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Hello people, some general advice needed for a prospective barrister watch

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    Hello all,
    I'm a third year undergraduate reading History at a top Uni.
    My aim is to be a barrister in Criminal Law. The area of law is open to change as I have an interest in the commercial side of things as well, but the reason I have chosen the barrister route is the greater degree of independence and public speaking opportunities this role has in comparison to, for instance, lawyers in top law firms. At a career's interview I was told that this is more than achievable for someone with my academic profile.
    My plan for after graduation is as follows; GDL (havn't decided where yet), BPTC (Cardiff if at all possible) and pupillage.
    I've read through some posts here by people who want to go into law, and many have been criticised for not having a realistic plan in place.
    As far "life experience" goes I havn't done anything crazy like gone on gap years, or done any ostentatious displays of philanthropy for that matter either.
    From my understanding the best experience (apart from mini pupillages) would be to work for an organisation like the Free Representation Unit - but they only accept people once you have completed the GDL.
    Is there anything I can do in the Summer between graduation and the start of the GDL to gain (worthwhile) advocacy experience? Also would it be worth taking a year out after my degree to develop non academic areas of my CV (for instance take a job for a year, learn a language/travel)? Do most people have a part time job during the GDL? And lastly - just to provoke some debate - is it better once qualified to work in London or the provinces?

    Much love xx
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    (Original post by Boffin1234)
    Hello all,
    I'm a third year undergraduate reading History at a top Uni.
    My aim is to be a barrister in Criminal Law. The area of law is open to change as I have an interest in the commercial side of things as well, but the reason I have chosen the barrister route is the greater degree of independence and public speaking opportunities this role has in comparison to, for instance, lawyers in top law firms. At a career's interview I was told that this is more than achievable for someone with my academic profile.
    My plan for after graduation is as follows; GDL (havn't decided where yet), BPTC (Cardiff if at all possible) and pupillage.
    I've read through some posts here by people who want to go into law, and many have been criticised for not having a realistic plan in place.
    As far "life experience" goes I havn't done anything crazy like gone on gap years, or done any ostentatious displays of philanthropy for that matter either.
    From my understanding the best experience (apart from mini pupillages) would be to work for an organisation like the Free Representation Unit - but they only accept people once you have completed the GDL.
    Is there anything I can do in the Summer between graduation and the start of the GDL to gain (worthwhile) advocacy experience? Also would it be worth taking a year out after my degree to develop non academic areas of my CV (for instance take a job for a year, learn a language/travel)? Do most people have a part time job during the GDL? And lastly - just to provoke some debate - is it better once qualified to work in London or the provinces?

    Much love xx
    Be aware that there are no guarantees, regardless of your academic profile.
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    ... and be aware that there are people struggling to make £5,000 a year as criminal barristers.
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    (Original post by Boffin1234)
    I was told that this is more than achievable for someone with my academic profile
    This = untrue.

    A lot of chambers recruit in advance. Check what the deal is. If you don't get in first time you can always take a gap year or reapply on the BVC. There are no secrets to making yourself an attractive candidate - advocacy experience, volunteer work etc. etc. are all very helpful

    Whether it is better to be in London or the provinces is subjective with pros/cons to each.
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    (Original post by jacketpotato)
    This = untrue.

    A lot of chambers recruit in advance. Check what the deal is. If you don't get in first time you can always take a gap year or reapply on the BVC. There are no secrets to making yourself an attractive candidate - advocacy experience, volunteer work etc. etc. are all very helpful

    Whether it is better to be in London or the provinces is subjective with pros/cons to each.
    Thanks for the advice.
    To the first reply: I take the point that there's no "set academic profile" that Chambers will or will not accept. However given that a barrister is such an academic career by definition, I would have thought some minimum requirements are needed...
    I'm more than comfortable with the reality that it'll take at least 4 years after graduation to get to where I want anyway - there's no rush on that side of things. It's desirous to have a second language in the law profession, so i'll probably pursue that among other things in any year off I take.
    Can i also ask to the person who said some barristers in criminal law are struggling to make 5 grand a year? Where did you get that information from? My understanding was that even prospective barristers doing their pupillage year have to be paid a minimum of c.£15,000 by the chambers to which they are affiliated.
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    (Original post by Boffin1234)
    Thanks for the advice.
    To the first reply: I take the point that there's no "set academic profile" that Chambers will or will not accept.However given that a barrister is such an academic career by definition, I would have thought some minimum requirements are needed...
    I'm more than comfortable with the reality that it'll take at least 4 years after graduation to get to where I want anyway - there's no rush on that side of things. It's desirous to have a second language in the law profession, so i'll probably pursue that among other things in any year off I take.
    Can i also ask to the person who said some barristers in criminal law are struggling to make 5 grand a year? Where did you get that information from? My understanding was that even prospective barristers doing their pupillage year have to be paid a minimum of c.£15,000 by the chambers to which they are affiliated.
    1) Disagree - it is a practical career by definition. You can have the best academics in the world but you won't get anywhere if can't deliver an argument in court.
    2) Again, disagree. I sift pupillage aps - it's not something that would get you any extra points as far as we are concerned.
    3) I know plenty of people who have quit the criminal bar as they were not earning enough to make ends meet (also the min is £10k not £15k). And I wouldn't fall into the trap of basing subsequent earnings on the pupillage award (at least not at the criminal bar).

    PS - I'm a practising (civil/commercial) barrister.
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    Top tip - go work in a law firm in your "gap year". At pupillage interview say you have sols who will instruct you (and other members of chambers). They'll be fighting over you. Think like a clerk.

    (Of course you need everything else too but this will pretty much swing it for any chambers).
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    (Original post by LuverlyLawyer)
    1) Disagree - it is a practical career by definition. You can have the best academics in the world but you won't get anywhere if can't deliver an argument in court.
    2) Again, disagree. I sift pupillage aps - it's not something that would get you any extra points as far as we are concerned.
    3) I know plenty of people who have quit the criminal bar as they were not earning enough to make ends meet (also the min is £10k not £15k). And I wouldn't fall into the trap of basing subsequent earnings on the pupillage award (at least not at the criminal bar).

    PS - I'm a practising (civil/commercial) barrister.
    Thank you for your insights. Very helpful indeed.
    What I've found frustrating is that a lot of people seem intent on putting me off being a barrister. I have no idea why this is but I'm already determined not to see the career through rose tinted spectacles. Also in my tutes in Oxford I've really tried hard to develop my skills as an advocate and love public speaking so the decision has been based on a critical assessment of where I believe my strengths lie.
    Also if I was motivated purely by money i'd probably do what all my peers are doing and apply to a Magic circle law firm in London.
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    (Original post by Boffin1234)
    Can i also ask to the person who said some barristers in criminal law are struggling to make 5 grand a year? Where did you get that information from? My understanding was that even prospective barristers doing their pupillage year have to be paid a minimum of c.£15,000 by the chambers to which they are affiliated.
    As a pupil you're effectively employed since you have a grant and/or a guarantee. Once you are a tenant you are self-employed. If the work doesn't come in, you don't earn money. Your earnings may be higher or lower than in pupillage.

    The problem with the criminal bar is that it is contracting very heavily, or perhaps imploding. Those pesky solicitors are doing most of the magistrates' court work and the government is hardly keen to pay the bar good money. What work is there tends to go to the most senior people. There is, I understand, still money to be had in the Crown Court but as a junior tenant you won't get a look in. Then there is the problem of bills unpaid by solicitors... perish the thought that clerks might not necessarily chase the smaller (junior tenant) debts to avoid upsetting the relationship with solicitors who fund the bigger (QC) accounts...
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    (Original post by Boffin1234)
    Thank you for your insights. Very helpful indeed.
    What I've found frustrating is that a lot of people seem intent on putting me off being a barrister. I have no idea why this is but I'm already determined not to see the career through rose tinted spectacles. Also in my tutes in Oxford I've really tried hard to develop my skills as an advocate and love public speaking so the decision has been based on a critical assessment of where I believe my strengths lie.
    Also if I was motivated purely by money i'd probably do what all my peers are doing and apply to a Magic circle law firm in London.
    Nobody is trying to put you off. They are pointing out that you appear to be assuming that you will get a pupillage and then tenancy and then make good money. So many people do not get pupillage, even people with an amazing "academic profile". Others don't get tenancy, and others don't make good money. You need to approach it with the risks in mind rather than assuming that they do not apply to you. I know people with outstanding "academic profiles" who never got their foot in the door, and several more who didn't get tenancy and now work at solicitors' firms. If you're still willing to go for it, then by all means go for it, but not with your head in the sand.
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    (Original post by Nononsense)
    Nobody is trying to put you off. They are pointing out that you appear to be assuming that you will get a pupillage and then tenancy and then make good money. So many people do not get pupillage, even people with an amazing "academic profile". Others don't get tenancy, and others don't make good money. You need to approach it with the risks in mind rather than assuming that they do not apply to you. I know people with outstanding "academic profiles" who never got their foot in the door, and several more who didn't get tenancy and now work at solicitors' firms. If you're still willing to go for it, then by all means go for it, but not with your head in the sand.
    I know, and I really appreciate the advice.
    I just think there probably are other things you can do to make yourself a more attractive proposition to get pupillages etc, and I mean I know what you're saying about really bright people who can't get their foot in the door. But I'm prepared to do copious work experience for literally nothing for as long as it takes. But the comments above have made me think more specifically about the area of law I'd like to go into - so thanks for this guys!
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    (Original post by Boffin1234)
    I know, and I really appreciate the advice.
    I just think there probably are other things you can do to make yourself a more attractive proposition to get pupillages etc, and I mean I know what you're saying about really bright people who can't get their foot in the door. But I'm prepared to do copious work experience for literally nothing for as long as it takes. But the comments above have made me think more specifically about the area of law I'd like to go into - so thanks for this guys!

    you mean absolutely nothing. for at least a year yes?
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    (Original post by Boffin1234)
    I know, and I really appreciate the advice.
    I just think there probably are other things you can do to make yourself a more attractive proposition to get pupillages etc, and I mean I know what you're saying about really bright people who can't get their foot in the door. But I'm prepared to do copious work experience for literally nothing for as long as it takes. But the comments above have made me think more specifically about the area of law I'd like to go into - so thanks for this guys!
    You know, if you're willing to put everything into extra-curriculars and have strong academics, you do stand a reasonable chance of getting a pupillage in say criminal law (which is academically speaking less competitive than say commercial law, but also has much lower pay on average). But again, what you still appear not to fully grasp is that you can do whatever you like to your CV and a pupillage is still not guaranteed, less still a tenancy, less still a successful practice. The people I know who did not get any or all of the above had stellar CVs, but had one or more of the following:
    1. not great at interviews (not necessarily bad, but you need to be great)
    2. applying for sets that were "out of their league"
    3. inability to think/write practically rather than academically
    4. inability to think on their feet
    5. distinctly average social skills
    6. failure to get on with every single person they met during pupillage
    7. failure to impress every single member of chambers with their work during pupillage
    8. arrogance


    If you can deal with the chance of not succeeding then go for it. If you think that simply by getting a good degree and doing all of the usual work experience/extra-currics etc you are guaranteed a pupillage, then you are mistaken.
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    (Original post by Nononsense)
    You know, if you're willing to put everything into extra-curriculars and have strong academics, you do stand a reasonable chance of getting a pupillage in say criminal law (which is academically speaking less competitive than say commercial law, but also has much lower pay on average). But again, what you still appear not to fully grasp is that you can do whatever you like to your CV and a pupillage is still not guaranteed, less still a tenancy, less still a successful practice. The people I know who did not get any or all of the above had stellar CVs, but had one or more of the following:
    1. not great at interviews (not necessarily bad, but you need to be great)
    2. applying for sets that were "out of their league"
    3. inability to think/write practically rather than academically
    4. inability to think on their feet
    5. distinctly average social skills
    6. failure to get on with every single person they met during pupillage
    7. failure to impress every single member of chambers with their work during pupillage
    8. arrogance


    If you can deal with the chance of not succeeding then go for it. If you think that simply by getting a good degree and doing all of the usual work experience/extra-currics etc you are guaranteed a pupillage, then you are mistaken.
    Nononsense, whilst I side with you generally on here (i.e. tough love), I think you're being overly pessimistic with regards this person. The suggestion that they're maybe cut out for a criminal pupillage is particularly cruel.

    With an Oxbridge 2.1 and a healthy dollop of the usual suspects on their CV they'll have a reasonable chance (in relative terms; very few have a 'reasonable chance' if by that one means a greater than 50% chance) at a wide variety of sets [i.e. anything below commercial magic circle].

    With regards your list, I would widely agree. There's a lot of people on the BPTC who lack any sort of practical nous.
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    (Original post by dalianatkinson)
    Nononsense, whilst I side with you generally on here (i.e. tough love), I think you're being overly pessimistic with regards this person. The suggestion that they're maybe cut out for a criminal pupillage is particularly cruel.

    With an Oxbridge 2.1 and a healthy dollop of the usual suspects on their CV they'll have a reasonable chance (in relative terms; very few have a 'reasonable chance' if by that one means a greater than 50% chance) at a wide variety of sets [i.e. anything below commercial magic circle].

    With regards your list, I would widely agree. There's a lot of people on the BPTC who lack any sort of practical nous.
    I mentioned criminal law because that is what the OP said he was into -I didn't mean to say he was limited to criminal law. The other area he mentioned was I think commercial law, and I wouldn't say he had a better than 50% chance at getting into a commercial set with a 2.1 and extra-currics.
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    (Original post by Nononsense)
    I mentioned criminal law because that is what the OP said he was into -I didn't mean to say he was limited to criminal law. The other area he mentioned was I think commercial law, and I wouldn't say he had a better than 50% chance at getting into a commercial set with a 2.1 and extra-currics.
    I was suggesting he would have a 'reasonable' chance at pupillage outside of the commercial sets. [Where he'd have very little chance.]

    I further suggested that very few have a greater than 50% chance of any pupillage, and I wouldn't include him in this either. I would say he has a 'reasonable' chance in that his chance is better than the majority of other pupillage candidates.

    Hope that's clear.
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    (Original post by dalianatkinson)
    I was suggesting he would have a 'reasonable' chance at pupillage outside of the commercial sets. [Where he'd have very little chance.]

    I further suggested that very few have a greater than 50% chance of any pupillage, and I wouldn't include him in this either. I would say he has a 'reasonable' chance in that his chance is better than the majority of other pupillage candidates.

    Hope that's clear.
    As I said above - I did not mean to say he was limited to criminal sets. I simply referred to them because he said that he wants to be a criminal barrister.
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    (Original post by dalianatkinson)
    I was suggesting he would have a 'reasonable' chance at pupillage outside of the commercial sets. [Where he'd have very little chance.]

    I further suggested that very few have a greater than 50% chance of any pupillage, and I wouldn't include him in this either. I would say he has a 'reasonable' chance in that his chance is better than the majority of other pupillage candidates.

    Hope that's clear.
    This all begs the question, who would you include as a part of your caste of elite who have a better than 50% chance of getting a pupillage?

    By the way I'm currently on a first from Oxford, not a 2:1.
    Also I want to practice in south Wales if possible. I have no great yearning for the gilded lights of the Magic Circle.
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    (Original post by Boffin1234)
    This all begs the question, who would you include as a part of your caste of elite who have a better than 50% chance of getting a pupillage?

    By the way I'm currently on a first from Oxford, not a 2:1.
    Also I want to practice in south Wales if possible. I have no great yearning for the gilded lights of the Magic Circle.
    Not many is the short answer! I have friends with Oxbridge 1sts who went through last year's cycle and didn't get one.

    Of course, part of this is the fact that they were aiming high.

    With your grades and intentions I'm sure you'll be fine. Although, if applying to sets in south Wales I'd be wary of portraying yourself as uber academic.
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    (Original post by dalianatkinson)
    Not many is the short answer! I have friends with Oxbridge 1sts who went through last year's cycle and didn't get one.

    Of course, part of this is the fact that they were aiming high.

    With your grades and intentions I'm sure you'll be fine. Although, if applying to sets in south Wales I'd be wary of portraying yourself as uber academic.
    Surely with a first from Oxford, nothing can really be considered aiming too high?
 
 
 
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