A CONFERENCE WITH SENIOR COUNSEL
The next morning Ben, Dylan, Jacob and Wai attended Pilgrim Chambers for their first conference with Mr. Richard Yap Q.C. Jacob and Wai had enjoyed one previous conference with Mr. Yap through the previous solicitors, and both they and clients had every confidence in him. His secretary Rita led them to his room.
“Hello Jacob, Wai, nice to see you again. Ah, you must be Ben McCann, the plump one.” He laughed merrily. “And so you must be Mr. Roberts. Glad to meet you both.”
Ben grunted. He had been trying to lose weight. Dylan grinned. He liked him already.
“Sit down, please”, said Yap. “Drinks anyone?” The ordered their tea and coffee and started the conference. Any worries that Ben and Dylan may have had were soon allayed by Yap’s total command of the case. They discussed the Chinese customary law aspect at length, which had both Ben and Dylan completely at sea.
“I want to warn all of you – I have said this to Jacob and Wai previously – that this will not be an easy case to win. We have to show not only that the Tang Clan’s ancestors built the temple – a far from easy task - we also have to demonstrate that they didn’t sell the thing in the 1920’s. We are in possession of a document that tends to show that is the case. Yes, I know, Jacob, we have our own interpretation of that document. There is also the evidence that the managers of the Kun since the sixties have been non- Tangs. Again, we have our explanation. I know, however, having discussed the case with the representatives of the Clan at length, that they will never be happy until they have their day in court. I have also warned them as to the costs consequences. The costs of the action will be huge. If we lose, the Clan will have to pay the Government’s bill. It will no doubt run into millions.”
Ben nodded. Both he and Dylan had explained this to the representatives at length in one of their meetings.
“They are aware of this, Mr. Yap, and they are prepared to proceed”, said Dylan.
“Fine”, said Yap. He sighed. He really did not want to take the case, but the clients had virtually begged him. He did not need the money, he was one of the richest Counsels in Hong Kong, and could charge exorbitant fees. He was giving the Clan a slight discount on his usual fees, but did not want them to know that. Yap was nearly six feet tall, with film star looks, and cut an imposing figure.
“What about the Government Counsel, Mr. Yap? Who do they have?” asked Dylan.
“That is perhaps one small advantage we do have, Mr. Roberts. The Government are instructing Mr. Ronnie Yuen, also of these chambers. I must say, with all due modesty, that I have never lost a case to Ronnie, and he knows it.”
“Excellent!” exclaimed Ben. He knew Yuen from old and didn’t rate him. At least it was one piece of good news.
“I think I have all the relevant facts, I can complete the Amended Statement of Claim within a week. May I ask you to proceed quickly and make a draft list of our documents for my perusal. Our case could stand or fall on the documents produced.”
The conference ended. They were shown out by Rita, and went for a coffee downstairs.
“I like him”, said Dylan, lighting a cigarette.
“Yes, so do we,” said Wai, “and more importantly so do clients. We’ll get a cheque to you by the end of the week to pay Mr. Yap’s fees for drafting the pleading, and this conference”. Ben and Dylan were impressed. They were as good as their word. A cheque arrived on Friday to cover Mr. Yap’s fees, with a little for the firm. It was a good start.
“It’s looking good”, said Ben as Dylan demolished his second pint in Joe Bananas early Friday evening.
“Well, you can never be too careful”, said Dylan. “I can see us going bankrupt over this case. One good thing, you might lose weight with all the worry.”
“Very funny”, grunted Ben. People were forever remaking upon his waistline. He admitted though it was getting out of control. He always felt better when Big Bob was in the bar, who was even bigger than Ben. Bob was standing at the end of the bar as usual, trying to catch a glimpse into the ladies toilets.
“Fancy a pint, Bob?” shouted Ben.
“Sure thing, cheers”. Ramos pulled the pint of lager and put it in front of Bob.
“Cheers, mateys”, said Bob and proceeded to knock it back in about three seconds. It always astonished Ben how he could do this. Ben enjoyed Friday nights, it was like England, a bit of a laugh. Happy hour finished at 10.00pm, by which time Ben would be nearly comatose. Others would be getting ready to party on, Ben would be ready to pack in. Must be getting on a bit, he thought. The next day Bob would call to tell him whether any of the lads had picked up a hooker. It was unheard of for any of them to pick up a normal girl, too much like hard work. This Friday was like any other, and Ben was in a taxi speeding on the highway to North Point at about 10.30pm. Like every Friday when he was drunk in the taxi, he called his parents back home in England on his mobile.
“Hello, it’s me”
“Ben.....Ted, it’s Ben,” shouted his mother, as usual. “ How are you? Lost any weight yet?”
“Trying hard, mother.”
“Eee, you should try, you were bonny as a young lad.” Ben heard this every week.
“How is everyone?” he said. “We’re alright. How’s the firm going?”
“Oh, making lots of money as usual. We’ll be millionaires next year.”
“Eee, I worry about you, you know. I hope you can afford to keep sending us the money, it’s very good of you.”
“Don’t be silly.” Ben sent a monthly sum to his parents as they were both retired and they found it hard to make ends meet. To tell the truth, Ben could barely afford this, but he couldn’t tell his parents that. “Anyway, I’ll call next week, I’m nearly home. Just called to say hello.”
“Alright pet, take care. Bye!”
The taxi pulled into Tanner Garden. Ben paid the fare. He took the lift to his flat on the 25th floor. The flat of course was empty. It was also tidy, obviously Amy the amah had been in today. Ben put Joy Division on at a loud level and collapsed on the bed. He considered making some supper, but could not be bothered to move. He was soon dreaming, of temples, monasteries and abbots.