In speaking about Roderick Murray, the barrister whose court antics on Monday made headlines across town and beyond, Bar Association chairman Edward Chan King-sang said that members of the professional body were concerned about Mr Murray and ready to extend their help. This is where the priority has to be, even as the Bar Association considers whether he should face any action related to breaches of its code of conduct. Beyond that, it might have been advisable for Mr Chan to say a little less than he did about the right of lawyers to have a drink or two before appearing in court. Besides reminding them that alcohol should not be allowed to hinder their work performance or cause them to breach codes of conduct, he also suggested that some are better barristers for being under the influence. The last part, including the reference to an unnamed but well-known barrister who later became a judge - 'some people say he performed much better after drinking' - was at best inadvisable and at worst, irresponsible. It would be difficult to imagine the head of any medical association saying the same thing about alcohol and the practice of medicine. No teachers' union official would get away with it either. These are vastly different professions, but all are professions nonetheless. In a place like Hong Kong, and especially for members of white collar professions, the lunch break might sometimes happen to include alcohol. But it would have sufficed to suggest moderation and caution and to ask Bar members to exercise judgment. To go as far as he has, Mr Chan implies several things. First, that the codes of decorum expected in any profession are more flexible for barristers and that they might be entitled to the occasional boozy afternoon at work - even if within certain limits. Second, that those who work with them or rely upon them for advice and representation should make allowances. And third, that alcohol use need not be taken seriously if, again, it is within certain limits. We do not doubt Mr Chan's good intentions where Mr Murray is concerned, but we do think there are troubling elements to his comments. As for the late barrister-turned-judge to whom he referred, some of his colleagues from the legal community might say that his effectiveness while under the influence was highly debatable. Under the norms of decades past, such behaviour might have been considered unremarkable and it is not clear whether anyone intervened to help him. In the present case of Mr Murray, many in the community have expressed concern about his welfare. He should be offered all the support he needs. Meanwhile, characterising similar conduct as a quirk of the profession does not help Mr Murray, others in his situation or those around them.