Nicole Bollard

University: University of Oxford
Undergraduate degree: English literature
Year of call: 2012

What attracted you to a career in law?

After university, I worked for a couple of years before doing the GDL. I was attracted to a career as a barrister by the variety and challenge of the role – nothing was more enticing to me than a job where you couldn’t predict what would be happening day to day. I also had a sense that even several years down the line, the job would still present me with new and unexpected challenges, which I couldn’t find in other careers.

Why barrister not solicitor?

The advocacy was very appealing, but I also liked the idea of being self-employed, on the basis that I would be personally and directly responsible for my work.

How did you decide which chambers to apply to?

I was very open-minded and went to lots of general events at both Oxford and City Law School, where I did the GDL. There were several informative chambers evenings at City and I quickly realised that I wanted to do civil work, especially commercial and property. With that in mind, I took the decision to apply to mixed common law sets so that I could gain a broad experience of the law before deciding which field to specialise in.

How much work experience had you had? Why is it so important?

I did four mini-pupillages, as well as some work experience at a solicitors’ firm and some marshalling. I think that four minis are probably about enough, as it reaches a point where you’ve probably gained as much as you can from them. Every chambers is different though, and I saw that variety of work and culture, as well as gaining an insight into the practical realities of being a barrister. It is very important to have something on your application that shows you have a genuine interest in the profession.

How did you find pupillage as an experience?

I had a really enjoyable year at 3PB; of course it is hard work but far from the horror stories I’d heard from friends who had trained with other sets! I was welcomed and encouraged to develop, and felt that the old-fashioned divide between members and pupils didn’t apply to the same extent. I also had three different supervisors, in three very distinct areas, and although I don’t practise in all of them now, it was very useful to learn skills in different areas, while observing some fine barristers at work, and to gain a broader insight before specialising.

Please outline your area of expertise. What might you do in a typical day?

It’s easier to talk about a typical week. My practice is predominantly commercial and property work, with my time split between court and paperwork. I am usually in court two or three times a week, although it may just be making applications. For example, this week I have attended a mediation representing an individual in a case regarding the supply of goods. It was a very long day as mediations tend to go on until the matter is settled. I have also attended a preliminary hearing and am working on two pieces of advice in relation to damage caused by a neighbour to a commercial property.  A classic day might find me in court at 9:00am, anywhere in the UK, meeting with the client before the hearing, and then returning to chambers to crack on with a piece of written work.

3PB is a national practice, with five offices, so there are not many county courts that I haven’t been to. I might find myself in Manchester, Birmingham, London, Bournemouth or Southampton – I usually spend at least one day each week travelling. That can be one of the tougher parts of the job in fact; if you are doing a two-hour hearing for which you have to spend four hours on the train, it can amount to a lot of ‘dead time’. It also means early starts and late nights, as there is still paperwork to complete which wasn’t possible during the day at court. It’s not perfect, but it is a very common part of the job and I am now used to the pattern of working this way.

What do you most/least enjoy about your career and why?

I feel very lucky to have days and weeks that are so varied. It is far from the traditional ‘nine to five’. The challenge is also something that continues to give me pleasure; it is nice to feel that you are constantly learning and developing and when a client is happy with the outcome of their legal dispute, this gives me a real buzz. I also now have a greater understanding of how that will continue throughout my career.

I suppose the bad parts are linked to the good – the variety and challenge can mean unpredictable hours, with work coming in at short notice, so you have to be flexible in your approach. It can make other, non-work, commitments more difficult to manage. You learn quickly not to make social plans for 6:00pm on a weekday though!

What makes your chambers stand out from the rest?

Something that is unusual about 3PB is that we are based in five different locations and we cover almost all areas of law, which means that we  offer a broad geographical and legal mix to pupils. It gives a great insight into what it’s like to work outside of London and  the benefits of a regional practice, as well as exposure to lots of different areas of work. 3PB is a very friendly and approachable set. For example, when I was training I could ask questions of anyone and get help. People were generous with their time. There is also a real focus on pupillage and making it the best experience for pupils.

What advice do you have for budding barristers who are contemplating a career in law?

Work experience is really important, as practical realities – like the unusual time-keeping and rhythm of work – are best understood by spending time with a barrister. Work experience allows you to make better choices about where to apply. Beyond that, you need to study as hard as you can. Itis so competitive to be offered a pupillage that anything you can do to improve your application – be that excellent grades or mooting success – the better. I would also advise starting early when applying for work experience!

What’re you reading at the moment?

Purity by Jonathan Franzen.


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