Thursday, 30 October 2008

Not a good time to be a criminal barrister.

We are in recession, let's all face it, not as if pupillage wasn't hard enough to get, it will now become inevitably impossible. The Bar has gone from Highly Competitive to Hyper Competitive. For those of us who wish to become criminal barristers we may think that things will be easier, recession normally means high crime rates, so lots of work coming in or not as the case may be.

During the last recession in 1992 commercial practise dried up, leaving the non-criminal chambers with little or no work, so they started to branch out into areas of Law they had never done before, such as Family and Crime. Thus the amount of work, especially the amount of work that is done by junior barristers fell. Now if you were chambers would you really look to seek to new untrained people into your little family, if inevitably they will either not have any work to do or will be fighting for the tiniest scrap of work left.

Though there may now be structures in place and of course if a barrister is a specialist in a certain area their amount of work is unlikely to be affected too drastically. If however commercial chambers start to pick up an interest in other areas of law and eat into criminal work then this will significantly affect the budding wannabe criminal barrister, as they will most likely take away very junior work i.e. magistrates appearances, and lesser offences in the Crown Court.

Now if we couple the idea that other barristers whom shockingly didn't want to do criminal law because they wanted to make a lot of money, now want to do criminal law because they have no money with the idea of solicitor advocates (or as Geeklawyer refers to them solicitor inadequates) then the problem is further exposed.

Solicitor advocates are the bane of a barrister. Why? They again eat up work done by very junior barristers. Logically solicitor advocates are a good thing for at least a solicitor. If you have a certain amount of money allocated to a case then why not keep all of the money in house? Why instruct barristers to conduct work for you when you have an advocate within your own organisation?

Some may think that barristers who are highly trained in advocacy, will always out do the solicitor who does not necessarily have the experience of appearing before a tribunal of fact, this won't be the case of those of us just starting out, a solicitor advocate will most likely have similar abilities and skill to our own.

Before we can even think of practising as a barrister we have to look at the availability of pupillages. There is a 1 in 4 (or 5) chance of getting a pupillage, with around 450 pupillages and 3,700 applicants (See Simon Myerson QC on "The Chance of Success"). The Bar is a competitive profession so naturally it is selective as to who enters it.

As mentioned before it has gone from being highly competitive to hyper competitive, a comment on Mr Myerson's blog said that all barristers possess two qualities; high intelligence and self delusion and cheekily I would like to add a third - the ability to drink. We would have to be delusional to want to apply to a very selective profession, that can regularly work 80 hours a week, that takes up weekends and restrict social lives, for what gain? Time to really assess why we want to be barristers, and whether we have the right characteristics.

So we have two great boundaries (1) if we get a pupillage (2) if there will be any work left.

Lets hope the recession is going to be a short one, however for those of us graduating now, or have just finished the BVC the prospects look suitably bleak, unless of course you are one of those lucky ones to have a pupillage already lined up in that case you are unlikely to read my blog.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

BVC Scholarship

Update: I have secured a reference from MrHRCB, who said that he will just make it up, lovely man giving me a reference after I missed his lecture then turned up 20 mins late to when I was supposed to meet him because I couldn't stop a printer from printing out 70 copies of my CV out of the 3200 it wanted to print. Wtf? Mental Note: make sure your alarm is plugged in and you didn't drunkingly pull it out to charge your phone. Also I'm lining up some marshalling, trying to get some outdoor clerking, applying to a few criminal solictor firms, volunteering at the met's criminal justice unit, doing LAC, and mooting (on contract -f'ing yuck) So will be considerably busier than I have ever been in the whole of my three years of doing absolutely f'all. :)

Crikey things have flown past me recently, I've been so busy doing nothing!!
So currently I am going to apply for a BVC Scholarship from middle temple.
A few problems may have arisen such as:

  1. I've only just really discovered about this in the past week and the deadline is 7th November. (not really an issue if its all about form filling)
  2. I have no idea of whom to ask for a reference, the guidelines for writing a reference are intellectual ability, motivation towards the bar, potential as an advocate, personal qualities.
  3. Now the problem with (2) is that I have no tutors past or previous that can get me a sound reference due to the fact that none of them know me very well. I've had three different academic tutors in three years so I'm not particularly close to any of them, except perhaps my 2nd year tutor, however how does he know that I possess certain qualities to go to the bar? Also I'm not the sort of person who dither dathers, sucking up to tutors in order to get a good reference, I do the work, turn up to the seminars occasionally and do alright in the exam. But oh no, now I have discovered that I need to be a complete suck up!
  4. However I am currently thinking that the references do not have to reach Middle Temple until the first few weeks of January, so if I am lucky, I can persuade Mr Highly Respected Criminal Barrister (now known as MrHRCB) to write me a beautiful reference, as I am going to write him an amazing essay over reading week, and perhaps ask to see him and see if he can give me any guidance to become a criminal barrister. There's that and also I did a mini-pupillage with someone that he did pupillage with, and she seemed to like me so it could all go well.
  5. Is there a point of asking someone you did a mini-pupillage with to write you a reference? Mini-pupil masters are more likely to know about your ability aren't they then those who teach you, because to be honest, unless I was to get a reference from woman who organises the moots, (which I only did particularly well in, in the first year) then no one is going to know of my practical skills to make it to the bar.
  6. I could ask my LAC manager, however as I am yet to have undertaken a case, there is no point!
  7. What is the point of asking for references when I haven't done particularly anything of merit and no-one knows me on a personal level!! How frustrating!!!
  8. Finally - I'm not sure if I actually have to try and enrol on the BVC before I get a scholarship or is it just enough that I intend to do the BVC?
Apart from that I am going to try and get into outdoor clerking, it seems pretty flexible and I have every Friday off, and can pick to do either a morning/afternoon shift, though how I can juggle doing my 3rd year, mooting and the LAC with an outdoor clerking job seems slightly impractical.
Links for outdoor clerking are
The Court Clerks
Gio Legal Services

Though Bar or Bust has mentioned that solicitors firms are cutting down on outdoor clerking, what with the credit crunch and all! Balls!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Juris.. what?

Subsequent failure to turn up to jurisprudence seminars, essentially means that I have not done any work at all, this term for jurisprudence and as I cannot not turn up tomorrow for the seminar this means that one shall have to condense 5 weeks of reading into one night.. sounds like fun or not... I don't really understand jurisprudence, a lot of waffley words, big ideas, not a lot of action.

I went to the first training session of my uni's LAC, it was about interview skills, how to ask questions etc and find things out, you would have thought it was quite simple, but one guy who was my practice partner was being really difficult, and wasn't really telling me anything, so I had to fight for scraps of information, so it was much more difficult than I had imagined. I'm quite glad I got this place on the LAC, we get trained in interviewing, legal research, drafting technique etc so I'm hoping that this will be transferable skills for when I head to the bar.

Charon QC notes in one of his latest posts that law schools should be more realistic, as there are too many people chasing too many pupillages, also noted by Simon Myerson. So far all I hear is "if you are determined you will succeed" well I suppose that's a motto that anyone can use. I like the idea of being a criminal barrister et all, however I'm an ok student 2:1s and 2:2s, my student record must be abysmal due to lack of attendance, I definitely haven't one any academic prizes, I don't hold a position in any society, am fairly crap at mooting, so is life at the bar for me?

Or perhaps I have just enough time left to get myself together?

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

I don't understand

I have lost the ability to study or to understand people's stupid handouts.
What I hate about academics, apart from their ability to understand anything is the fact that they always have to list endless amount of articles and forget that us "mere" students will barely have time to read the core text book on the subject, whilst juggling training for a LAC and trying to prepare for mooting.

Do they really expect me to look at all of this? Garhhhhhhh