Get by on the BPTC with a little help from your friends
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The journey to the Bar is long and it can be lonely too. However, a lot of the fears and insecurities that aspiring barristers face can be dispelled by placing them in the context of someone else’s experience. By being able to relate your experiences to someone else’s, the loneliness and stress that often come with Bar school and pupillage can be remedied.
In this post I discuss why making friends with fellow aspiring barristers on your course and at your Inn will save your life and help you to successfully navigate Bar school and beyond.
Your colleagues are your comrades
The first and most obvious source of inspiration and encouragement throughout Bar school will be your colleagues. The people that you meet at Bar school and related events for aspiring barristers are going to be a great source of inspiration and motivation for you, because they're going through what you're going through.
You may have very good friends from before that you've met at university or at school. However, unless these people are currently studying for the Bar or have studied for the Bar, you might find it difficult to discuss your experiences, worries and fears with them. Another potential issue is that some people's advice (although well-intentioned) might not actually be the best, because they just don't have the experience.
Law school is not the Hunger Games
Resist the temptation to allow the competitive nature of gaining pupillage to stop you from making genuine friendships with the people on your BPTC course and the members of your Inn. Make use of networking events not just for gaining work experience and professional contacts, but also for making friends with people who are around you. Contrary to what you may think, law school is not the Hunger Games. It’s not me versus you! What is for you will be for you. What others do or don’t achieve really doesn’t affect you and should not be your concern.
I appreciate that a lot of people come to the Bar course having attended top universities and this can prove quite distracting when you're trying to connect with people. I remember being shocked on the GDL when I heard that some people had created a ranking system for our cohort and had independently plotted who was ‘top of the year’. The fact that there were academic prizes up for grabs for the best performers in the year didn’t help matters either. The problem with prizes is that they can sometimes lead people to be a bit prickly when it comes to working together or looking out for their colleagues. These prizes are also available on the Bar course, so this is a hurdle to be prepared for.
Although competition for pupillage, internships and actual competitions is an ever-present concern in the mind of the Bar student, it's still important to find ways to connect with your colleagues. Unless you have a network of colleagues who truly understand you, your time on the Bar course is going to be extremely difficult and your future career at the Bar is going to be difficult also.
The Bar is stressful – you need mates
The Bar is a bubble; it's a world in and of itself and only the people who are navigating it or have navigated it are going to be helpful references for you during the most difficult parts of the journey. A lot of people come to the Bar course having previously known each other from university or on GDL courses and that can make it intimidating to make friends with your colleagues. I urge you to put this to the back of your mind as much as possible and focus on making friends with individual people. Don't allow someone’s group of friends to prevent you from making friends with them because you're not sure if you fit in with the group. Bar school is not primary school where things like cliques and groups matter. Put yourself out there and benefit from cultivating a network of support and encouragement that will help you from start to finish.
Make a diverse range of friends
It’s essential to be able to make meaningful friendships with people who do not look like you or come from the same background as you do. I benefited massively from my network of friends on the course. I made friends with individuals rather than groups and made friends with people from all around the world.
My Bar school friends come from all sorts of backgrounds, which will prepare me well for networking with colleagues and clients in the future. Understanding experiences beyond your own is an important social skill and one that you must have to become a successful barrister. Having a range of perspectives can help you think differently about challenges you face and put them in context.
Good luck and don't be afraid to say hi to someone new!