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    Hi everyone,

    I'm aware that there are people at all stages of legal training, and I'm interested in everyones insights into this biggie!

    I've wanted to be a barrister since primary school, and have made sure I have all the write extra-currics, a good CV, good academic record, scholarships etc. I was hoping to practice at a civil-liberties centred chambers, but have no firm preference for practice as of yet, although I know I don't want to do crime and I'm very interested in Public Law.

    It's only at this late stage I'm suddenly beginning to truly understand the workload, and how this will impact on every day life. I'm not so much concerned with cancelling social engagements, but more having any time with my partner (real) and children (hypothetical) - being home generally, really!

    I was wondering what people's thoughts are with regards to this? Some things I've heard from barristers during mini pupillages are:

    "I work constantly, and if I have a break in case-load I can't relax because I think my practice is collapsing"

    "I never really stop work before 9pm"

    "I never see my wife and children"

    etc. Maybe I got these barristers on a bad day, or maybe its reality.

    Are people reckoning it's worth the sacrifice for what is a remarkable career?

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    I reckon that's pretty accurate really.

    I'm in the final few weeks of my pupillage and work pretty much every weekend - I always have something that needs doing. I've been up before 5am twice in the last 10 days. It's hard... but strangely worth it!

    I just got married (4.5 weeks ago) and would love to have children but I don't see that happening any time soon.
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    (Original post by LuverlyLawyer)
    I reckon that's pretty accurate really.

    I'm in the final few weeks of my pupillage and work pretty much every weekend - I always have something that needs doing. I've been up before 5am twice in the last 10 days. It's hard... but strangely worth it!

    I just got married (4.5 weeks ago)
    and would love to have children but I don't see that happening any time soon.
    OP, sorry, completely of topic, but congratulations, LuverlyLawyer!
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    I'm a bit worried about this as well. It's a big issue for me because I'm about to start law school at the grand old age of 31, so I'll be 34 when I do my pupillage (if I get one). If I get to the Bar, my first years there will coincide directly with my last years of fertility. And I've always really wanted to have 4 children!

    I recently had lunch with a lady barrister who came to the Bar in her mid-30s. Her advice was to forget about having children if I want to succeed, although this was partly because I'm older. If you are in your 20s and have 5-10 years to build a practice before you need to worry that your eggs are passing their use-by date, it's less of an issue. She eventually conceded that if I work throughout pregnancy, pop them out and get back to work after 3 months it might work out, "but it will be very difficult". I don't mind working up to the end of my pregnancies (am generally very robust so with luck I will be physically capable) and I could handle returning to work when baby is 3 months old - don't think I'd have much choice actually, given that barristers are self-employed and don't get maternity pay - but if I get married, I will want babies.

    I've come to realise, thought, that I can't count on getting married and having children. I've been single for quite a long time and I'm starting to give up hope that I will ever meet The One. If I don't, that's that - I would never want to have a baby on my own. Even if I do find him, we might not be able to have children - you never know. I don't want to be a housewife/SAHM either way, but if I don't get married or can't have kids, I'm definitely going to need a fulfilling and well-paid career to keep myself amused and housed. I have more control over whether I succeed in my career than over whether anyone ever asks me to marry them, so it makes sense to focus on that. Waiting and hoping to find the right man is starting to look about as rational as counting on winning the lottery!

    Assuming I manage to find a tenancy and a husband in the next 5 years, the two scenarios are:
    1) I have babies in my late 30s and my bar career suffers/doesn't take off. I could live with this, and could hopefully return to the Bar or another interesting job later on. I would rather have a big family than take silk.
    2) I can't have babies because it will already be too late/other health reasons, and my bar career goes well because I'll then be able to work all hours for it, as other people do.

    If I turn away from law at this stage just because it's a tough career for mothers, I could end up without a family OR a fulfilling career - that doesn't bear thinking about. Very few women really get to have it all, but having some of it is better than having none!

    If you've already bagged your babyfather, it becomes more of a dilemma, because you know you can have babies if you want them. On the other hand, you're probably younger than me and therefore have more time to build up your practice. And you can tick the husband off the list, provided he doesn't get fed up with never seeing you and run off with his secretary :p:

    Following the recent tragic suicide of the lady at S J Berwin, there are a couple of articles in today's Times about the pressures on female lawyers. I dunno though, there are lots of mothers who work in unskilled low-paid jobs for just as many hours per day and nobody talks about how tough their lives are.
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    (Original post by DaisyEmma)
    Waiting and hoping to find the right man is starting to look about as rational as counting on winning the lottery!
    It's probably no less rational or risky than chucking your ticket in the great pupillage tombola!
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    One thing those of you without children cannot consider at this stage, is the impact the feelings you have for your own child will have on you. It really is impossible to say until you've given birth.

    So plan loosely, and don't think that rigid stance of 'if I have to go back after 3 months, I will' will necessarily be the reality. The likelihood is that it won't...and if you do have to go back because you feel you'll lose ground in your career...then that choice will have to be balanced with the fact that you will also lose ground with your child.

    It's tough balancing a career and a family. Not impossible, but definitely tough.
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    Oh I'm quite clear about the fact that in the next few years I will make a decision: career or babies.
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    I think it is possible but you have to be forceful. The relationship between a barrister and their clerk changes over the years. The difficulty is that children tend to arrive at a time when you are doing what they say (this is equally true for fathers but perhaps less problematic). So you have to impose yourself, ignoring the dire prognostications of the damage you are doing to your practice (you aren't) and the warning of what other members of chambers are thinking (they aren't).

    The important thing is to identify what is going on during these periods. You aren't going to significantly advance your career if you aren't available for every case. But your career is a flexible thing and will cope. The important thing is that you recognise the point and so you don't get yourself worked up. The other thing is not to drop off the radar. That means prioritising various firms of solicitors and types of work and making sure that you get round, even if you wouldn't usually do that work.

    It helps to discuss these things with your clerks and with your head of chambers, upon whose support you should be able to count.

    Of course, you can never predict how you are going to react to your own childrens' arrival and I know barristers who went back to work immediately and happily carried on, and those who unexpectedly stopped working altogether. However, you can always come back - I know someone who came back after an 8 year break and is now doing really well (again).

    As to the non-child bit I am afraid that a barrister's life is unpredictable and that barristers' partners get used to having evenings out cancelled and being stood up for that drink after work. That is simply the nature of the job and the more junior you are, the more likely it is to be you who gets the brief at 5pm.

    However, the corollary is that you can take advantage of the down time and you can also learn to work more quickly as you go on. It is also possible to manage your work round your partner and family. I rarely missed a bathtime or family dinner, even though I often went back to work afterwards (again, the provinces are easier but you can always work at home). It is easy for barristers to feel that the world cannot exist without them, but there really is no excuse for taking work on holiday or cancelling a holiday. A quick check of the emails once or twice a day is sufficient.

    Oh - and congratulations LL
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    At most of the firms I've done vac schemes at, there have been a lot of solicitors who used to be barristers before the QLTT. One said she wasn't making any money as a criminal barrister, and the other said he was fed up of having to travel all the time and also only seeing his family about one night a week. I don't know how far their experiences can be generalised, but that's what they said.

    With solicitors I think it's more variable. Some are happy if they're out by 9pm, whereas one city firm I worked out had trainees complaining if they were working later than 6.30 lol. Personally I think getting a City salary training contract and leaving at 6.30 is pretty fabaluss.
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    Work/life balance is an ongoing issue within the law profession with surveys often coming back with things like '25% of lawyers are unhappy' or 'stress related illness on the increase in the legal profession'.

    I would say you are definitely doing the right thing by participating in a variety of vac schemes to give you an idea of the different cultures and work/life balances within different types of firms.

    Also, search the web for other accounts of what its like to work in different firms. There is always going to be some form of trade off between working hours and salary but you should also be able to some firms that also provide a better work/life balance than others. Take a look at the various trainee lawyer blogs that are out there aswell as sites such as www.traineesolicitorsurgery.co.uk for some real life accounts of the legal profession in practice.
 
 
 
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