29 March 2011
Training can seem prohibitively expensive but funding is more available than you think. Inns of Court provide scholarships. Some chambers offer part of your pupillage award a year in advance.
Chambers: Blackstone Chambers
Position: Pupil barrister
Degree: BA, Law with Legal Studies in Europe (France); BCL
Where did you study the GDL and/or the BVC? BPP Law School
Hobbies: Eating out, theatre, concerts
Why did you decide to train as a barrister? I didn’t intend to practise law when I started my degree but thought it would be an interesting step towards a job in international relations. Turns out I really love law. I considered staying in academia but thought the bar would provide a good mix of continuing to think about how law develops, using it to solve practical problems and advocacy. The balance has turned out to be just right.
Why did you choose commercial law? It provides the chance to become immersed in a different part of business life for nearly every case. But as a pupil at Blackstone I have had a varied diet encompassing public law, employment law, media and entertainment law, European law and sports law.
What has been the highlight of your pupillage so far? First, going to the European Court of Justice on a case about whether the UK should be able to watch the World Cup on free TV. Second, a conference with the manager of a band in the middle of a rather public falling-out. Third, London buses covered in adverts for a film that was the subject of a case I worked on. I could go on but I’ve already given two examples too many.
What does your typical day involve? Nothing is truly typical except the working hours, which are reasonable during pupillage. It’s usually 8.30am to 6.30pm. If I’m at my desk I’ll be drafting a pleading or writing a skeleton argument or opinion. The subject matter varies dramatically. Then there might be a meeting with clients. As for court, I could be there for a few days as part of a long-awaited trial or end up there at short notice after lunch when a client needs an emergency injunction. And, of course, court could be in London, Leeds or Luxembourg.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job? Thinking of interesting ways to use law to get a desired outcome, building an argument or trying to destroy one that seems watertight. Also, having to properly understand a client’s business to give useful advice. And I like the collegiate aspect of chambers - if you have a stumper of a question, someone will know the answer and their door will be open.
What are the worst aspects of your job? It doesn’t move at a regular pace. Some days tick by steadily. Others, just before trial or when multiple cases need immediate attention, can be manic.
What’s the biggest misconception of the legal profession? The bar has a reputation of being stuffy and unfriendly, which has not been my experience.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in law? Training can seem prohibitively expensive but funding is more available than you think. Inns of Court provide scholarships. Some chambers offer part of your pupillage award a year in advance.
What are the biggest pitfalls students should try to avoid when pursuing a legal career? Missing application deadlines - they are often much earlier than you expect. It sounds obvious, but I have friends who are now filling unwanted gap years.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to secure a pupillage? Exhaustion. Mini-pupillages have become a standard part of the application process. They are a great way to get to know what a chambers is like, but after six back-to-back in exam season I was shattered. So don’t do what I did - get them under your belt early and space them out.
What are the common attributes of successful candidates? Eagerness to learn and the ability to do so quickly, commitment and the ability to work with others.