Access Denied: Infiltrating the bar

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  • Your modesty alone should guarantee you an easy ride.

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  • "I find it difficult to pinpoint anything that is designed to facilitate the career of an intelligent and capable woman who has chosen to have children first" - that is absolutely correct and I'm not sure why the Bar is singled out for complaint.
    Unfortunately, the same thing may be said about many other lines of work. Are law firms really that much better on this front? Your own experience with application forms for vacation schemes at would suggest not. I imagine the same point applies to banks and accountancy firms. It certainly applies to advertising firms, TV production companies and TV channels.
    All of this is unlikely to change any time in the near future, not least because the women (and men) you refer to are very much in the minority.
    But it's not immediately clear to me why the path to a career at the Bar ought to be designed to facilitate the position of women (or men) who decide to have children first.
    Is it not the case that the price you pay for having seen more of your children at an earlier age than many barristers or "big law firm" lawyers do is that the fact that you have children (and, for example, childcare commitments) means that you are not in as good a position to compete for places? I'm not sure it's fair to blame anyone for that - it's simply a predictable side-effect of the choices you made (for which I applaud you - this is not to criticise).
    Good luck with your search for a career at the Bar from a barrister who was neither parentally-funded nor who wielded internships when applying for pupillage.

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  • You can study the BPTC part-time in many places and combine it with a full- or part-time job. It's not easy, but it's doable (particularly if you have a supportive partner).
    Also, the author doesn't say what she was doing before going to university at 29. If it was "just" staying home and having kids, that's a profile that's going to be off-putting to most graduate employers, not just the bar. If there was work experience there, the trick is to show how some of it was transferrable to the Bar e.g. dealing with members of the public/customer service, problem solving etc. It's not easy, but you need to sell yourself as someone they want to take on.

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  • I don't understand. If you always wanted to be a barrister why did you not obtain excellent A levels. I read law at 17, a year young. I graduated at 20. I worked in the City. I had 2 weeks to have each baby. I was qualified as a solicitor at 23. You chose a route that no one with sense or ability to read the internet would ever choose and then complain the route did not work. Why choose that wrong route?

    I am Northern. I had 3 babies by age of 26. I made my way pretty well. However I made the right choices and you made the wrong ones.

    We want the bset people to get into the best law firms and barrister chambers, not those who made the wrong choices early on. We need the bright ones. Not the ones who make obvious mistakes.

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  • If you can't even manage to apply pupillage due to your family commitments, how on earth do you think you'll cope when you're practising as a barrister.

    If you're good enough you'll get an Inn scholarship and won't have to pay for the BPTC, which you can do part time.

    Your real problem is the chip on your shoulder.

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  • The Anonymous woman who comments that she does not understand, above, neatly exhibits why everyone should be outraged by the Bar and what goes on there interminably.
    The article is written objectively with insight. The Anonymous comment comes from a point of evident blinkered ignorance - NOT the sort of person anyone should want, or ever find, representing them in law anywhere. No doubt she's taking home a couple of hundred grand a year for making poor quality representations in a self satisfied, totally self confirming and congratulatory way; and feeling great and good for being mediocre. There is little justice in law unless you are exceptionally well off in this country. Perhaps this is the way it is all over the world.
    Just because it's the way it is doesn't mean the status quo should not be attacked.
    When you are not part of the legal edifice the law seems very different to those of you who are immured in its nuance, complexity and often down right utter English class ridden goobledigook. M'Lud.
    The law is an ass, most particularly often when the brains behind it are those of blinkered asses.
    This is the view of a totally legally uneducated lay person who's been in court quite often and paid £thousands to be poorly represented by suits with big brains who simply appear incapable of listening, noting and inwardly digesting their brief because they are too busy having a conversation with themselves about how brilliant they are.
    Oh yes. There are a lot of hangovers around too.

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  • Brilliant. There goes another anonymous barrister with their own chip on THEIR shoulder.

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  • "I don't understand. If you always wanted to be a barrister why did you not obtain excellent A levels. I read law at 17, a year young. I graduated at 20. I worked in the City. I had 2 weeks to have each baby. I was qualified as a solicitor at 23. You chose a route that no one with sense or ability to read the internet would ever choose and then complain the route did not work. Why choose that wrong route?
    I am Northern. I had 3 babies by age of 26. I made my way pretty well. However I made the right choices and you made the wrong ones.
    We want the bset people to get into the best law firms and barrister chambers, not those who made the wrong choices early on. We need the bright ones. Not the ones who make obvious mistakes."
    What a pity that the anonymous author of the above comment appears unable to apply her superior ability to gaining an understanding of the basic principle that everyone is different and not all in society have the opportunity or ability to undertake what they might wish to do at any given time.
    I am quite appalled that someone who must be educated to a reasonable standard can be so blinkered and apparently lacking in moral fibre.
    I have also qualified as a solicitor. I qualified at the age of 37 and with 2 kids in tow. Does this make me less able than Ms Anonymous? No it doesn't (I won a scholarship based on excellence so am clearly capable). I also have masses of life experience which is to the benefit of my employer and my clients...some may even dare to suggest that this is far more appealing than employing someone fresh out of university at 20 something years old with no clue about what goes on in the real world.
    I hope that the article's author chooses to continue, she will be an asset to the profession.

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  • Forgive me but I think that some of the post here are a bit condascending. Everybody's circumstances are different and I can completely understand the author of this article. My own story is that during the second year of my law degree both my mother and I lost our jobs, my father took a stroke and I had to care for him, due to the financial strain I almost had to drop out of university and then my grandfather died and I became ill on top of it all. Small blip in my second year results but I did go on to achieve a very strong 2:1 and have 4 years legal experience behind me and graduated debt free in the end. I hope that none of the posters have to deal with stressful times given the attitudes of some.

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  • At top Chancery sets, over 90% of tenants (certainly at the junior end) went to independent schools. Polo clubs are more meritocratic and diverse than some parts of the Bar.

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  • Keep at it. Life deals us all a different set of cards. What will happen in the end will be what was right for you. I got a scholarship and that is the only reason I am doing the BPTC now. I had straight As at A Level but then life intervened and my mum died when I was 18.\Don't let people who oversimplify the whole thing. Your points are valid. It is a struggle but don't give up!

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  • I think it's not the principle of the piece, but the tone which grates. It's not just the bar, but every single workplace which discriminates against anyone who cannot give "100% commitment" (I put this in speech marks as I have found what exactly constitutes 100% commitment varies between workplaces; generally though it involves having NOTHING which acts as a bar to your working every hour God sends).
    The bar is one of those workplaces where 100% commitment means being able to drop everything in an instant to work all night because a piece of new work has come in. That this requirement makes it impossible for you to become a barrister is not because of some white male middle class conspiracy against you, but because you as a barrister are self-employed, and if you don't agree to do the work, then someone else will. If you don't do enough of the work, then you won't have the experience which means that you build your reputation as a self-employed expert on the law.
    Surely the poster realised that? It doesn't matter how brililant you are, if you have to go home at 6pm to pick the kids up, and a chambers knows that, why would they pick you as a junior, when the chambers next door with the junior without kids can stay as long as it takes to do the job which will keep the clients happy and coming back to the same chambers?
    Unfortunately, if you had children young, there are many professions and opportunities that you gave up when you made that choice. That is life. No point typing tirades against the profession when the only person responsible for you not being a barrister is you, and you did that yourself with own life choices.

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  • t is so unfortunate that the legal profession continues to place barriers in the way of diversity. As a Northern girl from a working class background, I have always felt out of place at the law firms and chambers that I have visited.
    Even having recently secured a Training Contract, I still need to find the funds to pay for the extortionate LPC (let alone my rent and bills)! I do wonder how much easier things could have been had my social and financial background been different.

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  • Anonymous | 25-Oct-2011 4:03 pm - you've nailed it.

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  • Anonymous of 4.45 p.m. 24/10 is right. The Bar demands total commitment, and it is not the fault of those who choose pupils and tenants that a woman with three children will have a harder time with that than a man with three children. We all know about being given a brief at 4.00 because X has gone part-heard, be at Blanktown by 9.30 a.m., please, and master the papers before then, because nobody gives a damn about your private life, and that includes the client and the female judge with children of her own!

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  • Do something slightly different like conveyancing initially, the volume firms are always recruiting and train people from scratch, you may even like it, !
    Do the Bar course* part time at the same time.
    At the end you will have good practical experience to put into practice, as suing Lawyers is a growing trend.
    Alternatively qualify as a Licensed Conveyancer the volume firm may even assist you with the funding.
    Just a thought as you will not be the last Barrister that has gone down this route.

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  • As someone who came to the Bar late I have every sympathy for the author, but I think she might be giving up on her aspirations unnessecarily.
    Although it is very true that you do need more than good grades these days and all sets are looking for something extraordinary, by studying law and taking the Bar Course whilst at the same time caring for three kids, the author would arguably have something special to put in pupillage apps.
    After all, managing academic commitments whilst raising a family is mean feat and there are plenty of transferable skills - time management, multitasking etc.
    I agree that the legal profession is an intimidating place for someone who is young, well-connected and privately educated but there is no sense abandoning a long-cherished dream just because it is difficult.

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  • The world of work doesn't owe you and your life choices anything. If you wanted to be a barrister so much, why did you - by having 3 kids first - put yourself in a position where you "can't afford" to go through the necessary training?
    I too wanted to be a barrister from about the age of 7. I worked hard, got a degree from Cambridge (2.1), but as life turned out, I had my kids early and the legal career had to wait. Unfortunately by the time I was 30, I was a single parent to 2 pre-school kids, but this revived my career ambitions and I went to law school.
    It was immediately apparent to me that with 2 children to support I would not be able to take the risk of pursuing a career at the bar, with all the financial uncertainty involved in the training and early years. Instead of railing against the "injustice" of this, I accepted that my own life choices had put me in that position, and did the next best thing of getting a training contract and qualifying as a solicitor. I would still love to be a barrister and often have "what if" moments, but that aspiration simply couldn't be accommodated within the other responsibilities I had taken on through my own choices.
    I love my job (most of the time) and consider myself fortunate to be in the position I'm in. Why not focus on what you can do, given the family commitments you've chosen to take on, instead of whining about what you can't achieve?

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  • have great sympathy with the author and would like to offer some comfort, though it is little. I also aspired to being a barrister and, having started work at 18 without going to university, I did my law degree part time whilst in full time employment. I also did my masters degree and Bar course part time so that I could continue full time work. When it came to pupillage I naively thought I would have a good chance of success with a good academic background. My full time work as Legal Director for a multi-million pound company would also surely make me stand out from the rest ... Unfortunately not, not even an interview!
    However, I never regretted doing the Bar course and I use the skills and knowledge everyday at work. I even represent my company in court on occasions as its director rather than its Counsel. Perhaps the Bar will change and become diverse one day; we can only hope this occurs before the profession is subsumed by solicitors. I was once told that the easiest way to become a barrister was to become a solicitor first!

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  • "I don't understand. If you always wanted to be a barrister why did you not obtain excellent A levels. I read law at 17, a year young. I graduated at 20. I worked in the City. I had 2 weeks to have each baby. I was qualified as a solicitor at 23. You chose a route that no one with sense or ability to read the internet would ever choose and then complain the route did not work. Why choose that wrong route?"
    To anonymous - As a managing partner in an international law firm - with that lack of understanding, objectivity and broadmindedness I would not want you anywhere near my clients.

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