Bar Soc Blog

The Red Lion Chambers Essay Competition

Red Lion Chambers logo


We are proud to present our first essay competition in conjunction with Red Lion Chambersa leading barristers’ chambers based in London. This competition is open to all year groups and all degree disciplines at the University of Warwick.

Essay title: “Does the Internet pose an unmanageable threat to the jury system?”

Many news stories in the last few months have asked the same question. This issue is at the heart of contemporary debates about the criminal justice system.

The winner will be given a mini-pupillage (plus £125 expenses) at Red Lion Chambers, which is one of the country’s largest and best criminal and regulatory sets. The runner up will receive £75. At least the top three entries will be posted on the BarSocBlog, which is read by barristers and others from the legal sector. Furthermore, your submissions will be read and judged by barristers – this is your chance to impress, and gain a fantastic achievement on your CV.

So, for those of you interested in current affairs or criminal law, send in your submission of 2000 words maximum (excluding footnotes for citations) to by 8pm on Monday 24th February 2014.

Join the Facebook event here: If you have any queries, send an email to Caitlin Jenkins at

The competition poster can be found HERE.

Best of luck!


Anthony Searle
Founder and President



Festive Wishes from Warwick Bar Society

Question: “What is Santa going to give you for Christmas this year?”
Aspiring barrister’s answer: “Hopefully 2500 words for this essay.”

Yes, it’s that time of year again. After a successful Autumn Term, we can finally go home and put our feet up…on the large pile of books we need to read. In all seriousness though, do take a break and do not, under any circumstances, do any work for your degree on Christmas Day. Or Boxing Day. Or New Year’s Eve. (Is that pushing it?)

And if you do take some breaks from essay writing, there are several things you can do to help you on your path to the Bar:

  • Now is a good time to apply for mini-pupillages, either for the Easter holidays (though remember you’ll have essays and revision to do) or for summer. Remember to check out our London mini-pupillage spreadsheet for loads of info on the chambers offering minis:
  • Keep up to date with legal current affairs. Aspiring solicitors aren’t the only ones who need commercial awareness, so make sure you keep up to date with the latest legal developments. A great place to start is the Inner Temple ‘Current Awareness’ feature (a daily list of legal news), which can be found on their Twitter or their Facebook page. You may also want to check out LawCareers.Net’s synopsis of 2013’s most important legal developments, which can be found here.
  • Write for the BarSocBlog (open to non-members too)! If you aren’t too keen on the idea of writing for a magazine or student-run academic journal, the BarSocBlog provides an informal means for you to write about legal issues, whether on academic points of law, current affairs, or the Bar itself. Send in your article (there is no minimum or maximum length) to and we’ll consider posting it on the blog. And soon we will also be releasing details of our essay competitionthe prizes for which include a mini-pupillage and money!

Finally, here is our Christmas Newsletter giving details of our successes in the past term. Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays and all the best for the new year!

Click here to view our Christmas Newsletter



Anthony Searle
Founder and President


Q&A with Maura McGowan QC, Chairman of the Bar

Maura McGowan

We are honoured to post on our blog a question and answer session with Maura McGowan QC, the Chairman of the Bar. Ms McGowan was called to the Bar by Middle Temple in 1980, took silk in 2001, and was appointed as a Deputy High Court Judge in 2010. Practising from 2 Bedford Row in London, Ms McGowan has extensive experience in all areas of criminal law and also carries out public inquiry work. Having served as the Vice-Chairman of the Bar Council in 2012, she was then elected as Chairman for 2013.

The Q&A is on the theme of the legal aid cuts, something about which many aspiring barristers are concerned. Ms McGowan has been fighting continuously to uphold fairness and justice for the legal profession and those citizens requiring legal aid. Read on to find out more about this issue.


1. What do you consider to be the most worrying aspect of the Government’s proposed cuts to legal aid?

MMQC: That the service offered to the public will be detrimentally affected. If good lawyers leave the profession, quality will fall. Areas that are taken out of scope will mean no access to justice for people without the funds to pay their own costs. In areas such as judicial review, it will deny the right to challenge decisions made by Government departments and public bodies.


2. Why should aspiring barristers such as our members be concerned about the proposed cuts?

MMQC: For all the public interests mentioned above but also as individuals. The publicly funded parts of the profession will shrink as fees fall. Solicitors will almost certainly do more advocacy themselves so that the supply of work will also shrink. It will be extremely difficult for graduates with large debts to start practice knowing they will not receive enough to meet their expenses and to clear their debts.


3. How do you think the proposed cuts will affect women and minorities in the legal profession?

MMQC: As women and BME practitioners have traditionally been attracted to the publicly funded areas of practice, they are likely to be disproportionately affected by the cuts. The risk is that the diversity of the profession will be adversely affected and in due course that will reduce the diversity of the judiciary.


4. What do you think will be the effect of the rise of litigants in person?

MMQC: The ironic and unintended consequence of the rise in the number of unrepresented parties is that cases will take longer, court lists will become clogged up, the work loads on the judiciary will increase and alter, and cases will fail to settle by negotiation in the pre-trial process. There is much research to show that money spent in the early stages of litigation has a much greater value.


5. Do you think that the cuts will mean that those in need of legal advice who do not qualify for legal aid, but still cannot afford it, are being denied access to justice?

MMQC: The average person will find that they can no longer obtain legal advice or representation, and that the Citizens Advice Bureau and other voluntary organisations have suffered cuts. This will mean that cases that should be litigated will not be brought or adequately defended. It will take away access to legal remedies for anyone with less than enough money to pay their own costs.


6. Do you think that the office of Lord Chancellor should be given to a politician with a legal background? Had the current Lord Chancellor come from a legal background, do you think his proposed cuts would be as severe?

MMQC: Having a legal background would make the task of being Lord Chancellor easier. There is much that outsiders do not readily understand. That being said, in the current economic climate, another Lord Chancellor might have made the same cuts. The Shadow Lord Chancellor has recently said that the Labour administration wouldn’t repeal LASPO [Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012] if elected in 2015.


7. In light of question 6, do you think the office of Lord Chancellor is necessary following the changes made by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005?

MMQC: Even though the Lord Chancellor no longer has the responsibility of representing the judiciary, there are still very good institutional reasons for the political head of the Ministry of Justice to have a special and distinct role in the Cabinet.


8. As a future solicitor, will the proposed legal aid cuts have a similarly negative impact upon my profession as it has to the Bar? And, if so, how can solicitors and barristers work together to combat these changes?

(Guest question from Lily Tomkins, Treasurer of Warwick Law Society)

MMQC: Solicitors will be affected by these cuts in similar ways. The numbers of firms doing publicly funded work will shrink and those firms will be likely to employ fewer solicitors and possibly on less generous terms than before.

Solicitors and barristers have joined together to fight the implementation of these cuts. Given that they are likely to be imposed to some extent, we now have to find a better way of working together to deal with their effects in the future.

One scheme which may help junior practitioners is the breaking down of cases into constituent parts, so that litigants who can pay something will be able to instruct a lawyer to do one piece of advice or advocacy in a case.


9. Is there anything wrong with the proposition of a privatised court system?

MMQC: There is nothing wrong with expecting courts to run more effectively but there is everything wrong with a privatised system which is the mechanism through which justice is implemented and the rule of law is supported. It is difficult to imagine how anyone could ever make a profit out of the system.


10. Why do you think barristers have a reputation amongst some members of the public for being ‘fat cats’? What can be done to further educate the public about the Bar in order to eradicate such stereotypes?

MMQC: Many commercial lawyers – barristers and solicitors – earn substantial amounts, and it is difficult for some members of the public to distinguish between them and the publicly funded. There are also a few legally aided lawyers who earn substantial amounts in occasional years because of delays in payment.

There has been a lack of public and press sympathy for our cause but we have made great changes in public perception in recent times. As always, we could do more but there are always some newspapers and some Government ministers who will not resist the lazy stereo-typing of the ‘fat cat’ label.


11. The cuts will undoubtedly reduce aspiring barristers’ interests in the criminal Bar; many have decided and will decide that the poor remuneration is simply not worth it. Is this a problem and how can it be solved, if at all?

MMQC: It is a real problem for the future of the profession if people of real ability are discouraged from entering the profession. I think it’s difficult to see an immediate solution; work and income are both falling and it may be that recruitment and even retention will fall accordingly.


12. As aspiring barristers, we are repeatedly told to have a ‘plan B’ and be certain that the Bar is right for us; the proposed legal aid cuts have made this career choice even more difficult. In light of this, what is the most sensible thing that an aspiring barrister, who is truly focused on the Bar, can do at this time?

MMQC: Securing a pupillage and a tenancy in due course has always been difficult. Not all aspiring barristers have succeeded in reaching their goal. That position is worse now than in the past. There is also the difficulty that other organisations, such as the CPS and Government Legal Service, are cutting the numbers of people they recruit.

Is it very depressing to have to tell people who desperately want to succeed that they may not, but that is the realistic prospect for the foreseeable future. I’m afraid a plan B is a necessity.


We are very grateful to Ms McGowan for taking the time to answer our questions so thoroughly. To find out more about her role and the Bar Council itself, visit

Whilst our Q&A ended on a somewhat sombre note, I am reminded of what Ms McGowan told me when I first met her at the Bar Council’s ‘Legal Aid Question Time’ in June: the best get there in the end. Of course, sheer determination is not enough these days, but it will certainly help you. At the very least, ensure that you have an excellent academic record, a string of mini-pupillages under your belt, and plenty of advocacy experience (mooting, debating, mock trials, etc.). Most importantly, make sure that the Bar is right for you; you will most likely find this out by speaking to barristers (particularly on your mini-pupillages) and by attending events such as those hosted by Warwick Bar Society. Do not despair!


Anthony Searle
Founder and President


End of Academic Year Newsletter

We thought we would write a summary newsletter for our members and those who have helped us in our inaugural year. It details many of our accomplishments to date, and outlines our plans for the forthcoming academic year.

Many thanks to all of you for your support!

Click here to view our End of Year Newsletter 2012/13


The Executive Committee



Everyone wants one and everyone needs one. Unfortunately, they are few and far between, and it’s hard to know where you should apply.

That’s why we are providing you with an extensive spreadsheet of around 150 London chambers which details their main practice areas, size (in terms of juniors and QCs), mini-pupillage application deadlines, methods of application, and more.

Of course, we are not neglecting regional chambers; a specific spreadsheet for them shall be done shortly.

So, check out our new ‘Mini-Pupillages’ page to view the spreadsheet.

Many thanks to Information Officer, Yasmin Hughes-Pugh, for working so hard on this.

And if you need a couple of tips on how to apply, or you want to learn about other ways to improve your CV, check out my previous blog post, ‘What should aspiring barristers do this summer?’


Anthony Searle
Founder and President


What should aspiring barristers do this summer?

Welcome to Warwick Bar Society’s BarSocBlog! This seems like an appropriate question to tackle in our first post.

The long summer holiday that Warwick kindly awards us for all of our hard work is a great time to progress as an aspiring barrister. Here are a few things you should seriously think about doing:


Along with having an excellent academic record, mini-pupillages are probably the most important things for an aspiring barrister to have on his/her CV. They involve shadowing a barrister for a few days at a set of chambers, and give you the chance to learn more about the profession and specific areas of law.

– How do I apply?
Check the chambers’ websites! Some chambers have their own application forms but most chambers will ask you to send them your CV and a cover letter. Your CV should be no longer than two pages and should include your academic achievements and qualifications (including any results you’ve had at Warwick so far); relevant legal experience (any law-related work experience, mooting, etc.); any awards or scholarships you’ve won; your extra-curricular interests; and, finally, the contact details of two academic referees. Your cover letter should be no longer than a page and should include an introduction, setting out who you are and what you’re applying for; a paragraph detailing why you want to apply to that chambers for a mini-pupillage; a paragraph detailing why they should choose you and why you would make a good barrister; and, finally, a closing thank-you remark of some sort. Also, don’t forget: sign off with ‘Yours sincerely‘ when you know the name of the person to whom you’re writing, and ‘Yours faithfully‘ when you don’t know their name (i.e. Dear Sir/Madam). Etiquette is very important!

– To where do I apply?
This depends on what sort of areas of law you’re interested in. If you want to be a criminal barrister, it wouldn’t make much sense to do four mini-pupillages at commercial sets but only one at a criminal set (and vice versa). Saying that, I would say that it is a good idea to get a fairly wide range of experience, particularly if you’re unsure what you want to specialise in at this stage. Furthermore, you might want to look at applying to sets in different parts of the UK, if you aren’t sure where you would like to practise. Remember, London is not the only place where you can practise as a barrister
Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol, Exeter,
Swansea, Cardiff, Southampton, Brighton, Canterbury – the list goes on!

We are planning on releasing a mini-pupillage table soon, which will give details about chambers’ areas of law, size and application deadlines, but, until then, you should have a look at The Barrister Magazine’s A-Z of chambers:

*UPDATE* – We have now published our extensive mini-pupillage spreadsheet:


Obviously, it helps if you know someone. Thanks to members of my family, I was fortunate enough to gain work experience at small, medium and large solicitors’ firms at the end of my first year at Warwick. Each experience confirmed to me that I didn’t want to be a solicitor. If you feel the same after completing some work experience, then do not think you have wasted your time; chambers want to see that you have considered your options and consequently made an informed decision to practise at the Bar. Don’t worry if you don’t have any contacts you can use; it’s always worth firing off CVs and cover letters to the HR departments of large firms or even your local high street firms. What do you have to lose?

If you’re keen to get some more in-depth experience at solicitors’ firms, then you should also start thinking about applying for vacation schemes. The deadline for these for the major firms is usually the end of January but it’s a good idea to start researching now. One common theme on firms’ online application forms is ‘commercial awareness’. If you want to find out what this actually is, have a look at this article by Alex Aldridge on the Legal Cheek website. Once again, doing vacation schemes will show that you have considered your options, and you’ll also earn some money.

Also, start thinking about volunteering for the incredible Free Representation Unit (FRU). You will have the chance to work on your own cases, either in employment or social security law; it is one of the best things an aspiring barrister can do to prove their advocacy skills and overall determination, and it’s also good for society. You have to be at least a third year LLB student to volunteer but otherwise it’s certainly something to think about for the future. If this takes your fancy, you might also be interested in the Citizens Advice Bureau and other pro bono work.


Same as the first section of point 2. All work experience is valuable. For example, if you have an interest in property law, then working in a property management company for a week would be very useful and will demonstrate to chambers your dedication and interest. The same goes for the relevant areas of law for banks, accountancy and finance firms, and many other companies and industries.


If you think you can write a 3,000 word essay by October 2013 that ‘identifies and makes the case for a law reform that is desirable, practical and useful’, then you might be in with a chance of boosting your CV and your wallet.

– £4000 for the winner
– £2,500 for the runner up
– £1,500 for the best CPE/GDL entry
– £1,000 for the runner up CPE/GDL entry
– 2 x £500 high commended awards

More information and the entry form can be found here:


Several universities and organisations have their own student-run academic law journals. If you have a penchant for essays, you could write a submission on any area of law that takes your fancy. I’ll leave it to you to Google the rest of them but here’s the (very swanky) website for our very own Warwick Student Law Review I think the deadline for submissions is usually in January but you might as well make a good start on it now as I’m sure term one of the new academic year will be busy, particularly if you attend all of the Bar Society’s awesome events! All will be revealed soon.


The aim of this blog is to keep aspiring barristers informed and this can be achieved in many ways. If you have relevant experiences you want to share on a blog post, or you would like to write a more academic (but still fairly informal) post on news relating to the Bar or any area of law, then send your submissions to and we’ll definitely consider posting it to the BarSocBlog!


Whatever you decide to do this summer, just make the most of it and don’t forget to relax! Keep checking the website, Facebook and Twitter for Warwick Bar Society updates and handy tips from our Exec.

Best of luck!


Anthony Searle
Founder and President