Hi everyone, sorry for what may be a bit of a rambling post.
I'm hoping to eventually become a barrister specialising in the field of civil liberties/human rights/crime. I have a first class degree from a Russell Group university and was really hoping to get a distinction in the GDL, but unfortunately got a commendation (66%). That's happened now and there's no changing it, but I'm worried it may affect my career prospects. Have I pretty much lost my chance of becoming a barrister?
For further context, I've done a lot of pro bono work (volunteered in a women's prison, done legal research into human trafficking, written articles for newspapers etc) and I'm moving to Kenya in September for six months to work for an anti-human trafficking NGO, intending to start the BPTC in September 2017.
Please, in all honesty, could you tell me whether my chances are pretty much nil at the moment, or whether I still stand a decent chance?
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Got a commendation in the GDL and need advice watch
- Thread Starter
- 11-07-2016 23:47
- 12-07-2016 09:31
I am a trainee solicitor and someone working as a barrister can give you more exact advice re chambers and commendations.
However, I do see you have excellent ECs and experience that will surely catch the eye at pupillage app stage.
You may not see it now, but law and legal jobs and being a barrister are about so much more than one GDL grade.
I don't suppose it will do you any favours but neither need it stop you if you are determined and cut out for the job.
Being a barrister, while I am sure it's a challenge many relish, is very tough.
I can't help but respect those who I work with. The qualities and skills needed are more than an excellence of legal Ability, they need real people skills in order to deal with clients like me and keep their business and hold their hands.
They need staying power and people who realise what they are getting into.
In law, you can make it happen for yourself. So, essentially, you have a drawback against another candidate with a distinction. But that's it and the arena is wider and judged on a lot more than just this
You have to really want to be a barrister. Do you? If you do, then onwards and upwards.
Plus look at the chambers who do the work you wanted to do and have a look at their pupils.
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- 14-07-2016 13:05
Whilst I appreciate that you are striving for perfection when it comes to strengthening your application, that doesn't mean it has to be perfect. Your application needs to be good enough to get you pupillage interviews, and to that it needs to have a combination of elements that you make stand out, and a lack of anything that gives the person reading it a reason to reject it. I obviously cannot speak for every barrister who might read your application, but personally I wouldn't consider a 66% on the GDL as a reason to reject your application, and I would be pretty confident in saying that, save for elite London sets, the majority of barristers would probably think the same way.
By contrast, your first class degree does make you stand out, because the majority of applicants for pupillage have a 2:1 in their degree. It's not enough in and of itself to get you an interview, but it's a positive. You would be surprised how many applicants have some sort of work abroad on their CV, but your placement in Kenya certainly sounds like it would stand out even amongst those candidates, whilst your pro bono work appears to be substantive and varied. Whilst I haven't actually had the benefit of reading your CV, from what you've said in your post it certainly sounds to me like you would have a good chance of getting pupillage interviews generally. Of course you won't know that for certain until you start applying, but certainly at this stage I wouldn't be worrying about your paper application not being strong enough, because there is simply nothing that says to me that that is the case from your post. Simply put, your 66% on the GDL is not the negative that you think it is, and certainly stands little chance of undermining the rest of your application in my view.
However, the one other note that I would make at this stage is in relation to your desire to work in civil liberties, human rights and/or crime. I'm sure you're aware that it is extremely common for students to say that they want to work in the area of 'human rights', whereas in reality very few ever end up doing so. The reason for that is twofold. First, most of those students do not really know what it means to work in 'human rights', and the ambition is often born out of idealism rather than an actual practical and realistic grasp of the area. As such the ambition tends to dilute as they progress, and they end up working in other areas. The second reason is that there are relatively few Chambers who can count civil liberties/human rights as a primary practice area. Competition for pupillage in those sets is therefore fierce, even more so than getting pupillage generally. As such, even if you end up wanting to go into that area after completing the BPTC, there is no guarantee that you'll come close to securing a specialist pupillage in that area, even with a strong application.
I am not stating that to attempt to discourage you, especially as I've just told you earlier in this post that your application looks like it could well be strong, but I say it more to ensure that you do have a proper, realistic grasp on what it is you are aspiring to do. It may be that the elements that drive you towards a career specialising in those areas can be found in other areas, which I say in the event that you don't have a good understanding of the specialism, or find that securing pupillage in that area is beyond you. Although for clarification I wouldn't classify either of those two things as a failing; plenty of students don't understand the practicalities of being a barrister, let alone being one that practises in a particular area, and falling short of securing pupillage at your ideal set doesn't mean that you can't work your way back up to those heights later on in your career. You do just need to be aware, if you're not already, of the realities of holding the ambitions that you do in terms of specialism. **
- 14-07-2016 23:51
Great post Crazy Jamie. I think I will apply it to my career
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