Crazy Jamie
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AMAA standing for 'Ask Me Almost Anything', for those who don't know.

I've been meaning to make a thread like this ever since another member made an equivalent thread for those who want to be solicitors. Now that we've reached the point where the latest round of pupillages is in the books, and we have that combination of those who have not obtained pupillage preparing to have another run at it, as well as current or future students (whether BPTC bound or otherwise) facing the start of a new academic year, I figure this is a good time to throw a thread like this up and do what I can to help, inform or guide those with questions about the profession.

I do value my anonymity on this forum, and as such the information that I actually provide about myself is not going to be in any way exhaustive because, unlike trainee or new solicitors, I'm far too easy to identify with the right information. That said, what I can tell you is that I am now around five years call and practise predominantly in personal injury and employment law, though early on in my career I did do enough crime to have something of an insight into that area.

So feel free to ask any questions that you have. I actually go on holiday later in the week, and so there may be a period where I don't get round to responding to questions, but frankly that is also liable to happen when I'm not on holiday as well. All I can see is that I will eventually respond every question that is asked one way or another. I also know that there are a number of other practising barristers that frequent this forum on occasion, and I'd encourage them to get involved in this as well as and when they feel like it.
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username1628823
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How hard was it to get a pupillage?
Do you have an Oxbridge first?
Why did you move away from criminal law?

Thanks.
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Crazy Jamie
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(Original post by Jasaron)
How hard was it to get a pupillage?
That's a difficult question to answer simply because it's hard to translate my difficulties in getting pupillage in a way that will be relevant for people reading this thread. There were certainly times in the process that were exceptionally challenging, for a variety of reasons. Rejection is genuinely exceptionally difficult to deal with for students that have never really failed or been told that they are not good enough before, and the process of obtaining pupillage is one of the more extreme examples of that for many. That said, the advantage I had is that I always had the right mentality and approach to the process to give myself the best chance; I was constantly working on bettering myself, developing my strengths and mitigating my weaknesses, both in my application and my practical skills. I was willing to do things in that regard that others simply wouldn't be willing to do, and that gave me an edge despite some clear weaknesses in my application. Ultimately I secured pupillage about 15 months after finishing the bar course, and whilst it was far from a smooth path, on the whole it went pretty well.
(Original post by Jasaron)
Do you have an Oxbridge first?
I do not. Again, I don't want to reveal which university I went to because it would make me easier to identify, but it was a Russell Group university. Just so we're all clear, a 2:1 or higher from Oxbridge gives you a clear edge in the pupillage process, but the majority of barristers do not have degrees from Oxbridge.
(Original post by Jasaron)
Why did you move away from criminal law?
It was never what I wanted to do; by the time I started practising I knew I wanted to practise in civil law. I had gained experience previously in personal injury so that was the clear front runner in that respect; I didn't get into employment law at all until I was about six months into tenancy. I will say, though, that doing low level criminal work was incredibly beneficial because it provides far more substantive advocacy experience than low level civil work does. It was just never the career path that I wanted.
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username1628823
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(Original post by Crazy Jamie;58606705 [b)
That said, the advantage I had is that I always had the right mentality and approach to the process to give myself the best chance; I was constantly working on bettering myself, developing my strengths and mitigating my weaknesses, both in my application and my practical skills. I was willing to do things in that regard that others simply wouldn't be willing to do, and that gave me an edge despite some clear weaknesses in my application.[/b]
This mindset is admirable, and one that I strive to obtain. Congratulations on your achievements, and thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.
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Danno190
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What was the most "out there" alibi you've come across, either in person or heard second hand? Although I realise that may breach confidentiality in which case I shall offer a second question just in case... At what point did you decide to go for a career at the bar, and what were major decision factors for it?
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Crazy Jamie
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(Original post by Danno190)
What was the most "out there" alibi you've come across, either in person or heard second hand?
Honestly I'm struggling to think of one that would be considered 'out there'. Clearly there are times when you come across versions of events as to where a Defendant was that are quite patently not true, though I can't recall ever coming across or being told about anything particularly original in that regard.

(Original post by Danno190)
At what point did you decide to go for a career at the bar, and what were major decision factors for it?
I developed an interest in becoming a barrister early on, probably around the age of 14 or 15. Which, I will stress, is ridiculously early. A couple of my family members were and are in the police, which is where my interest in the law came from, but a career with the police never interested me. I did my first mini pupillage when I was 17, during which I saw a range of cases including a pretty horrific criminal case, and whilst that turned me off criminal law at the time (a stance that would later soften significantly), everything else about the profession appealed to me, so I'd say that was probably the point at which my ambition was completely solidified.
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TurboCretin
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(Original post by Crazy Jamie)
I am now around five years call and practise predominantly in personal injury and employment law, though early on in my career I did do enough crime to have something of an insight into that area.
The things today's barristers are being driven to...
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TimmonaPortella
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Are you based in London or outside? (Just for potential follow-ups)
How much of your time do you spend in court?
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Crazy Jamie
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(Original post by TimmonaPortella)
Are you based in London or outside? (Just for potential follow-ups)
Outside.
(Original post by TimmonaPortella)
How much of your time do you spend in court?
I'll be in court anywhere between three and five days a week, though of course many of those court appearances will not be for the full day. Paperwork is a notable part of my practice, and generally speaking I will do some work on papers every day of the week whether I am in court or not, the main exception to that rule being when I have preparing for multi day employment tribunals, which can take a lot of time to prepare for.
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TimmonaPortella
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(Original post by Crazy Jamie)
Outside.
If you're in the county court, or employment tribunals, what sort of geographical range do you cover (both in terms of where you go and where cases which you deal with come from)? Is there a lot of travel involved?

Do you (or maybe more senior members of your set) deal with many cases down at the high court, or appeals there (or further up)?
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Crazy Jamie
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(Original post by TimmonaPortella)
If you're in the county court, or employment tribunals, what sort of geographical range do you cover (both in terms of where you go and where cases which you deal with come from)? Is there a lot of travel involved?
In theory there isn't really a limit to where I can go geographically. The majority of my court hearings are in courts that are within an hour and half drive or so of where I live. Now and again I'll have to go further afield, sometimes much further. For example, whilst I do work a lot of local PI firms, the larger firms will often acquire cases from clients that live all over the country through advertising and other means. If I accept a case on a CFA ('no win no fee') for a client that lives at the other end of the country, I have to be prepared for the possibility that I may have to run that trial in their local court. Generally speaking solicitors will try to instruct local counsel for hearings, trials or tribunals that they have, but if a solicitor that knows me well wants me to run a trial that is a long way away, generally speaking I'll do it.

In terms of travel generally, yes, there can be a lot of travel involved, but it is something that you get used to.
(Original post by TimmonaPortella)
Do you (or maybe more senior members of your set) deal with many cases down at the high court, or appeals there (or further up)?
I've appeared in the High Court (which, incidentally, can sit in places other than London). I've not appeared in at the Court of Appeal personally, but yes, that is something that generally speaking more senior practitioners would do more often than more junior practitioners. Again though, appearing in the appeal courts only happens when you become involved in a case that warrants an appeal, so it would be relatively unusual to count appearances in those courts as a 'regular' part of a practice for anyone except the most senior of practitioners. It should also be noted that the regularity that you appear in the appeal courts, and the stage in your practice that you do so, can change depending on your practice area. For example, I know of a few criminal practitioners my age that have appeared in the Court of Appeal already, some on a number of occasions.
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Alan Shore
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As a barrister, what are your views on the legal aid cuts? I'm not sure if they have had any impact on you, your practice or your chambers at all, but your general view would be interesting. As a result of them have there been noticeable changes to the make up of barristers?
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TimmonaPortella
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(Original post by Crazy Jamie)
.
That's really interesting, thanks
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lachachacha
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(Original post by Crazy Jamie)
AMAA standing for 'Ask Me Almost Anything', for those who don't know.

I've been meaning to make a thread like this ever since another member made an equivalent thread for those who want to be solicitors. Now that we've reached the point where the latest round of pupillages is in the books, and we have that combination of those who have not obtained pupillage preparing to have another run at it, as well as current or future students (whether BPTC bound or otherwise) facing the start of a new academic year, I figure this is a good time to throw a thread like this up and do what I can to help, inform or guide those with questions about the profession.

I do value my anonymity on this forum, and as such the information that I actually provide about myself is not going to be in any way exhaustive because, unlike trainee or new solicitors, I'm far too easy to identify with the right information. That said, what I can tell you is that I am now around five years call and practise predominantly in personal injury and employment law, though early on in my career I did do enough crime to have something of an insight into that area.

So feel free to ask any questions that you have. I actually go on holiday later in the week, and so there may be a period where I don't get round to responding to questions, but frankly that is also liable to happen when I'm not on holiday as well. All I can see is that I will eventually respond every question that is asked one way or another. I also know that there are a number of other practising barristers that frequent this forum on occasion, and I'd encourage them to get involved in this as well as and when they feel like it.
My ambition is to become a barrister however I don't think it's realistic for me. I recieved my alevel results the other day and only obtained ABB, however one of the Bs was one mark off an A so is currently being remarked so I may well end up with AAB.

I did however still secure my place at a top Russell group university to study law with French.


Would becoming a barrister still be a viable option for me?
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CaptainJosh
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Do you work in Starbucks or Costa?
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Crazy Jamie
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(Original post by Alan Shore)
As a barrister, what are your views on the legal aid cuts? I'm not sure if they have had any impact on you, your practice or your chambers at all, but your general view would be interesting. As a result of them have there been noticeable changes to the make up of barristers?
Without wanting to go into too much detail on this, my view of the legal aid cuts is that they likely to cause significant and irreversible damage to one of the best legal systems in the world. Personally I find that the most objectionable aspect of the cuts is that they are actually not necessary. The criminal justice system was well on its way to saving the money that needed to be saved through the implementation of changes that are simply making the system more efficient. Throughout his tenure Chris Grayling repeatedly and quite brazenly lied on the topic of legal aid cuts and related issues. Unfortunately, the government has no interest at all in making balanced and fair decisions when it comes to issues such as legal aid because the majority public perception is that lawyers are paid too much anyway. It is therefore difficult to get accurate media coverage on the issue to the extent that it can be properly debated.

In terms of whether or not it has changed the make up of the criminal bar, this will vary from Chambers to Chambers and practitioner to practitioner. As it happens the friends that I have who do criminal law still seem to be ticking along quite nicely, but I have no doubt that that will be down to a combination of the approach of our Chambers and the tenacity and ability of those individual practitioners. In reality that element of the question is probably best directed at a criminal practitioner.

On a side note, though, all students and applicants should be aware that government imposed changes go far beyond legal aid cuts and changes in crime and family. Almost every other area of law is facing challenges to one degree or another brought on by government changes. To use my practice areas as examples, personal injury has the Jackson reforms, and Employment Law has the shift to a two year threshold for unfair dismissal and the introduction of tribunal fees, the latter of which in particular is having a devastating effect on access to justice. Even beyond those areas, the change to multi track issue fees is inevitably going to affect higher value litigation as well.
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Crazy Jamie
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(Original post by lachachacha)
My ambition is to become a barrister however I don't think it's realistic for me. I recieved my alevel results the other day and only obtained ABB, however one of the Bs was one mark off an A so is currently being remarked so I may well end up with AAB.

I did however still secure my place at a top Russell group university to study law with French.


Would becoming a barrister still be a viable option for me?
It's not possible to say whether or not becoming a barrister would be a viable option for you at this stage. Certainly whether you end up with ABB or AAB you will be competing for pupillage against students that have better A-Level results than you. However, in the grand scheme of things A-Level results are far from the most important element of a pupillage application. The question is whether or not you can tick the required boxes and/or make yourself stand out from this point onwards. A degree from a Russell Group university ticks one of those boxes, though it is vital that you come out of your degree with at least a 2:1, and preferably a First if at all possible.

Clearly you know yourself better than I do, and it may be that there are other reasons behind you reaching your conclusion that being a barrister is not a realistic ambition. As has been repeated often on these forums, if your ambition is to become a barrister it is one that you have to approach with maximum effort in order to stand a realistic chance. There is no shame at all in shying away from the competition to become a barrister, because it is fierce and the majority of those who try are unsuccessful. But if you're simply uncertain at this stage you still have quite a bit of time before you have to make a definitive decision. If that is the position, I would advise you to work hard and see how you do in your first couple of years at university. See how your results work out, and also try to do a mini pupillage or two. After that you'll be able to make a more informed choice as to whether becoming a barrister is a realistic ambition and one that you are willing to commit to, or whether you want to go in a different direction.
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LadyLaw23
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In relation to pupillage applications, one bit of advice that seems to be given very often is to make one's app/answers 'interesting'. Unfortunately, this doesn't help very much at all, as it is extremely unclear at best what would in fact be considered as interesting. My question therefore is what does that actually mean in a practical sense, and would you be able to give any examples of things/answers which fall into this category, and also of some which attempt it but fail?
NB. Obviously, I don't mean this to be a 'please provide a model answer' type question at all, more asking for examples to put things into context.

(Original post by CaptainJosh)
Do you work in Starbucks or Costa?
Please say that was a joke... :unsure:
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lachachacha
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(Original post by Crazy Jamie)
It's not possible to say whether or not becoming a barrister would be a viable option for you at this stage. Certainly whether you end up with ABB or AAB you will be competing for pupillage against students that have better A-Level results than you. However, in the grand scheme of things A-Level results are far from the most important element of a pupillage application. The question is whether or not you can tick the required boxes and/or make yourself stand out from this point onwards. A degree from a Russell Group university ticks one of those boxes, though it is vital that you come out of your degree with at least a 2:1, and preferably a First if at all possible.

Clearly you know yourself better than I do, and it may be that there are other reasons behind you reaching your conclusion that being a barrister is not a realistic ambition. As has been repeated often on these forums, if your ambition is to become a barrister it is one that you have to approach with maximum effort in order to stand a realistic chance. There is no shame at all in shying away from the competition to become a barrister, because it is fierce and the majority of those who try are unsuccessful. But if you're simply uncertain at this stage you still have quite a bit of time before you have to make a definitive decision. If that is the position, I would advise you to work hard and see how you do in your first couple of years at university. See how your results work out, and also try to do a mini pupillage or two. After that you'll be able to make a more informed choice as to whether becoming a barrister is a realistic ambition and one that you are willing to commit to, or whether you want to go in a different direction.

Many thanks for taking the time to write a resonse! I will indeed see how things work out during my degree.
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hihihihihi
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How much do you make (roughly)?
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