Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Clive Coleman wears so many different hats he’s in danger of wearing out his head. Coleman is barrister, law-lecturer, motivator, performer, after-dinner speaker -� oh yes, and writer of “Chambers,” the hit law sit-com. For those in the know, the tales of the ever-scheming John Fuller-Carp �- played by the ever-dry John Bird -� and his less than wholly competent Bar colleagues are a source of much laughter and any number of sighs of recognition from barristers. Beloved by law professionals �- one judge confessed to driving around the court until that day’s episode had finished before he’d begin work -� and yet still accessible to those who may not be fully au fait with legalese, after three successful series on Radio 4, “Chambers” is now deemed ready to make the transfer to prime-time BBC1. As Law.com/uk went to interview Coleman at the house in north London he shares with his wife and two children, the first broadcast lay just days away. But whatever nerves Coleman, 38, may have been feeling did little to dampen his ready wit and enthusiasm for the Bar, stand-up … and Bradford lorry drivers. The way Coleman tells it, he more or less stumbled into the law. “After studying English at university I didn’t know what I wanted to do. “I think I was drawn to the Bar because I thought all you had to do was go to court and talk, and I’d always been a real talker -� something of the joker when I was young. “But I’m very glad I did go into it �- you learn to be fantastically analytical and thorough. “You’ve got no choice, there are no other jobs where you have to contend with someone sitting next to you who is dedicated to nothing else than making you look like a complete banana.” Coleman quickly learnt that, as far as the law is concerned, comedy has its place �- and that’s often far from the courtroom. “I was cross-examining this incredibly unpleasant policeman, who admitted he’d incorrectly noted one digit of my client’s number plate. “In his defense, he said, ‘I’m only human.’ I just couldn’t resist ‘marking’ that item of information for the jury’s attention. “‘That, ladies and gentlemen, is a question for you to decide.’ Needless to say, the judge was less than best pleased.” Coleman did find room for humour as a lecturer at the Inns of Court School of Law. “I was one of the least well-informed of the staff but one of the most popular because I was funny. BREACH OF CONTRACT “In a way it was great practice for my career since. I always felt it was very difficult to make remedy for breach of contract a funny subject, and if you can do that….” Coleman gradually made inroads into radio and television comedy. With advice and encouragement from the likes of Clive Anderson and Ned Sherrin, soon he was an established writer for Spitting Image, Smith and Jones, and Clive Anderson Talks Back. Coleman first conceived of “Chambers” in 1991. He is keen to emphasize it is not entirely representative of the profession. “‘Chambers’ is comedy, of course �- just as most hoteliers aren’t like Basil Fawlty, unlike John Bird’s Fuller-Carp, most barristers are ethically extremely good. “‘Chambers’ is really just a fantasy that explores the workaday frustrations of the job.” Those viewers of “Chambers” who do not know the profession at first-hand may be under the impression that barristers are, as Coleman puts it, “… a bunch of grown-up schoolboys undermining one another”. Witness the following side of one barrister’s call to another — as Coleman tells it, typical of the Machiavellian manipulations to be found in “Chambers”: “Can you help me? I’ve just been reading through your stuff, and I was wondering just what your case is … oh, it is? I thought it was that, but then I thought, it just couldn’t be … something wrong? No, I’m sure it’s fine….” ADMONISHMENT Lawyers’ reactions to the Radio 4 version of “Chambers” have been extremely positive. “I’ve been expecting some kind of letter of admonishment from the Bar Council, but that hasn’t come �- yet! “I haven’t met anyone who’s wary of speaking to me now because of the programme �- instead it seems most are eager to see their anecdotes incorporated into the script.” In the unlikely event that “Chambers” should not transfer successfully to television, Coleman has a lucrative fall-back option: after-dinner speaking. “It’s stand-up in a smart suit.” As Coleman explains, the skills he uses as a performer are similar to those of the Bar. “They’re both often about ditching stuff �- whole parts of an argument depending on a judge’s response -� just like you might have to get rid of reams of material at a dinner if the audience is losing interest.” One early learning experience left its mark. “I’d just done a couple of dinners for lawyers, they’d gone fine -� I had forty minutes of good law humour. “Next I spoke to an audience of Bradford HGV drivers -� using the same stuff �- I just died. But that’s never happened since. “You must find out all you can about the audience you’re speaking to. If it’s about them you can guarantee people will be interested and laugh.” Who’d find it easier to swap professions: barristers or stand-up comedians? “They do both have to think on their feet. But the stand-up might be more adaptable. I can’t quite see George Carman working a northern working-men’s club. “Then again, Anthony Scrivener might manage it. Now there’s an interesting image….”

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 1 article* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.