The prime advantage of being in the employ of a judge is that one is not in the employ of a firm.
So says my careers mentor Kate, former Federal Court associate and hard-bitten scrap of femininity doing time in one of the Big Six (Minutes).
To the credit of my old law school, it had the percipience to pair an individual best described as the anti-mentor with an anti-mentee under its networking program, though I rather suspect Kate was hoping for a credulous sort with whom to sport when she signed up for the scheme – as was I.
Just desserts and all that.
Still, this mentoring malarkey – with its unbecoming overtones of it’s-not-what-you-know legs-up on the corporate ladder – has incubated a relationship between K and me that we like to think perverts the objects of the program.
“Forget the bar. Have you considered basket weaving in Byron?” she suggested between bites of an oversized hor d’oeuvre at the program launch last year, spraying me with specks of poorly masticated snapper.
Her official duties long since discharged, K considers it behoves her to divert me from the profession by dispatching Crust o’ the Week communiqués, positing paths to glory that do not require a year devoted to the discovery of anything other than thine self.
“Is deep sea welding a real job?” Gus demands incredulously, reading one such email over my shoulder during a luncheon adjournment.
If a violent exhalation behind a closed door be a reliable indicium of judicial contentment, I think HH appreciates having the chambers small fry underfoot of a mealtime.
“Oh yes! Apparently it’s quite risky”, The Associate breathes.
Angus is a favourite of the court womenfolk. Curmudgeonly court officers, refractory registry staff, the frostiest of cold fish associates: all in his thrall, the crafty so-and-so.
“More or less risky than penning a blog besmirching the office of tipstaff?” Gus inquires with affected earnestness.
“I haven’t read that filth as a matter of principle,” I interject stiffly, exiting swiftly with the coffee plunger lest laughing eyes betray me.
The thing about Kate, it occurs to me in the kitchen, is that she does not commune with such dull elves as would divine the sense in her prose from its literal meaning.
By a circuitous, acerbic route she is artfully endearing the profession to me, with all its flaws, that I might embrace it with eyes open.
It’s deliciously underhand, really, and makes a change from the eerily upbeat of her number (Stockholm Syndrome, K pronounces), or depressed and inert Pinstripe Prisoners.
“It’s your turn to do a tea towel run,” bleats my floormate Julian, poking his precision-coiffed head in the kitchen doorway and bursting my thought bubble.
Gus and I refer to Julian as Plastic Man, for its obvious connotations of fakery.
PM dabbles not in the dark arts of irony, hyperbole and cynicism, but for all of that seems no more truthful in his expression of professional enthusiasms and respects.
“The Man is a sleeper cell of disaffection,” Gus hisses as we make haste down Martin Place at 5.05pm.
We suspect the Kates of the profession will outlast the Plastic Men.
But if not, we’ll always have welding.