Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Merry Festive

Apologies again for the sporadic nature of these entries. This is in part down to it being logistically difficult for me to post (in the interests of anonymity I have decided posting from an Inn computer is not sensible), also I have been a bit lazy.

The other contributory factor is simply that I do not have much to say. Each day is different and always interesting, but unfortunately does not provide material I can put on here. I am now half way through my first six, and currently enjoying a two week holiday. I really can't wait for my second six, because as much as I feel I get on with everyone in Chambers, I find the constant following others around and feeling like a bit of cling-on/mute is becoming a bit tiresome. I whole heartily feel that watching and observing others who are very good at what they do is the very best way of learning, but I don't always feel particularly useful. To start doing work in my own right, and show that I may have the potential to make some contribution will be welcome. However it's easy for me to be all confident now, I don't doubt that come April I will be yearning to simply follow others for the rest of my days!
As I've said, I think I get on with most people in Chambers. However there is no doubt that there are some strange personalities knocking about. There is one chap who won't even look at me, let alone actually embark on a conversation. Apparently he was the same with the last Pupil, he simply has a rule whereby he doesn't talk to (or look at) pupils. Weirdo! I shall try and keep you posted in relation to this as I feel sooner or later there will be some movement here which may prove interesting.

I have now managed to watch all 4 episodes of The Barristers. On balance I think the overall series was much better than the initial direness promised by episode one. Viewers not connected to the Bar should have a better understanding of what barristers are and do, and I think that was the point of the programme. However the pro-government, political broadcast like dealing with the changes to the criminal fee scheme was a bit much for me.
Hope you all have happy holidays.

Friday, 21 November 2008

The Barristers

I think it best to reserve full judgement on this until the series is complete, but so far I'm not impressed. I am not convinced the fly on the wall doc will do the profession any favours. The chap in Birmingham , I thought, came across as too aware of the cameras to give a normal account of what goes on, and resembled to some extent a wanna be on Britain's Got Talent. I also thought the students came across as a bit dense, I mean how hard can anyone find a disposable bbq to master? My understanding is that the aim of this series is to help in the understanding of the Bar, and dispel beliefs that its a profession still stuck in the dark ages and full of fat cats making lots of money. I'm not entirely sure that this can ever be achieved with extended footage of an Inn of Court, complete with lots of banging of sticks, eating lavish dinners, standing up and toasting of the Queen and Domas. The write up on the telly page of this mornings Metro summarised tonight's programme as following students in their quest for a "training contract"! I think this in itself illustrates how the point may have been missed.
In all fairness those who took part in the programme were very brave to put themselves on the line, and be opened up for the likes of me to criticise. I know I would never have done it. I will be interested to see how things pan out in the remaining episodes, and who succeeds.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

The Honeymoon is Over

I have now completed 4 weeks, and am really enjoying it. So far my days have consisted of pitching up at whichever court promises to be the most interesting that day, finding the barrister I'm to follow and taking notes during conferences and court. After the court day ends I head back to Chambers in order to make myself available to whoever wants me to read through stuff and note down the main points, type up work or carry out some photocopying. All in all it has not been particularly demanding, and has been a gentle introduction to life at the Bar. This however is all set to change -my Pupilmistress has now fully taken me under her wing!
My PM is lovely [if a little demanding], and I have no doubt that she will teach me very well. She is extremely thorough and very knowledgeable. Also, it makes such a difference for me to be able to read the papers and get a clear picture of what the case is about. This weekend, for the first time, I have been set some research homework, which I better go and do.
One thing that has struck me very clearly since starting is the concern all independent practitioners have about the future of the Bar, particularly within the field of crime. We are all aware of the changes in the pay scheme for such work, but I for one was unaware of the gravity of the situation. Most criminal matters I have watched have had at least one Higher Court Advocate conducting it, rather than instructed counsel. It appears to me that the reality is a fused profession, even if, allegedly, that was never the intention. This is causing a severe lack of work at the most junior end of the bar, and it seems that this dismal state of affairs will continue for the foreseeable future. It is not the best time to be joining the profession, and I fear this will count against me when the time comes for my tenancy application to be considered. My plan though, if at all possible, is to develop a truly mixed practice and hope luck is on my side.
No doubt most of you will be aware that the documentary entitled "The Barristers" starts at 9pm on Friday on BBC2. I am looking forward to it.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Everything's ok

I have now completed 2 weeks, and on the whole, it's going well. My Pupil Mistress is away at the moment, so I have been following lots of different Tenants around. I think until my PM returns, it will feel a bit mini-pupillage like and I'm really looking forward to getting stuck in properly. Everyone at Chambers seems really friendly and easy to get on with, and although the whole experience is effectively a year long job interview, I think its going to be an enjoyable and fulfilling year.

Also I am pleased to report that I am absolutely loving London. The place is so vibrant and interesting. I thought I'd be overawed by the vastness, but I find it fascinating. The other evening I went to the theatre after work. It's so nice to just wonder round to Covent Garden, instead of the 4 or 5 hour bus or train journey I would normally have to contend with. The only problem I have had is finding the Courts from the tube!

I know this post is pitifully short, I will post again as soon as I can.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Nerves and Concerns

Apologies for the gap between posts. I have been busying myself with the “To do” list below, and have just returned from the most enjoyable holiday. I am now just about sorted, save for a bit of catch-up reading and packing. However the nerves and paranoia are setting in.

For the last 14 months I have wallowed in the blissful feeling of relief at having secured pupillage. I have been living an idyllic existence deep in the countryside, back with the ‘rents. My time has been spent saving money for the afore mentioned holiday, as well as the move to London. I've had an eclectic range of part-time jobs, which included riding horses, data admin and bar work. Spending a year without having to think constantly about applications, CV enhancing and my own self-worth has done me the world of good. However, I feel this may be the calm before the storm, and the lack of anything to worry about has afforded me much time to consider what lies ahead. Here are a few of the concerns I have thought of so far...

I turn up to the place I had my interview, only to find it completely empty. Enquiries reveal no Chambers ever existed at that spot - and the whole interview process was just an elaborate joke.

I turn up on my first day, only to be greeted by those that interviewed me with a surprised look and an, “oh, we made the offer to you - I think there must have been a mix up.”

I make a total idiot of myself by doing any or all of the following… fall over, spill coffee, laugh at an inappropriate time, not be able to answer the simplest of questions.

That I will not be able to recall any legal knowledge whatsoever.

That I get taken out for a welcome drink, manage to get absolutely hammered on half a shandy and vomit over my Pupil Master.

That my Pupil Master and I don’t get along.

That I am totally crap for the whole year, resulting in me being thrown out on my ear, and the mere thought of offering me tenancy is a standard joke within Chambers.

I am also slightly overwhelmed at the prospect of living in London. I went to university in a large city, but somehow I doubt it will be the same. Having spent the last year and most of my life living in the middle of nowhere, a place where seeing anything remotely urban, such as car, is worthy of note and newcomers remain so for about 30 years, the contrast will be stark. I fear dealing with the daily rush hour alone may cause me to have a stroke.

I realise that I am starting to sound rather feeble. This I am not, and despite the above I am looking forward to all the change and challenges. Next time I post it will be as a pupil, however if you’ve not heard from me by the end of October it may be because one of the above has befallen me!

Finally I was saddened to find Lawminx has disappeared. I very much enjoyed her posts, and wish her good luck. Best wishes too to all those battling again with Olpas and others about to commence Pupillage.


Thursday, 7 August 2008

Counting Down to "P" Day

I have roughly two months before the start of pupillage, and quite a lot to do before then. The slight urgency of the situation is added to by the fact I am on holiday for most of September. As a good old procrastination tactic I thought I’d write a “To Do” list, and put it on here for any pointers. So, in no particular order I must -

  • Get my hair cut
  • Buy a new suit
  • Find somewhere to live in London [any thoughts on where’s cheap, and in reasonable proximity to the centre would be gratefully received]
  • Call Chambers, ask if they remember me and exactly what date I start
  • Register my pupillage
  • Re-learn all I’m meant to know about Criminal, Family and Civil law [this may not take as long as it ought]
  • Read the book “Eats, shoots and leaves"
  • Buy a new pencil case

That list looks shorter in writing than it does in my head. No doubt more things will occur to me in due course. If anyone can think of anything I’ve forgotten, please let me know!


Tuesday, 29 July 2008

So Far, So Good (just)

Here is the briefest of summaries of how I got to this stage. My strap line of being lucky and slipping through the net is not meant to be self-depreciating or modest, but is simply true. Most are familiar with the stereotypical pupil – early to mid 20’s, straight A student, Oxbridge (or other top uni) graduate, scholarship awards, mooting prizes, amazing pro-bono experience – the list goes on. I think everyone is agreed that those with such CV’s get more of a look in when it comes to interviews, and quite rightly so. Such credentials do not come easily, and the Bar needs bright and hard working types if it is to remain. However there are candidates who are not able to tick all the above boxes, but nevertheless would be just as good, or better. It seems these candidates, of which I am one, need more luck to get through the door simply for an interview.

Now in my mid 20’s, I was never top of the class at school, leaving with mediocre (at best) A-levels. I attended an ex-poly in the Midlands where I managed to get the regulation 2.1 to go onto Bar School (I realise that a 2.1 is not a requirement, but I wouldn’t have bothered with a 2.2). I did the BVC in the provinces and got a VC, after having to retake civil lit. I am not a holder of an Inn scholarship. As for extra-curricula stuff, I did do a fair bit of mooting, and have hands on experience having worked as a Legal Assistant in a high street firm for a year.

Over an 18 month period, I completed three rounds of Olpas, and made independent applications to any chambers offering pupillage, as well as some that weren’t. I don’t have a record of how many applications I made, but a guess would be well in excess of 100. This yielded a total of 2 interviews. Fortunately one was successful, at a common law set in London. Why did those two chambers decide to interview me when so many others had not? I can only put it down to luck, as nothing else had changed. In my opinion (not that I’ve yet asked anyone on a pupillage committee) once you get to an interview you’re 90% there, as the slate is wiped clean and CV’s thrown out the window, leaving a reasonably level battleground for those still standing.

So, for anyone interested, that’s how it happened for me. I shall keep you posted as to what happens from here.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Well here goes!

Over the last year or so I have been endlessly fascinated by the numerous blogs concerning BVC and pupillage. As someone about to start pupillage I hope to tentatively dip my toe into this somewhat strange world and create a blog of my own. I note from other more learned bloggers that there is perhaps an opening within the "being a pupil" subject. Although aware of the demise of others like me and their blogs, my aim is to try and post regularly and give a true and balanced account of my route to this stage, and beyond.

I need to get the hang of this blogging and posting business, so I shall post again soon.