The Student Room Group

Transitioning from Software Engineering to the Bar via GDL

I've been a software engineer for around 7 years and for a while have been intrigued by the idea of leveraging the knowledge and experience I've gained from the world of tech as a barrister.

My assumption would be that a deep understanding of software, attention to detail, quick analysis of large amounts of data etc. would amount to an advantage: both in doing the job itself and in finding a niche.

I've acted in theatre and directed most of my life also, so I get the sense that it could be a great way of bringing that into my professional life.

Has anyone here done this or tried to do it? Does this sound viable? Any massive red flags? Does the GDL put you at a disadvantage if you want to work in Tech / IP?
Your background could make you a good candidate for pupillages in chambers doing IP and other technology related work. Please bear in mind that competition for pupillages is intense and the attrition rate is high. You will be up against people with glittering CVs. Your age and industry experience may well assist, but you will be jostling for places with legal rocket scientists.

Many barristers working in the IP and tech fields did degrees in science/tech subjects and GDLs. Not having a law degree is no disadvantage when entering the Bar.

Advocacy is a performance art, but please note that it is a long way from acting.

SB (a barrister with a non law degree)
Original post by Stiffy Byng
Your background could make you a good candidate for pupillages in chambers doing IP and other technology related work. Please bear in mind that competition for pupillages is intense and the attrition rate is high. You will be up against people with glittering CVs. Your age and industry experience may well assist, but you will be jostling for places with legal rocket scientists.
Many barristers working in the IP and tech fields did degrees in science/tech subjects and GDLs. Not having a law degree is no disadvantage when entering the Bar.
Advocacy is a performance art, but please note that it is a long way from acting.
SB (a barrister with a non law degree)

Thank you for taking the time to reply: it's patently clear from most advice I've seen about the Bar that it's highly, highly competitive.

What intrigues me is the details: I already get the sense that my background 'could' make me a good candidate for 'technology related work', that my age and experience may well assist, that's why I asked the question, what I want to know is why or how.
Reply 3
Understanding how the practical elements of an industry/problem scenario work can be useful context to analysing the legal risks or issue thats in your in-tray. That's pretty much how your background understanding of Tech/IP might help - no different from any other career move into a new field, you draw on the cross-disciplinary skills and info you've learnt.

GDL absolutely not a disadvantage on the other point btw.

I don't want to be overly pessimistic but I do think a decision to try for the bar has even more at stake when you're established in a career already and the time required to be spent on study, mini-pupilages and work experience can mean cutting your current role for a couple of years, with no guarantee of pupilage at the end of it.

Definitely recommend looking at the CVs of the most recently called barristers that do the type of work you're thinking of and give yourself an honest appraisal of how you stack up. Whether you become a fulltime student or juggle part-time in evenings and weekends the GDL is plenty of work, then BVC - then trying to fit in work experience, mini-pupilleges/work experience etc... - You really need to be fully committed. I don't think it's a cliche to say that the bar really is so-competitive in a way that I think few, if any, other professions match. I'm not at the bar (I'm a solicitor), but had three law school/uni friends become barristers - all three were incredibly bright & intellectual with a voracious appetite for hard work that put me to shame (and I am no strange to hard work and tough problem solving myself!)
Original post by stackdynamicsam
What intrigues me is the details: I already get the sense that my background 'could' make me a good candidate for 'technology related work', that my age and experience may well assist, that's why I asked the question, what I want to know is why or how.


The important thing to understand about IP and similar pupillages is that they are outliers in this respect. There are plenty of career changers who become barristers, but the vast majority do it on the back of transferable skills, and not that their specific experience is directly useful in their career as a barrister. Indeed, many such candidates grossly overestimate that aspect, for two reasons.

The first is that as a barrister your knowledge of another industry or profession is going to be a useful extra to cases involving that knowledge, but it is never going to be more important than the key skills you use to do the job. A lot of barristers do cases involving specialist or technical areas all the time. Part of the job is bringing yourself up to speed on those areas for the purpose of the case, to the extent that you need to. I did a case recently involving a company that produced specialist packaging, and the range of specialist terms to do with editing files, printing and producing was mind boggling at times. Would you have had an edge on me if you were representing the other side and had previously worked in that industry? Not one that made a difference. Because, crucially, even though the parties and witnesses are experts, the representatives aren't and the judge isn't, so there's always an element of the lawyers in the room educating themselves. And the issues in the case will be legal and not a test of how much you know about the industry. It will always come back to the law, so whilst your insight may allow you to catch a witness out here or there, or understand the subject matter quicker than another barrister, it's not something that will generally give you a meaningful advantage.

The second is that even to the extent that there may be some cases that touch on or deal with your previous experience, it is very difficult in most practice areas to find enough cases to actually sustain a practice in that area. This week I represented a packaging company. Next week it could be a school, or an airline, or a recruitment agency. Specialist industry knowledge is only getting me so far and is only going to apply to a very small number of my cases, and that is how it will be with most previous careers and most areas of practice as a barrister.

The reason why IP has been mentioned is because that is an area where previous technical and scientific knowledge is a characteristic of a lot of barristers who practice in that area, because it is one area where that sort of experience can be genuinely and consistently useful in cases that you do. However, those pupillages are also very niche and the competition is much more intense even compared to other pupillages. Quite apart from the specialist background, you also need an absolutely knockout application beyond that, including your academic qualifications. A relevant previous career in and of itself won't do it.
So the answer to the question is that your background can make you a desirable candidate both because the transferable skills, general experience and maturity that you will have can make you stand out from other candidates regardless of the pupillage you're aiming for, and because with certain pupillages your background and expertise can be directly useful in what you do. Whilst I fully appreciate why IP has been mentioned as a possibility so far, you're far more likely to aiming for the former situation than the latter. It depends on what your specific experience is, though, and what the rest of your application would look like.
(edited 3 months ago)

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