A new dating app for hard-working lawyers was launched last week. Designed to ‘do the heavy lifting’ of match-making, Lawyr is open not only to those who work in the law, but to singles of any profession who fancy bagging a legal eagle.
And what woman wouldn’t want to do that, right? Lawyers are known to be charismatic, fiercely intelligent, with a strong sense of justice and loaded to boot — so surely a life alongside one would spell romance, security and sublime comfort?
Well, not quite. I’ll give you a typical example of the reality from my own 22-year marriage (a very happy one, I must add) to a barrister.
We once went on a lovely break to Cornwall, for what was supposed to be five days of re-bonding.
Two days in, we woke up and my husband asked, with a fairly shifty expression on his face, if I could drive him to Bodmin train station. A case had reached a ‘crucial’ stage in court and he had to go back to London.
Dating app Lawyr, designed to help lawyers find love, launched last week. But Dawn Bébe has shed light on what a 22-year marriage to a barrister is really like (stock image)
Marry a lawyer, like I did, and get used to such disrupted holidays, see-saw moods and lots of time alone.
I first locked eyes on my super-cute brief over a library table at university 30 years ago. A few years later, after he had jumped all the academic hurdles and eaten enough dinners at Temple, he was called to the Bar. Today he is an in-demand criminal defence barrister, whose dedication to the job knows few bounds.
Early on there were clues that this might be a three-way relationship between me, him and the law. Frankly, I became more familiar with the judicial system than any girlfriend needs to be.
Over romantic dinners, I was frequently used as a sounding-board — a pretend jury, if you like — as he weighed up the merits of each argument he intended to use. It all seemed pretty exciting back then.
As a young couple we both launched ourselves into our careers (mine in journalism), and I quickly learned what they don’t tell you in all those high-budget, glamorous courtroom dramas on TV.
That the day-to-day reality of the law is more likely to be a 5am red eye to Wolverhampton Crown Court than a picturesque walk from wood-panelled chambers to the Old Bailey.
That for a young barrister, a day’s work is spent less with eminent colleagues debating the finer points of law and more with low-rent criminals in trying to keep them out of jail.
With no let-up either. More often than not, my lovely new boyfriend would be up till midnight working on his defence for the next case’s tight deadline.
And there was no big pay cheque either. My husband’s first case paid him the princely sum of £150, 18 months in arrears. And this pretty much set the course for the next ten years.
While his corporate lawyer colleagues shook hands on deals at The Ivy and zoomed around town in their Porsches, my husband was to be found struggling onto the Tube with his wheelie bag of papers and a packed lunch.
As we both moved up the career ladder, however, he began to work on bigger cases — where the defendants were bigger Mr Bigs.
Over romantic dinners I’d end up being a pretend jury
The better you are at it, the more hardened the criminal you get. This can feel quite hairy at times.
A month before our wedding in 1998, when I was a bright young thing working as the editor of New Woman magazine, my fiancé called me urgently and asked my PA to interrupt my meeting.
Breathless, he told me that the London courtroom he was in had been attacked by Islamic fundamentalists and he was barricaded in a room with the judge.
As I gasped in dismay, imagining my white wedding going down the tubes, he said thoughtfully: ‘So look, I’m going to be in here for a couple of hours. Shall I do some wedding jobs? I could book the coach for the guests?’
His pragmatism was characteristic and very lawyerly. At home he’s the same. No longer do we legal spouses style ourselves on Rumpole’s wife Hilda.
Nowadays we negotiate, and while my husband is much better at this than me, he is ultimately looking for fairness, as most lawyers are.
Domestically, despite his tendency to hole himself up in his study at nights to beat deadlines, everything else is split evenly.
As for time away from work, after the Cornwall fiasco — and pre-Covid — I took to insisting on a holiday abroad, as far away as feasible. The hassle of finding an easyJet flight back to England stops a lawyer from bolting except in extreme circumstances.
Not that booking in advance is ever an option. We really do rely on lastminute.com for everything.
Cases drop into the ‘warned list’ — the court diary — suddenly, and bang, there go all our plans. Or sometimes, he’ll get into his stride in court and a three-day trial will turn into three weeks.
And don’t talk to me about childbirth. The morning my waters broke, I was horrified when he said he ‘just needed to go to court’ and I should ‘give him a call’ when it was close.
As I stood clinging onto the kitchen worktop in agony, my sister texted every few minutes to tell him how far apart the contractions were. Finally she texted: ‘Get back here NOW! It’s coming!!!’
Despite being happy in her marriage, she explained that she has a three-way relationship with her husband and the law (stock image)
My husband stood up and said: ‘Y’r honour, my wife is giving birth, I need to go home.’ Her honour looked over her glasses and said: ‘Sir, it’s your wife that’s giving birth, not you, now sit down and finish the case!’ How we made it to hospital in time is still beyond me.
Very little is predictable about the life of a barrister, except perhaps his moods. If he wins a case, hurrah! He’s David Beckham holding aloft the FA Cup. But if he loses he’s a supergrump for a day and we know to give him space.
There are pluses. If you marry a lawyer, you’ll find yourself in demand at dinner parties — when he’s got the time to go to them. And, yes, my husband is a fount of incredible true crime stories, which everyone loves to hear. The trouble is, I’ve heard them many, many times before.
I can almost predict the exact point at which, at any given dinner, all eyes will turn to him and someone will ask: ‘So what do you do when you’re defending someone you know is guilty?’
Here we go again… an hour of the same old debates.
Having a lawyer in the house isn’t all bad. They’re fantastic disciplinarians and he’s brilliant at teaching our 11- and 16-year-old how to argue their case.
Plus, being married to a lawyer during lockdown has also had its more comedic moments.
It’s been quite a shock for the village where we now live in Cornwall to see my husband in his wig and gown, staring into his Apple Mac fighting the good fight.
It’s certainly been hard for him to stick to his defence when he’s got the binman waving at him through the window.
So are lawyers easy to love?
In my case, despite it all, of course. His mind, his wit and his unshakable sense of right and wrong — I can put up with any amount of late nights for those.
In their own minds, lawyers are always hugely entertaining and never a bore, and that super-confidence is fun to live with.
So yes find a lawyer, and marry him if you really like him. But do take a hint from that dating app. If he’s too busy to arrange his own dates without a digital nudge from Lawyr, he’ll be too busy for a life of endless, romantic, joined-at-the-hip coupledom.
That suits me fine, but it’s not for us all.