Advice on potentially becoming a barrister Watch

Martins1
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I'm considering going into law to become a barrister, and I have a few questions.

Firstly, I'm currently not studying a law degree - I'm a 2nd year studying a humanities degree at Oxford. I got a very high 1st in my first year exams, so my grades shouldn't be a problem. I'm aware that not studying law isn't a problem per se, but when looking into mini-pupillages, I've noticed that many ask for me to either be doing a law degree or starting a conversion course. My problem is that I want to do the mini-pupillage so that I can decide whether or not I want to do a conversion course. I don't want to commit to a conversion course only to do a mini-pupillage and find I hate it. Is there any advice someone who knows a bit about the system can offer?

Secondly, I've noticed that among those Chambers that will accept students who aren't studying law/on a conversion course, they often look for skills like "advocacy", a "dedication to the bar", and knowledge about and interest in the law. How do I manage to gain these skills when I'm not studying law? Can I enter some moots as a non-law student? (And if so, where can I learn how to actually do them?) What resources (blogs, websites, books) can I use to learn the basics about the law so that I don't falter in that way? And finally, what resources can I use to learn about cases in each area of the law so that I can reference them when suggesting that I am in fact interested in the law? Is there anything else I should be doing beyond having a good academic and extra-curricular record?

Thirdly, and relatedly, can anyone recommend any good books they've read which help with the following things:
1) a realistic idea of what it's like to be a barrister
2) a guided tour from uni to barrister (it's so confusing!)
3) a decent introduction to the law which isn't a 1000 page textbook that could knock someone out/bore someone to sleep.

Finally, as a matter of interest, say I wanted to become a barrister. Can I get funding/scholarships for the GDL/BPTC, and how? (And where should I do them?) What sort of things can I do to increase my chances of getting good funding/a good scholarship?

Basically, I want to get a deep and realistic appreciation of what being a barrister entails before choosing to pursue a career as a barrister, and in the process I want to prepare myself to be able to pursue a career as whatever barrister I'd like (keep my options open) if I do choose to pursue such a career.

I would really appreciate advice from people who've been through all of this sort of stuff! Cheers in advance

P.s. if it makes any difference, there are a number of other realistic careers I am considering.
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Crazy Jamie
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(Original post by Martins1)
Firstly, I'm currently not studying a law degree - I'm a 2nd year studying a humanities degree at Oxford. I got a very high 1st in my first year exams, so my grades shouldn't be a problem. I'm aware that not studying law isn't a problem per se, but when looking into mini-pupillages, I've noticed that many ask for me to either be doing a law degree or starting a conversion course. My problem is that I want to do the mini-pupillage so that I can decide whether or not I want to do a conversion course. I don't want to commit to a conversion course only to do a mini-pupillage and find I hate it. Is there any advice someone who knows a bit about the system can offer?
Some Chambers will require you to be doing a law degree or starting a conversation course, but many won't. It's just a matter of applying to those Chambers that don't have that requirement. You could even apply to those that do and note at some point on the application form or covering letter that you're looking to do a mini pupillage to assist in deciding whether or not you want go down the barrister route. The worst that happens is that they reject you.

Secondly, I've noticed that among those Chambers that will accept students who aren't studying law/on a conversion course, they often look for skills like "advocacy", a "dedication to the bar", and knowledge about and interest in the law. How do I manage to gain these skills when I'm not studying law? Can I enter some moots as a non-law student? (And if so, where can I learn how to actually do them?) What resources (blogs, websites, books) can I use to learn the basics about the law so that I don't falter in that way? And finally, what resources can I use to learn about cases in each area of the law so that I can reference them when suggesting that I am in fact interested in the law? Is there anything else I should be doing beyond having a good academic and extra-curricular record?
You will have to check within your own university as to whether non law students can take part in moots. I'll leave someone else with more recent experience of moots to give you guidance on how to go about preparing for them, but you should have access to your university's legal resources in researching cases (such as Westlaw and Lexis Nexis, which are both online legal databases). You can also obtain advocacy experience in a non legal environment. Debating is one of the best examples, but there will be others.

On a related note, I appreciate that many Chambers will ask in one way or the other about your interest in or dedication to the law. This is often mentioned as a key part of pupillage applications. The reality is that it is somewhat overrated, and you cannot and should not pretend to be something that you're not in this regard. Starting to consider the Bar as a career path in your second year of university isn't a bad thing or something that should make you feel like you've come into this late. Being open with Chambers that you are looking to secure mini pupillages in order to inform yourself as to whether you want to become a barrister is a perfectly viable position to adopt in applications.
Thirdly, and relatedly, can anyone recommend any good books they've read which help with the following things:
1) a realistic idea of what it's like to be a barrister
The problem with this is that what it is like to be a barrister depends on your area of law, your Chambers, your clerks, and the way that you manage your work and lifestyle. As such, one book may well give you an insight into a particular area of law, but it is difficult for any one book to give you an insight into what being a barrister broadly is. The other reason for that is that books by their nature have to have a selling point, and will therefore tend to concentrate on the unusual rather than the norm. Even books like Stories of the Law and How It's Broken (the Secret Barrister book) is about an area of law, and whilst it gives insight into what it is like to be a criminal barrister, it will to (and does not pretend to) give the complete picture.
2) a guided tour from uni to barrister (it's so confusing!)
You're doing a non law degree, so after you finish your degree you will need to do the GDL, which counts as your qualifying law degree. Then you do the BPTC. Then you get pupillage at a Chambers. Then you are hopefully offered tenancy. The bottleneck is pupillage. You can start applying for pupillage before the BPTC, but most students start the BPTC without having secured pupillage. In terms of the risks associated with pursuing this career, those risks will predominantly revolve around your chances of securing pupillage.
3) a decent introduction to the law which isn't a 1000 page textbook that could knock someone out/bore someone to sleep.
'The law' is about as broad a topic as you could name, so it may well come down to what sort of law you're talking about. I'm sure this question has been asked elsewhere, though probably in the context of prospective students asking about things to read prior to starting a law degree. It may be that others have some more specific suggestions.
Finally, as a matter of interest, say I wanted to become a barrister. Can I get funding/scholarships for the GDL/BPTC, and how? (And where should I do them?) What sort of things can I do to increase my chances of getting good funding/a good scholarship?
The two primary sources of funding for the Bar specifically are scholarships from the Inns of Court, and drawing down pupillage awards if you're lucky enough to secure a pupillage at a top end set prior to starting the BPTC. I'm not the one to ask about how you can increase your chances of securing scholarships, so others will have to chip in on that.
Basically, I want to get a deep and realistic appreciation of what being a barrister entails before choosing to pursue a career as a barrister, and in the process I want to prepare myself to be able to pursue a career as whatever barrister I'd like (keep my options open) if I do choose to pursue such a career.
You sounds to me like you've got the right mindset in terms of properly informing yourself before you make any sort of definitive choice. The other option is that you can of course ask any specific questions on here. A number of us are practising barristers and historically have been pretty candid about this sort of thing. I've got an AMAA thread floating around somewhere, but asking questions here and/or via PM is fine too.
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leage_beagle
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It's only a good idea to become a barrister if you really enjoy law; as such, it is a very good idea to do some legal reading. The thousand page textbooks you mention aren't a good idea not just because of their length but because (most) textbooks are not especially interesting to read in general. Instead, I would recommend looking at some introductory non-textbooks to different specific topics in law, rather than at law in general.

The Clarendon Law Series has some good introductions - for example Tony Weir's introduction to tort law, or 'International Law' by Vaughan Lowe. These are written for someone with no knowledge of the specific field and ought to be fairly comprehensible even if you have no legal background. You should also try reading a case. There are literally hundreds of thousands, but if you want to start somewhere law students start, you could try a case like Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Co in contract law, or R v Caldwell in criminal law. It will be tricky to understand what exactly is going on at first as they are such a specialised and strange kind of written artefact, but it will give you an idea of whether you find law in general interesting.

You might also look to books by well known judges and practitioners written for a lay-audience, such as (auto)biographies of legal practitioners, although these will obviously mostly be better reflections of the historical contours of the profession.
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