Picking up your bar tab
26 January 2010
Picking up your bar tab is sure to ruin what otherwise was bound to be a great night.
Granted, we’ve all experienced that stomach dropping angst that occurs when pulling out credit card receipts for rounds of sambuca purchased during the haze of the previous evening. But imagine, if you will, the feeling of the morning after the night before your fees for bar school were due. Suddenly, a £20 round pales into insignificance when compared to the £14,500 bar bill you’ve just racked up. Fortunately, washing dishes in your local or risking life and limb by contacting a loan shark won’t be necessary.
Each Inn of Court offers budding barristers the chance to win a scholarship; a financial aid designed to offset the heavy burden of Bar Professional Training Course fees. Applying is easy; simply fill out the application forms. If you don’t have time to do this, employ a monkey, it really is that simple. When it comes to interview time, however, we’re talking about a whole different kettle of fish. Once you’re inside those great oak doors and into the dusty medieval corridors of times gone by, you’re on your own. Charm the three headed monster similar to Cerberus, keeper of the gates of Hades, and reach the inner sanctum – scholarship.
Ok, so I haven’t quite lost my marbles yet. The three headed keeper of the gates is, of course, the interviewing panel. Generally, it consists of three senior benchers (those who are highly distinguished in the legal profession) of the Inn. In my case, this included a High Court judge; lead counsel for British Petroleum and a criminal silk. Don’t expect any niceties. In fact, that age old tradition of shaking hands with your interviewers should be completely dispensed with. Walk in, sit down and wait for the grilling to begin.
One of the three interviewers will act as the head of the panel, asking the main bulk of the questions. Try not to be too shocked if the other two panel members seem completely disinterested in what you have to say. Remember, they will be listening. Often, in this circumstance, ignorance can be bliss. From personal experience, it is only when you make an outlandish statement that the sleeping panel members will spring into action. If they do, defend your position. Be prepared to fight your corner and hold your ground, after all that is what being a barrister is all about! As a side note, defending a seemingly un-defendable position with vigour and a touch of humour can win you a few brownie points.
Describing the type of questions asked in such an interview is as near to impossibility as there can be. As a general insight, current affairs, hypothetical legal questions and a good helping of humility will be sure to dominate the agenda. At all times keep in mind that the courtroom is often simply a theatre. Lead counsel star as the leading lady, junior counsel appear as the understudy. Consider this your audition. Thus, in interview, play up to your audience a little. Don’t be afraid to evoke reaction, boos, hisses and general disagreement. On paper all of the candidates will look very similar; making oneself stand out from the crowd will ensure that you are remembered.
Of course, whether you’re at a bar or in the courtroom, the key to success is moderation. Over indulgence leads to gluttony. Gluttony in turn leads to the feeling of the morning after the night before. But seen as you’re asking – mine’s a double.