This week I have turned once more to the business of pupillage application as Pupillage Portal opened for its Spring season. There again were the familiar questions: “Why do you wish to become a barrister?”, “What areas of practice are you interested in and why?”, “Why do you believe you will make a good barrister?”
I know it is boxes such as these that even leading barristers like Tony Blair who have gone onto become household names have had to tick, but I query why Bar students are required to explain ad infinitum our motivations for a career that implicitly we have demonstrated commitment to by pursuing this high-risk path in the first place!
Some say the pressure is on for people like myself who completed the BPTC last year, and that this is the round that we must obtain our goal or otherwise remain forever upon the trash heap. At the bad times, when reading a pupillage rejection letter or reflecting on an interview performance that could have gone better, it would be easy to believe this view. However, it is of course nonsense.
Thankfully, in the run up to the opening of the Pupillage Portal I benefitted from a recent holiday that allowed me to regain a sense of perspective. I was fortunate enough to return to New York City, where this journey to becoming a barrister began for me when I visited the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center which of course do not exist anymore.
I didn’t know then that I wanted to be a barrister, but I would discover so later when the behaviour of the Bush administration made me consider for the first time what the Rule of Law meant – or was supposed to mean.
This time, as I walked through those Manhattan streets, an idea that lay directly beneath my nose that I had never previously considered hit me with all the force of one of those wonderful yellow New York taxis: the New York Bar.
I have been aware that this course is available for some time, but in my parochial focus on the UK I had subliminally discounted it as an option. Turning onto Broadway, it dawned upon me: why work as an underpaid, under-respected paralegal when, as a barrister, I am eligible to sit the New York Bar Exam and become dual-qualified?
It is true that as a GDL graduate I would need to undertake a short masters degree in the States in in order to be able to sit the New York Bar, but this could prove an outstanding opportunity to learn about a different, yet similar, legal system at one of the best universities in the world. There would be further investment required to follow this route, but the scale of the rewards at the end would more than justify the outgoings.
With a Harvard or a Yale on my CV, allied to the New York Bar qualification itself, I would not only be a strong contender to obtain pupillage at one of Britain’s best human rights sets, as has always been my dream, but could indeed work anywhere globally. As the emerging economies of China and India continue to bellow their dragon-like roar, and the green shoots of recovery burst forth from stony American soils, that international flexibility could be extremely useful.
But first I must complete this blasted Pupillage Portal application form. It is a comfort, though, that as I do I know that whatever happens, be it pupillage success or failure, I have a rather interesting plan B up my sleeve.
OccupyTheInns graduated from the BPTC last summer, and was called to the Bar in July 2011. There’s more from OccupyTheInns here.