was released. This was unhelpful for a bail application but Andy had been doing this for a while and was quite sure he could manage it.

It was 9.15am when Andy first met Felicity in the cells down in the Melbourne Remand Centre. He said a cheery “hello” and began to take Felicity through the remand brief. At one point he noticed Felicity looking at him strangely, but he decided to just continue. Eventually, he realized that the “strange” look was one of anger, possibly even contempt, so he asked Felicity if everything was all right.

“No, it’s not!” she said, with some anger. “They have sent me a prostitute”.

Andy looked around him quickly to see if anyone else had slipped into the interview room. Nope, just him.

“A prostitute?”

“In Mysonia, married brunettes do not work. The only brunettes who work are prostitutes. You are not married.”

Andy looked at his ring finger. “Oh, of course, I’m not married and I’m a brunette so you think I must be a prostitute”.

“You are a prostitute”.

Andy felt that, perhaps, reason might assist in this circumstance and explained: “Oh, no, you see, in this country, brunettes are allowed to work doing all sorts of work and it doesn’t matter whether they are married or not.”

Felicity did not seem at all pleased with this answer. In fact, she became angrier and demanded to know again why they had sent a prostitute in to act as her lawyer. Furthermore, Felicity didn’t believe, even in Australia, that Andy actually could have been a qualified lawyer, rather than a student, so she demanded to see Andy’s ID. Andy produced his ID but Felicity just became more and more enraged. She was starting to yell at this point and white flecks of foam were spurting out of her mouth. Eventually she started banging on the glass: “I want a proper lawyer. I want a redhead”.

Since Andy got paid either way, he was happy to leave Felicity foaming at the mouth in the cells while he organized a lawyer with different coloured hair to come and represent Felicity.  As luck would have it, there was a perfectly capable blonde idling about in chambers, so he flicked the brief to her and then casually made his way home.

As he was driving home he thought about two things. The first was how he might spend the rest of his day. (He favoured sitting at a café reading a book only slightly over sitting in a warm bath reading a book.). The second thought he had was: “what must it feel like to be born into a world that thinks you are superior by nature of your hair colour?” He had some idea of this because, in truth, even in Australia – the lucky country – there was a little of this caper going on. He had had some experience of people who were raised to see themselves as superior. These were people who were treated as smarter and funnier, even if they weren’t. These people were paid more to do the very same work as anyone else; consequently, they were typically wealthier. These people were given more airtime, as if everything that fell out of their mouths was golden when, really they talked as much rubbish as anyone else. These people often believed that they had no advantage whatsoever, but the moment someone tried to challenge them about their advantage, they instantly became very defensive and angry. They would say things like “just exactly who do you think you are?” Because Andy liked himself a lot, he didn’t spend a lot of time with these people but he had spent enough time with them to know that they existed and that, underneath it all, their greatest fear – greater than any other fear – was of being exposed. Their greatest fear was that one day, someone would discover that they were not actually superior after all. Andy couldn’t think of anything worse than living with a fear like this. It made him feel very sorry for them.

Postscript: Felicity was not satisfied with the blonde lawyer either and promptly sacked her. Felicity had come to feel a deep distrust of all Australian lawyers after having met Andy; after all, what kind of country allows brunettes to practice as lawyers anyway? No one will be surprised to hear that Felicity was not granted bail on this particular occasion.