I must admit that I had hoped to have seen the back of work experience after yet another placement in the spring. Alas, that proved not to be the case and I duly proceeded to sample life once more in a leading chambers.
With a year’s worth of professional experience in a legal role, I approached this ‘mini’ with rather more confidence than in the past and I found the response of members of chambers to be positive on the whole. Nevertheless, I believe that barristers can improve their attitudes to students. My advice to them is as follows:
1. If you request assistance, show grace in the receipt of that assistance
I have almost lost count of the number of times I have been asked by a supervising barrister to look over a document on his or her behalf. When doing so during this recent mini-pupillage, I behaved no differently from ever, reading the document to the best of my ability to uncover any errors in order to assist the barrister in question, and ultimately make my small contribution to the workings of the judicial system of England and Wales.
Therefore I most certainly did not expect to be greeted with a level of derision that resembled rudeness when I highlighted a possible error of law in the case. Ultimately, what I had pinpointed was an ambiguity rather than an error per se – still worth mentioning, though, and deserving of a courteous response.
2. It’s bad manners to leave the mini-pupil out of pocket.
I have no issue with paying my way (as I explain further below). However, it is my view that it is unacceptable for senior members of the Bar to send a mini-pupil to purchase their lunchtime sandwich with his or her own money, and then fail to reimburse them fully.
3. Don’t let the fact that you obtained pupillage go to your head.
As a slightly more experienced candidate such as myself, who has spent time travelling and learning languages in the style urged by Lord Sumption before coming to the Bar, it is inevitable that you will find yourself under the supervision of barristers who are a year or two younger than yourself. Sometimes they can enjoy rather too much the powerful position they find themselves in during a mini-pupillage situation.
Like most people who have been called to the Bar, I possess a barristerial wig. As a barrister, I think it is understandable that I carry this with me while in a mini-pupillage situation, although it goes without saying that I would never seek to employ it to suggest that I was currently practising at the Bar.
However, there are times – such as when you are waiting outside court to meet the barrister you are shadowing and neither of you has any idea what one or the other looks like – that it is clearly sensible to put on the headgear to mark oneself out from the crowd.
I certainly do not expect sneers from some little upstart in response to such a decision, and I’d be wary of how this sort of behaviour could come back to haunt a member of the Bar – especially when carried out in conjunction with other improprieties which I shall not mention here.
4. After work socialising is as much part of the job as standing on your feet in court, so include mini-pupils!
It is extremely nice when it happens, but too often mini-pupils are not invited to the traditional après-case drink with members of chambers. My advice to chambers is written above in unambiguous English. My advice to mini-pupils is as follows: take the initiative by inviting members of chambers out for a drink with you. Friends of mine and myself have both done this with very good levels of success.
Make casual enquiries early in the week about what everyone is doing on Friday night so there can be no excuses. Then, when the evening comes around, do not be afraid to put your hand in your pocket and buy the first round.
5. For goodness sake, keep in touch
What is the point of a mini without continuing friendships that may be useful in the pupillage hunt? Obviously, not everyone ‘clicks’, but too often those weeks at chambers just disappear into the ether with no further words exchanged or relationships developed. For heaven’s sake, please don’t ignore our Facebook and Linkedin requests :-).
OccupyTheInns graduated from the BPTC last summer, and was called to the Bar in July 2011. There’s more from OccupyTheInns here.