What I wish I knew...

What I wish I knew...

Senior Crown Prosecutor MARK TEDESCHI offers some words of wisdom after a soggy start to his career.



I had been at the Bar for only about a month when I finally mustered up the courage to venture into the Bar Association common room. It was billed as being a place where one could sidle up to more senior counsel, ingratiate oneself with them, and make useful contacts that might lead to briefs.

The whole idea seemed quite terrifying and rather archaic.

I ordered myself a safe lemon, lime and bitters and sat down at one of the long, deep lounges – the type that you need all four limbs to extract yourself from. I had barely taken a sip when I spied the then Chief Justice, Sir Lawrence Street, sauntering into the common room. He got himself a cup of tea, turned around, and scanned the few members then in the room.

Unbeknown to me, he had a policy of sitting next to the youngest looking barrister in the room. On that day, that was me.

To my horror, he walked right up, sat down next to me and began to chat. I was overcome with anxiety and self-consciousness. As he began to talk, he transferred his cup and saucer from his right hand into his left hand. At exactly the same moment, in an act of instinctive defensiveness, I raised my left leg to fold it over my right. Of course, the obvious happened – my right shoe came into collision with the Chief Justice’s cup of tea, spilling most of it.

I wanted the earth to swallow me up. Surely, I thought, this is the end of my momentary legal career. If ever I needed a sign that I was unsuited to practise at the bar, this was surely it.

The Chief Justice was exemplary in his reaction, immediately excusing my clumsiness and seeking to put me at ease, but nothing could overcome my acute embarrassment. How could I ever practice as a barrister of the Supreme Court of NSW when, at my first meeting with the Chief Justice of that court, I had managed to kick his teacup? Talk about kick starting my career – not!

What I wish I had known at that time is this:

1. It is not necessary, in order to succeed as a practising lawyer, to rub shoulders with the bigwigs at the big end of town.

2. There are many, varied aspects of professional practice in the law, and it are important to find the right niche of the law where you feel comfortable and competent.

3. Even Chief Justices can be understanding (at times).

About the author

Mark Tedeschi AM QC recently chalked up 20 years as the NSW Senior Crown Prosecutor. He is the author of several books including Murder at Myall Creek.