University: University of Oxford
Degree: BA Jurisprudence; Bachelor of Civil Law
Year of call: 2021
When I started out as a law student, I thought my interest was purely academic – I wanted to understand how the law worked, especially the political aspects. However, the more I studied, the more I enjoyed it, so trying it out in practice was the natural next step. My work experience convinced me that the Bar would suit me better than being a solicitor, as it involved more of the parts of law I enjoyed as a student: research and argument.
I initially applied to (and did pupillage at) a commercial chambers because I thought I’d find the work interesting. Ultimately, I didn’t find the work as interesting as I’d hoped and I realised that I wanted to be in court more than I was. As such, when I applied for a probationary tenancy (third sixes), I focused on finding chambers:
1 Crown Office Row was the obvious choice once I’d narrowed it down that way.
Everything in your applications is about advocacy, whether it’s a written answer, your demeanour at interview, or the order you decide to list your work experience. All chambers are looking for advocates who can command the confidence of clients and judges alike. In the applications I did well in (which wasn’t all of them), it was because, through work experience, legal knowledge and answering questions well, I was able to come across as someone who could do that advocacy.
I sat in on inquests and disciplinary tribunals for doctors, wrote pleadings in a judicial review of the Legal Ombudsman, drafted particulars of claim in a clinical negligence claim and skeleton arguments for a tax case, and an environmental human rights law case, both in the Court of Appeal. I spent one confusing afternoon trying to figure out what the contractual terms governing insurance for doctors in the 1980s might have been. I also had plenty of time in court, mostly in small claims or disposal hearings.
You’ll be under an immense amount of pressure, lots of which will come from you. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing. For example, it means you have to motivate yourself, which can be tricky if you’re the sort of person who relies on imminent deadlines and adrenaline to get work done. But it also means that if you can manage to be kind to yourself, it’s possible to get through pupillage largely unscathed.
I chose my chambers for its variety and that is reflected in my practice. On a typical day, I’ll usually work on one or two different things; a mixture of court work and paperwork, which includes drafting advice or pleadings and general admin. The court work is sometimes remote but that usually means getting on a train to one of the London courts or somewhere near London although sometimes as far as Liverpool or Swansea.
My work spans clinical negligence, personal injury, inquests, tax, data protection, public law and quite a bit more too, partly because I’m still trying out new areas whenever I get the chance but also because I like to work across multiple areas for the factual and legal variety.
One area I’ve been working in a lot recently is the intersection of personal injury and data protection, bringing claims for clients who’ve suffered psychiatric injuries as a result of the misuse of their personal data or private information.
Then there’s work done for more senior members of chambers, where I might be carrying out research or drafting documents for a leader in a bigger case or appearing in a case management hearing in a case being run by someone further along than me.
My favourite part of the job is the freedom. When I’m instructed in a case, I know what I have to produce and when I have to produce it, whether that’s a piece of written work or an appearance in court – how I do that is up to me. I can work from chambers, from home or in a coffee shop! I can work late and sleep in, or work early and take a long lunch. At the end of the day, my time is my own as long as I get the work done.
That’s also my least favourite part of the job. While it’s freeing when my time is managed well, it can also mean that when I overestimate my capacity to get work done there’s no way around it, which can often mean long hours and weekends working. The consolation in those circumstances is that I have nobody to blame but myself.
Everyone is unnaturally, almost scarily friendly.
Generally, people work hard, but this is less to do with the chambers and more to do with the individuals – which I suspect is the case everywhere. I do work occasional weekends (less than half the time), although it tends to be half days rather than full days. As to working late, I do work late quite often but I also start working late equally often; this is the risk and benefit of self-employment. It’s also balanced by being able to take plenty of time off and occasional sweet moments when a trial drops out of my diary at the last moment or finishes early, and I can take my time to get a coffee near some far-flung county court before heading back to chambers.
We run an equality and diversity mini-pupillage scheme in chambers aimed at socio-economically disadvantaged applicants. It’s open to state-educated students:
The mini-pupillage is assessed, and strong performers on the assessment are guaranteed a first-round pupillage interview. We also take part in the 10,000 Black Interns programme.
I acted for an NHS trust in an inquest last month in circumstances where a patient had died following an unusual medical accident. Allegations of serious wrongdoing were implied, but by working with the healthcare providers to understand exactly what happened and why, we were able to avoid criticism. Helping people who were only ever doing their best in difficult conditions is always rewarding.
I’m currently reading John Forrester’s Freud and Psychoanalysis, a series of introductory lectures on psychoanalysis by a late professor of the history and philosophy of science. And some Scandi noir, which clashes horribly with warm, sunny summer evenings.