In order to help each other through the process of becoming a barrister, it is vital for us to share our experiences. Below are the testimonials of a few students with regard to their Bar-related work experience.
Mini-Pupillage at 43 Temple Row | Nathan Baylis, Vice-President 2016/17
43 Temple Row is a small set in the centre of Birmingham with varied practice areas. During my week with them I shadowed barristers in Immigration Tribunals, Magistrate courts and Civil courts, so I got to witness a number of areas which I would not have usually given much credence. One of the most useful things I took away from the week was an understanding, and interest in, Immigration and Asylum law. This particular area offers an intriguing insight into the British legal system, as well as showing me the very real aftermath of conflicts around the world. It opened my eyes to the way in which both sides attempt to twist the system to their advantage, and the effectiveness of these tactics. Later on in the week I sat in a Magistrates court and got to see where I would spend time “cutting my teeth” as a junior barrister. The “Mags” seems to offer a more relaxed opportunity for advocates to hone their skills, and I would thoroughly recommend anyone to go and sit in if they have the time. My final day was spent in a Civil court, allowing me to witness a different, more technical, form of advocacy. My week at 43 opened my eyes to many alternatives I had not previously considered, and that information will be instrumental in the decisions I have to make in the future.
Mini-Pupillage at 2 Temple Gardens | Demi Joannides, Events Officer 2016/17
I undertook at three day mini pupillage 2 Temple Gardens. A particular highlight during my time at Chambers was when I took part in a court-like debate. I was given details of an open case and told to gather evidence to support the defence. The Barrister, acting for the prosecution, and I then presented our arguments to a QC. This exercise helped me practice the immediate response needed in advocacy and the skill of thinking under pressure. I was lucky enough to visit court every day I was there. The barrister would usually give me the case documents to read in the morning before going to court. I really enjoyed my time at T2G and I definitely felt that the barristers were very approachable and genuinely cared about my experience as a Mini Pupil.
Mini-Pupillage at 9KBW| Karanvir Singh Sagoo, Publicity Officer 2016/17
I managed to secure a mini-pupillage at 9 King’s Bench Walk – a set of chambers that specialise in high level and general crime, offences of serious violence, child abuse, rape cases and fraud, immigration, particularly those cases linked with criminal charges, traffic and regulatory work. Given this, I had high expectations of a productive and captivating experience. On my first day, I was had the pleasure of shadowing Jeremy Rendle at Blackfriars Crown Court, in the case of R v Jarvis. This experience was invaluable for me, because up until this point, I had never witnessed a full trial and had only ever been to a Magistrates Court. My time shadowing Jeremy allowed me to recognise the procedural differences between the Magistrates and Crown Court and exposed me to the amount of preparation required to prepare for a trial. It was invaluable to see a case from start to finish. Needless to say, this was a great experience and I will definitely be applying for more experience in the near future. However, it is worth noting that securing a mini-pupillage in your desired field of law is important. My experience was amazing but it opened my eyes to the fact that criminal law is not for me!
Day in the City | Nathan Baylis, General Secretary 2015/16
Warwick Bar Society host an annual event called Day in the City, an opportunity for the Midlands residents to venture into London and experience first-hand the glamour and romanticism of a career at the Bar. Traditionally this involves a tour of the BPTC/GDL providers, being shown around the Courts and then drinks with Chambers. When I joined in 2015 we were afforded the opportunity of a tour of the University of Law, including a Plea in Mitigation practise (an exercise not usually afforded to students through Mooting or Negotiation competitions). We were then shown around the Royal Courts of Justice, where we spoke extensively to a senior usher who informed us of the incontrovertible facts about working in court, as well as visiting the Old Bailey, for no reason other than that the majority of attendees (including myself) had never set foot inside. After these tours we were hosted by Monckton Chambers where we got to speak to the residing Barristers about their careers, notably hearing how one had practised in New York as an attorney for a number of years. In reality the Day in the City event serves the purpose of informing students about the different aspects of a life at the Bar, from education, to court-work, to the reality of life in Chambers.
Tooks Chambers | Lauren Mitchell, Senior Events Coordinator
I gained work experience at Tooks Chambers, the chambers of a significant human rights lawyer, Michael Mansfield QC. Tooks prides itself on being the best for human rights issues, so I had high expectations. As soon as I got there, I was immediately sent to the Royal Courts of Justice to attend the case of Bourgass v Secretary of State for Justice in the Court of Appeal with High Southey QC. Once I stepped into the Royal Courts of Justice I recognised that it was a special, and somewhat mysterious, place. I eventually found the Court of Appeal where I stayed for the next three days. It was invaluable to see a case from start to finish. One has the opportunity to see how a case is laid out, and the interaction between the advocates and the judges. Something which has stayed with me is the language and phrasing that was used in this appeal; one would recognise that it is very similar to what is used in a moot. The experience was fantastic but there is one thing that I will point out: do not expect to be looked after or mentored. The experience is not the same as in a solicitors’ firm; for the majority of the time you are left to yourself, so you must create your own experience and make the most of your time there.
Marshalling at the Old Bailey | Vinesh Mistry, Public Relations Officer 2012/13
I spent a week as a Judge Marshal for His Hon Jeremy Roberts QC at the Old Bailey. I had never heard of what marshalling was, let alone knowing what it entailed. So on a crisp October morning, I met with Jeremy in his office and he explained to me that I was going to sit alongside him on the judge’s bench of a murder case. Murder! What a great result for a work experience placement, I originally thought.
I was really excited when the case started. Counsel opened their arguments and I found myself flicking with agreement between the prosecution and the defence. They all presented well-constructed, thought-provoking and convincing arguments. Yet I realised that the “juicy” bit of a case was not the fact that the defendant was a suspected murderer, but it was the image the barristers could portray of him because it would be this image, in the jury’s mind, that could lead to innocence or guilt.
I had a fantastic week at the Old Bailey. It was a great opportunity for me to see how a courtroom works and what a judge actually does (mainly crosswords). I would wholeheartedly recommend that aspiring barristers get some courtroom experience, either as a Marshal or as a visitor. The best way to organise this would be to get on good terms with your local Court Clerk to find out when the interesting cases might be on.
3 Verulam Buildings | Amy Carlse, Information Officer 2012/13
I completed a mini-pupillage at 3 Verulam Buildings, home of the Commercial Bar Association and a leading set of chambers in commercial law. On my first visit to 3VB I was paired with Adam Kramer (at the time the Pupillage Master), which was extremely daunting considering I was reading his book on the train. 3VB made me feel welcome from the moment I entered the door, not only providing me with keys to chambers (clearly I looked trustworthy) and biscuits galore.
On my first day we went to the Royal Courts of Justice on a case concerning dealings with a dictator in Africa and his fraudulent activities amounting to multi-million pound deficits. To many this case would sound highly boring, and at first I wasn’t endeavoured with commercial law, however after hearing the barristers’ advocacy skills, knowledge and enthusiasm, I was immediately swayed into wanting to work in commercial law.
Apart from just working on cases, I was expected to write legal essays, which were marked in front of me and placed in a folder with my application, ready for my prospective pupillage application – which scared the living day lights out of me, especially as I wasn’t doing an assessed mini-pupillage!
The main thing I learnt from working in a commercial chambers is that not every day is going to be spent in court; there are months, if not years, of preparation in making a case ready for court, and the barrister is expected to thoroughly research minute areas of law. If advocacy isn’t the main reason you want to be a barrister, but rather you want to study the law thoroughly and earn a rather considerable amount of money, then commercial law could be for you!
Thompson’s Solicitors | Yasmin Hughes-Pugh, Information Officer
Being a naïve teenager with a keen interest in law, I managed to persuade a solicitor to give me some work experience at Thompson’s, a firm local to me in Wales. Setting for the weeklong placement, I had a very brief knowledge of the law and no knowledge regarding the personal injury claims in which this firm specialised. All I knew was that I wanted to leave at the end with a solid reason why being a barrister was, and still is, important to me.
Although my supervisor challenged me with cases and pieces of law that looked like hieroglyphics at the time, it was only during a conference that I got what I wanted. Seeing the solicitor, barrister and client in the same room for the first time confirmed to me exactly why I wanted to be a barrister – the frightening yet educational experience that is cross-examination. It’s not the cross-examination that specifically attracts me to the Bar, but how a barrister is able to extract information so ingeniously from the client to present it in a manner beneficial to their submissions. It’s about presentation as much as preparation in the legal system of England and Wales, but I knew that after spending a week at this firm I wanted to sit on the presentation side of the fence.
UKLSA – ‘Demystifying the Legal Profession’ | Yasmin Hughes-Pugh, Information Officer
This event held by UKLSA (UK Law Students’ Association) was the first legal networking event that I had attended, so I had no prior expectations. After getting through the delays on the tube, the grand building before me made me feel apprehensive and extremely underdressed compared to my counterparts circling through the revolving doors. I knew that the primary aim of this event was to assure students that a legal profession is obtainable regardless of their social background, race, religion or age, yet I could not help but feel outcast standing amongst the crowd.
However, standing around feeling sorry for myself wasn’t going to help me network and so I approached the first important-looking person I saw, who turned out to be Joanne Wicks QC, who was a guest speaker herself. Initially, not knowing anything about this distinguished barrister put my improvisation skills to the test and so the conversation naturally flowed into her area of expertise, the Chancery Bar. The first thing I gained from this event was that you really cannot exclude an area of law without asking yourself why you don’t like it – it turns out the Chancery Bar is not what I expected it to be!
Giving myself an extra boost of confidence, I set myself the target of getting to know the guest speakers (all but Lord Kerr, who made a swift exit) to extract any piece of information that could help me. However, asking the same question, “What should I be doing as a first year law student to improve my chances at the Bar?” got tiresome with the same response of, “Carry on doing what you are doing now,” or “You’ve already started,” so I changed my tactic and improvised.
It was seeing the full spectrum of younger and less experienced barristers, older and more prestigious barristers, those with a family and those without, that I got to understand a vital common interest between everyone attending: a sheer determination and passion for the Bar. I was extremely grateful for the assurance that being a barrister and having a family is undoubtedly possible, and to actually appreciate that having a ‘different quality’ on your pupillage application does not mean deliberately building houses in Africa; a different skill should not be forced just to tick the box on your CV.
Although the speeches by the guest speakers turned out to be expectedly cliché for an event titled ‘Demystifying the Legal Profession’, it was mildly assuring to feel that a young girl from a small town in Wales, or anybody for that matter, has hope of making it to the Bar if they are determined enough to do so.
Dinner at Lincoln’s Inn | Divya Puri, Public Relations Officer
Having met the Education Officer of Lincoln’s Inn at a UKSLA event in March, I followed this up by emailing her about her invitation to attend one of the Inn’s University Information Afternoon and Dinners (they run four a year, mostly January – March).
The afternoon consisted of general information speeches about a career at the Bar and its different sectors – unfortunately, this was nothing that I hadn’t heard before at a Bar Society event, but I did enjoy the rather humorous endnote of a QC of thirty years’ call giving his twenty year-old self 10 top tips on how to survive the British Bar; this was definitely worth writing down!
Following this we were treated to a three course meal (and copious amounts of wine), the seating plan for which involved everyone being sat next to people they didn’t know, which, having come by myself, I greatly enjoyed. Unfortunately the discomfort on some of the faces of the students with whom I was sat, as they insisted on texting their friends across the room rather than conversing with the people around them, was obvious. Others aside however, I spent the evening having intelligent conversations with QCs, pupils and members of the England and Wales Bar Society, whilst of course hinting for business cards and work experience, wherever possible. Unsuccessful in my attempts, however, I came away feeling I hadn’t gained a great deal from the experience; I would suggest it as a basic introduction to the Bar, but beyond this, it’s not worth the train fare!