How to get ahead at the Bar
19 May 1998
19 February 2014
5 March 2014
2 September 2013
4 July 2014
11 September 2013
What does it take to make a glittering career at the Bar? A brilliant intellect? A wonderful courtroom presence and speaking voice? No, baby barristers, it is none of these. For those of you about to set sail in the choppy waters of the Bar, there follows the real insider's guide to making it big in a robe.
Getting through pupillage
Pupillage is a bit like puberty. It is a difficult, painful time during which pupils' voices start to break - usually on their first court appearance. They also start speaking in a deep, self-important tone, aping the sound of slightly older barristers. The young pupil must also get used to the idea of wearing a peculiar horsehair wig.
Eat/fast your way to success
The Bar is the only profession where you eat to qualify and then starve for the next five years. The reason for this is that barristers cannot sue for their fees, which is really annoying, because we know all the rules and it would be so easy to nail the sods.
Oiling the wheels
Currying favour with senior barristers and members of the judiciary is crucial to a successful career at the Bar. In fact, there is so much backslapping that a truly ambitious young barrister could end up with a serious case of repetitive strain injury by they end of their first year.
Be nice to your clerk
Remember, things are tough for him as well. He is running a business - organised crime in Dagenham can be very stressful. However, it is important to bond with him. Try and interest yourself in the things he regards as important in a barrister. It is the little things he will pick up on, like courtesy, politeness and compassion. If you display any of those he will have you down as a three-time loser, by which stage even pretending that you are a Millwall supporter will not help you.
Always use the cab rank rule
The "cab rank rule" states that all barristers should behave like taxi drivers. In spite of what some barristers believe, this does not mean that members of the Bar can swear liberally, turn their backs on their clients and install meters on their desks (calibrated in guineas, naturally). In fact it ensures that any barrister must accept a brief from any client who "hails" him, no matter what his personal opinions of the case may be. It does not, of course, preclude you from boring clients stupid with meaningless verbiage or taking the longest route when asked to get from A to B.
Develop a love of expensive wallpaper
Phrases such as "£59 per roll, remarkably reasonable I'd have said" will, if repeated in the right quarters, have a dramatic effect on your chances of preferment. But this good work could be ruined if you or any member of your family is seen in a B&Q Superstore. The letters B and Q will apparently never amount to the letters Q and C.
Have a love of public service
This is something you demonstrate by doing lots of legal aid work. Between four and five hundred thousand pounds a year of this work will show that you really love serving the public and that you are a truly selfless individual.
Women can succeed too
Women have as much chance as men. Recently, the Lord Chancellor came up with a sensitive and brilliant catch phrase to attract more woman judges. "Don't be shy, apply" should have female barristers applying in their droves. But just think how many more of them would have been attracted if Lord Irvine had allowed himself to be true to his post-modern and feminist sympathies: "if you're a wench, sit on my bench" or "be a big girly, give judge's robes a twirly", would surely have led to a stampede.
An interest in freemasonry
Some barristers ridicule freemasonry. Though why someone who spends the bulk of their working life dressed as an eighteenth century clergyman should not feel comfortable in a pinny and rolled up trouser legs is uncertain.
Do not rest on your laurels
By following these simple precepts, a young person starting at the Bar is almost guaranteed a brilliant career. Just remember, nothing is certain and you would be well advised to keep up with the tap dancing lessons, just in case.