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    Having recently done a mini-pupillage, I am quite undecided on which area of law to take up. I want to practice in the provinicial sets, but having spoken to many of the barristers, it seems they are not happy with their lifestyle.

    I know being a lawyer was never going to be easy, and probably never will. My aim before entering law was always to aid people, to help them as much as I can, the pay issue never occured to me.

    I would be prepared to enter the criminal bar knowing it pays quite bad and is almost dead, if I had a work-life balance. However, thus far I have not come across an area of law that offers this. I have no interest in commercial law, I will do if it offers me that work-life balance.

    Could you guys give me some opinion, I am quite stressed, your help will be much appreciated. :yes:
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    You say you have no interest in commercial law but have you thought about employment law? It would offer you the chance to help people and may provide a better work/life balance.
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    (Original post by Law.Grad.Girl)
    You say you have no interest in commercial law but have you thought about employment law? It would offer you the chance to help people and may provide a better work/life balance.
    Are you certain on this, I am very undecided, before you have a go at me, I have only recently started researching areas of the law, I have a short while to go before I graduate, any help will be appreciated.
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    You should do a few more minis in different areas as no one can tell you which area of law you will enjoy personally. You also don’t really need to worry about this till you are at BVC/application stage, unless you want a really specific type of set such as a social justice chambers where you would need to be doing HR/equality focused work experience from the off. So enjoy yourself, and concentrate on getting a good degree rather than stressing about it

    I am surprised that you say that a lot of the provincial barristers aren’t happy with their lifestyles as provincial barristers I have met tend to be happier and if you read SMQS blog for example he makes good arguments about practical things like not being stuck on tubes and having nice green space around you as well as highlighting the camaraderie and quality of work that tends to be available provincially.

    What are you actually asking though - what areas involve less work as you don’t want to be bogged down with work at the expense of social/family life? If it is that if you want a nine-to-five job then the bar is not for you as in the early years you will have to focus completely on winning tenancy and building up a practice which takes consuming amounts of effort including evenings preparing and weekends at far flung courts. Longterm, whatever area of law you end up doing, except perhaps commercial, there will be times when you get a massive brief at 5pm and you will be due in court at 10am the next day. That is life at the bar. Even if you did end up in a more paper based area such as commercial there may also be times you need to be up half the night writing opinions.
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    (Original post by FMQ)
    You should do a few more minis in different areas as no one can tell you which area of law you will enjoy personally. You also dont really need to worry about this till you are at BVC/application stage, unless you want a really specific type of set such as a social justice chambers where you would need to be doing HR/equality focused work expereince from the off.

    I am surprised that you say that a lot of the provincial barristers arent happy with their lifestyles as provincial barristers I have met tend to be happier and if you read SMQS blog for example he makes good arguments about practical things like not being stuck on tubes and having nice green space around you as well as highlightihg the camaraderie and quality of work that tends to be available provincially.

    What are you actually asking though - what areas involve less work as you dont want to be bogged down with work at the expence of social/family life? If it is that if you want a nine-to-five job then the bar is not for you as in the early years you will have to focus completely on winning tenancy and building up a practice which takes consument amounts of effort including evenings preparing and weekends at far flung courts. Longterm, whatever area of law you end up doing, except perhaps commercial, there will be times when you get a massive brief at 5pm and you will be due in court at 10am the next day. That is life at the bar. Even if you did end up in a more paper based area such as commercial there may also be times you need to be up half the night writing opinions.
    I agree with you, the Bar is demanding, but I am willing to put in the hours, but I want a work/life balance as well, family etc is what I am worried about, that is why I did not pursue a career in the City because I know family time is greatly reduced.

    I say this because I met a barrister, who had very young kids, but he manages to see them very briefly per day due to his workload, I don't want to be in his position, in his words "I wish the sacrifices were reduced to be in this brilliant profession."

    I don't want to repeat those words when I practice, I am to get married quite soon, I don't want my career coming in the way of my family.

    Can anyone offer any advice?
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    (Original post by maximusbarr)
    I agree with you, the Bar is demanding, but I am willing to put in the hours, but I want a work/life balance as well, family etc is what I am worried about, that is why I did not pursue a career in the City because I know family time is greatly reduced.

    I say this because I met a barrister, who had very young kids, but he manages to see them very briefly per day due to his workload, I don't want to be in his position, in his words "I wish the sacrifices were reduced to be in this brilliant profession."

    I don't want to repeat those words when I practice, I am to get married quite soon, I don't want my career coming in the way of my family.

    Can anyone offer any advice?
    The bit in bold above is the issue as it is contradictary.

    As a baby barrister you are, essentially, in the position of setting up your own business. You're self-employed and trying to sell a product - "you". No-one knows about you, or how good you are. The only way you can make your business a success is by working hard to get your product known and widely used.

    That will inevitably mean working some long hours. As FMQ explained, you need to expect that you may receive instructions at very short notice which will require urgent preparation for a hearing the following day. If you decline the instructions your business is unlikely to prosper. I don't think any aspect of the law will necessarily be any easier than others - employment law will often necessitate urgent hearings which you may be briefed on at short notice.

    Unfortunately, it's the nature of the beast. If you want the excitement, potential success and rewards that go with the Bar then you need to recognise that those will come at a cost - namely, your personal time. It will not be a 9 to 5 job, especially in the early years when you're bringing your "product" to market.

    If work/life balance is crucial to you (and I say that with absolutely no criticism) then you may be better off looking at provincial solicitors' firms where the hours may, generally speaking, be more manageable.
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    (Original post by chalks)
    The bit in bold above is the issue as it is contradictary.

    As a baby barrister you are, essentially, in the position of setting up your own business. You're self-employed and trying to sell a product - "you". No-one knows about you, or how good you are. The only way you can make your business a success is by working hard to get your product known and widely used.

    That will inevitably mean working some long hours. As FMQ explained, you need to expect that you may receive instructions at very short notice which will require urgent preparation for a hearing the following day. If you decline the instructions your business is unlikely to prosper. I don't think any aspect of the law will necessarily be any easier than others - employment law will often necessitate urgent hearings which you may be briefed on at short notice.

    Unfortunately, it's the nature of the beast. If you want the excitement, potential success and rewards that go with the Bar then you need to recognise that those will come at a cost - namely, your personal time. It will not be a 9 to 5 job, especially in the early years when you're bringing your "product" to market.

    If work/life balance is crucial to you (and I say that with absolutely no criticism) then you may be better off looking at provincial solicitors' firms where the hours may, generally speaking, be more manageable.
    I truly appreciate your advice.
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    Immigration law?
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    (Original post by chalks)
    The bit in bold above is the issue as it is contradictary.

    As a baby barrister you are, essentially, in the position of setting up your own business. You're self-employed and trying to sell a product - "you". No-one knows about you, or how good you are. The only way you can make your business a success is by working hard to get your product known and widely used.

    That will inevitably mean working some long hours. As FMQ explained, you need to expect that you may receive instructions at very short notice which will require urgent preparation for a hearing the following day. If you decline the instructions your business is unlikely to prosper. I don't think any aspect of the law will necessarily be any easier than others - employment law will often necessitate urgent hearings which you may be briefed on at short notice.

    Unfortunately, it's the nature of the beast. If you want the excitement, potential success and rewards that go with the Bar then you need to recognise that those will come at a cost - namely, your personal time. It will not be a 9 to 5 job, especially in the early years when you're bringing your "product" to market.

    If work/life balance is crucial to you (and I say that with absolutely no criticism) then you may be better off looking at provincial solicitors' firms where the hours may, generally speaking, be more manageable.
    Having a wife and children is very important to me. I would just as soon they recognised me. This is very good information (although I knew about the trade offs). Do you know if the balance gets slightly easier to manage after, say, 5-10 years of call or PQE? I'm not in a massive rush to have children--I'd expect to put my career to the fore until I was relatively established. Still, I don't want to find myself 50 years old with two divorces and three estranged children under my belt because I worked 80 hour weeks 50 weeks a year.

    Not to bother you too much (I know you have swells to find and actual, uh, work to do apart from advising hapless students), but do you have any sense of whether it's possible to prepare briefs at home? Or do you need all the resources in your chambers to do so? I was wondering if it would be possible, say, to play catch and put the kids to bed, then hunch over a desk with endless cups of coffee and the brief. I know you're a solicitor, but I was curious to see if you knew much about working at home in the evening.
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    As a barrister you're self employed, if you choose to work from home, that's your choice...the likelihood of you needing access to resources at Chambers is probably based on whether or not your Chambers subscribes to the usual databases...in which case, access from home shouldn't be an issue.
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    (Original post by jjarvis)
    Having a wife and children is very important to me. I would just as soon they recognised me. This is very good information (although I knew about the trade offs). Do you know if the balance gets slightly easier to manage after, say, 5-10 years of call or PQE? I'm not in a massive rush to have children--I'd expect to put my career to the fore until I was relatively established. Still, I don't want to find myself 50 years old with two divorces and three estranged children under my belt because I worked 80 hour weeks 50 weeks a year.

    Not to bother you too much (I know you have swells to find and actual, uh, work to do apart from advising hapless students), but do you have any sense of whether it's possible to prepare briefs at home? Or do you need all the resources in your chambers to do so? I was wondering if it would be possible, say, to play catch and put the kids to bed, then hunch over a desk with endless cups of coffee and the brief. I know you're a solicitor, but I was curious to see if you knew much about working at home in the evening.
    It depends on the work you need to do, and what you need to do it.

    For both solicitors and barristers there will be large amounts of work when you can only really do it in the office/chambers. Simon Myerson can give you a better steer on life at the Bar. However, it seems to me that there are likely to be many circumstances when a barrister of whatever number of years of call will need more than just access to some online databases. That reflects the fact that counsel don't just churn out research. If you're working on a complex case, then you need to have to hand the various pleadings, evidence which has been filed and documents provided on disclosure. Much of that can be accessed electronically, but often one will want to see things in hard copy form - that will usually mean being in chambers.

    The same goes for solicitors. I try and work from home wherever possible but there are many times when having all my files around me is the only real option.

    The balance may get easier as you get more senior on the solicitor's side of the fence. When you're a junior solicitor, you need to be in the office at the beck and call of the senior associates and partners. At a more senior level you're more in charge and able to manage your own workload. As for the Bar, I don't think things would necessarily be much different whether you're junior or senior.
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    (Original post by chalks)
    It depends on the work you need to do, and what you need to do it.

    For both solicitors and barristers there will be large amounts of work when you can only really do it in the office/chambers. Simon Myerson can give you a better steer on life at the Bar. However, it seems to me that there are likely to be many circumstances when a barrister of whatever number of years of call will need more than just access to some online databases. That reflects the fact that counsel don't just churn out research. If you're working on a complex case, then you need to have to hand the various pleadings, evidence which has been filed and documents provided on disclosure. Much of that can be accessed electronically, but often one will want to see things in hard copy form - that will usually mean being in chambers.

    The same goes for solicitors. I try and work from home wherever possible but there are many times when having all my files around me is the only real option.

    The balance may get easier as you get more senior on the solicitor's side of the fence. When you're a junior solicitor, you need to be in the office at the beck and call of the senior associates and partners. At a more senior level you're more in charge and able to manage your own workload. As for the Bar, I don't think things would necessarily be much different whether you're junior or senior.
    I don't want to come across as someone who expects to succeed in law without working hard, and sometimes quite long, hours (I don't), but I do want a family life, too. It's nice to know that sometimes it is occasionally possible to work at home. I thought that whether you could work from home might depend on the nature of the resources you needed, but I hadn't considered all the filings/evidence you might need to access. I guess ultimately it all depends on the nature of the work load you're handling at any given time. Thanks for your help, Chalks.
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    (Original post by jjarvis)
    I don't want to come across as someone who expects to succeed in law without working hard, and sometimes quite long, hours (I don't), but I do want a family life, too. It's nice to know that sometimes it is occasionally possible to work at home. I thought that whether you could work from home might depend on the nature of the resources you needed, but I hadn't considered all the filings/evidence you might need to access. I guess ultimately it all depends on the nature of the work load you're handling at any given time. Thanks for your help, Chalks.
    Everyone knows that to get something you have to sacrifice something, family is one of those things that I or many can't sacrifice, I know some are career driven but so am I, but I don't want my family to be sacrificed for something that's nothing more than a source of income
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    If it helps, I did a mini at a top provincial chambers in December. The pupils (admittedly 3 months in) had not been in the office longer than 6.30pm. Chambers was set up to allow barristers to work from home and hot desk. Everyone was relaxed, friendly and appeared to enjoy their jobs.

    Unsurprisingly, I am now looking at the provincial bar. I have visions of spending a normal working day in the office, home for wife/kids/supper, then into the home office for a couple more hours. The beauty of self-employment is that you have the flexibility to work how and when you want, and that is what the Bar offers.
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    If you are willing to fit your work in around your family then you can manage it. But that means you have to be prepared to work odd hours. One of my proudest boasts is that, unless I was physically out of town, I bathed my kids every day. Sometimes that meant coming home from work, bathing them and going back to work but I did it.

    The worst thing about beginning your career at the Bar is having absolutely no control over when you have to work Stuff is thrown at you and it is for tomorrow or urgent. As you go on you simply become so busy that 20 hour days are a distinct possibility: no one is more busy than a busy junior who has a large case load of heavy cases (like a silk) and some urgent pleadings and advices waiting for him when he finishes in Court (unlike most silks).

    But you have a choice - always. It may test your negotiating skills with your clerks and it may strain professional relationships but it can be done. I used to go to school productions and then work until 3am. If I had a day off in the school holidays I would take the kids to the cinema and work late (which, come to think of it, is precisely what I will be doing tomorrow).

    It is, oddly, more difficult for your significant other. The reason is that you tend to catch up with your spouse at night, which is when you won't be around if you're working late. But you can do quite a lot at home and there's nothing to stop you taking a break between 930 and 1030pm. On the other hand, Mrs M did get used to dinner, concerts and theatre being cancelled quite a lot, especially in the early years. The Bar is pretty well represented in the second marriage stakes, but I remain convinced that you can always find some time if you prioritise. The person I knew who took work on their holiday was making a statement about their priorities, not about how busy they were...
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    I think what both Simon and I are saying is that you need to be prepared to sacrifice your time if you're serious about a career in law, rather than any particular aspect of your life.

    Whether you like it or not a fulfilling, varied and exciting legal career will stretch beyond the normal 9 to 5 hours. That does not mean that the things you hold dear to you must suffer. However, something has to give! You will not be able to do everything.

    It is a matter of prioritising things in the true sense of the word. Just as you prioritise essays and seminar preparation whilst at Uni, you will need to prioritise things in your working and personal lives. Many people make the mistake (in my view) of assuming that work commitments must always trump personal commitments - whether those are time with the family, exercise/sport or other things which make you happy. Likewise, some people get upset when they realise that they can no longer do an activity every night of the week and still see the girlfriend/boyfriend or go out for beers with their friends. That's just not realistic.

    It does get easier the more senior you get, as you are better able to decide how to manage your time. I am in a position now, for example, to decide to work from home one day a week and to move my hours to earlier in the day because we're having our first child in a couple of months. I have made the conscious decision that he/she will be my number 1 priority and work will be fashioned around that. I have made no secret of that to my colleagues - indeed, I am keen to champion that mindset. That would not necessarily have been open to me when I was first starting out as a lawyer. I should also note that workplaces are becoming far more accommodating as employers recognise that (a) this makes for happier employees (b) technology can remove much of the need to be in the office - within reason.
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    (Original post by Simon Myerson QC)
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    (Original post by chalks)
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    Thanks so much to both of you for posting such complete and thoughtful responses here. It's so helpful to have a sense not just of what it's really like in the early years, but of what it's like further down the line. I really appreciate it, and I'm sure others here do, too.
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    Thank you Simon and Chalks, very helpful indeed.
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    (Original post by Chalks)
    I am in a position now, for example, to decide to work from home one day a week and to move my hours to earlier in the day because we're having our first child in a couple of months. I have made the conscious decision that he/she will be my number 1 priority and work will be fashioned around that
    That's really fantastic - many congratulations!!! :yes:
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    (Original post by chalks)
    I am in a position now, for example, to decide to work from home one day a week and to move my hours to earlier in the day because we're having our first child in a couple of months. I have made the conscious decision that he/she will be my number 1 priority and work will be fashioned around that.
    The difficulty comes when the fact that your children are your number one priority means that you have to work a 20 hour day - either at the office or persuading them that their number one priority is not an iplayer ... and an iphone ... and an ipod ... and a laptop ... and Jack Wills (may his private parts develop a thousand boils) ... and holidays ... and nights out ... and perfume ... sigh
 
 
 
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