Interview: The Linklaters solicitor and the 5 Paper Buildings barrister who swapped cases for cakes

They have very different stories, but both agree working in law made them “miserable”

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Harpreet Baura and Olivia Potts do not know each other, but they have both done something many law students simply wouldn’t dream of.

A former Linklaters lawyer and a former 5 Paper Buildings barrister respectively, Baura (top left) and Potts (top right) ditched the ‘glamorous’ world of legal practice for something very different: cakes.

Legal Cheek spoke to them both to find out their stories.

Chatting to a chirpy Baura against a background of bakery noise, it’s almost hard to believe she hasn’t been doing this all her life.

Though she’s now the founder and head pastry chef of Crumbs Couture, things started off very differently for Baura. After graduating from UCL and then BPP Law School, she began her career at the magic circle.

In the early days, Baura loved her job, and so too did ex-criminal law advocate Potts. With a degree from Cambridge and a passion for social justice, she seemed the perfect fit for the bar, so imagine her delight when she bagged a pupillage at top criminal law set 5 Paper Buildings. Reflecting on this time, Potts explains:

It was a really great chambers full of kind, clever, skilled people. I don’t think it’s possible to do a non-stressful pupillage, but it was made much more bearable by the people around me.

Image via Harpreet Baura
Image via Harpreet Baura

Though the narrative is different, personal issues were at the heart of both Baura and Pott’s exits from the law.

Potts’ mother died unexpectedly during her pupillage, and shortly after being taken on as a tenant her love for criminal law advocacy began to wane:

Shortly after pupillage ended, I realised that the things I found stressful during that time just weren’t going away. I put it down to mourning at first; it took me a long time to realise that, actually, being a barrister just wasn’t the job for me. There was always the fear of moving onto the next case, the next stress; I thought I was going to thrive off of that, but I didn’t.

Now a freelance food writer, cook and Cordon Bleu student, Potts admits she found “the responsibility” of the job particularly hard to bear:

The more experience you have the more serious the cases are, so the more you progress the more that can go wrong. Having someone’s liberty in my hands made me feel very anxious, and very miserable actually. I just couldn’t go home and switch off.

Though the narrative is different, Baura’s experience of life at the coalface bears similarities to Potts’ in its — to put it bluntly — miserableness:

Once I’d got stuck into doing deals at the firm, a few personal things in my life happened and I developed depression. Even though there were hundreds of people working at Linklaters, I still felt really lonely.

She continues:

I would wake up in the morning and my heart would sink realising I had to go to work. Everyone thinks it’s glamorous, but it’s not very glamorous when you’re in the office at 1am still wearing the clothes you’ve been in since 7am. Sometimes we even slept under our desks.

Jacking in the magic circle six months after qualification was a decision met with shock and discontent from some of Baura’s friends and family, but her health improved greatly in a short space of time and she has no plans to return to the profession. Though it clearly wasn’t the job for her, she remains grateful for her time as a solicitor:

Doing a training contract definitely sets you up, it gives you clout and means you’re more seriously as a businesswoman.

For aspiring solicitors reading this article, Baura encourages you to “aim really high”, but to “never be afraid to change direction”.

Image via Olivia Potts
Image via Olivia Potts

Potts’ advice is similar. Though she persevered with her barrister career for some time longer — about five years — she too has now found solace away from law practice. To wannabe barristers, she says:

Be pragmatic — if you find yourself in a job where you’re miserable, you need to find out whether this is a surmountable blip or something more than that.

For her, it was the latter, and a career in the legal profession is very much behind her:

If I wanted to return I probably could, but I don’t want to. The thing I miss the most is the people. I still like the narrative of criminal cases; I still read crime novels. As a job, it was just not right for me, or rather I was not right for it.

53 Comments

Rzbg

The proof is in the pudding; the Bar can be really quite crêpe.

(27)(1)
Fred

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(3)(6)
Pongobulb

He suggested that humans of the female variety don’t get to the top of the ladder in law because of instances such as exemplified by this article…

Silly boy.

(17)(3)
Fred

What the hell Legal Cheek? Are you now censoring anything that doesnt fit your politically correct worldview? Despite allowing the most vile language and bullying to go in the comments…

(20)(15)
Fred

I made the *shock horror* observation that generally women are not as resilient as men. That’s *generally* by the way – not every man, not every woman.

(13)(35)
Anonymous

Okay Fred, you are saying that men are generally more resilient than women. Care to explain why male suicide rates are considerably higher than female suicide rates?

(22)(3)
Random dude

I don’t think this needs to descend into a petty name calling, men v women teenage argument. Fred is an idiot. Its pretty much accepted by all on this board. Lets move on.

(18)(4)
Fred

Do you understand what ‘generally’ means? Those who commit suicide are in a tiny, tiny minority.

(3)(11)
Fred

Also, a bit low to suggest people who commit suicide aren’t resilient. That’s an old fashioned approach to mental health.

(12)(5)
Anonymous

@Fred Similarly it’s “low” and “old-fashioned” to suggest that lack of gender parity in senior positions is due to women being emotionally weaker than men.

(14)(4)
Trumpenkrieg

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(2)(3)
Anonymous

Statistically, women actually attempt suicide more often than men. However, men succeed at killing themselves at a higher rate.

Ironically this suggests that men are more competent.

(4)(3)
Anonymous

I am a man and I reckon I could take a vast majority of girls in a fight. Therefore using Freds train of thought, pigs should be able to fly in the year 2003.

Did I get it right?

(2)(0)
Junior barrister

On what evidence do you rely, Fred?

Would you be shocked if a comment you made to the effect that black people were less resilient than white people were to be censored? If not, then why are you shocked about this censorship?

(6)(4)
Bumblebee

LC’s comments policy is “Comments that are defamatory or offensive will be removed.” (the ‘gratuitously’ is an outmoded vestige of a by-gone era)

Everyone has a right not to be offended. It’s very important not to offend people. Offensiveness is offensive. We tolerate everything (unless it’s intolerance), and offend nothing (except the right to offend). Political correctness is correct politicalness. Look into your heart; can’t you see that we’re making the world a better place because of it? Every great political movement in history had, at its core, a struggle to stop people saying unpopular and distasteful things. True story. Look it up. Not in a book, obviously; in your heart. Look it up in your heart. Look it up in your feelings.

Thanks LC for making the world a better place, and thank you for protecting the feelings of all the delicate females who would have no doubt been irreparably traumatised by Fred’s comment.

Cake and rainbows and love <3 <3 <3

(20)(6)
Anonimoose

I’m assuming so. There is definitely no right not to be offended. Offence is kind of the bread and butter of pluralistic societies.

(2)(0)
Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(1)(1)
Anonymous

Ha! That’s hilarious!

The reply to the post about “no right not to be offended” was deleted, presumably for being offensive.

*Grabs popcorn*

👹👹👹👹

(2)(0)
Pongobulb

PS Fred – you’re a knob. Not a knob of butter – a knob.

(15)(3)
Misanthrope

Yeah, let’s extrapolate the data of two random female lawyers on to the whole demographic, and then simplistically conclude causes for gender inequality in senior positions.

(10)(1)
Random dude

As a lover of banter, a bloke and a genuine opponent of modern day feminism, i need to ask what the bloody hell are you on about. How can you take an article about two young women who changed direction in their careers and make it about all women who work in law?

(9)(3)
Pongobulb

I hope they don’t get any “parkin” fines. But good luck to them!

x

(4)(0)
Josh

Takes a lot of guts to admit you made the wrong choice and want to change careers

(24)(1)
Anonymous

The realities of legal life…. depressing really. Don’t even know why we do it to ourselves.

(7)(0)
Anonymous

Thank you for sharing your real life. Happy that you’re happy now!

(7)(0)
Anonymous

Actually rather envious of these ladies. Life is too short to spend it doing what you hate, and being at the beck and call of arbitrary client deadlines.

It’s a brave move to give up a prestigious career and lucrative career so early on. Happiness and time are rare working in the City.

(12)(0)
Trumpenkrieg

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(1)(5)
Junior barrister

The Bar really isn’t for everyone. I can name maybe ten of my contemporaries who left for a different career after 5-7 years (not all at my chambers!). Those with the academics required tend to be perfectionists, and it can be an extremely stressful job for a perfectionist. Nobody is always “perfect” in court, because judges and witnesses are human and unpredictable, and sometimes your solicitor hasn’t done her job properly, and sometimes the brief arrives late, and sometimes too much work arrives at once.

It’s a hell of a lot of personal responsibility. I know a few barristers who regularly throw up before trial. Losing when you advised you’d likely win is the worst feeling in the world, but winning against the odds is the best feeling in the world.

I think a lot of people end up at the Bar as the inevitable next point on the treadmill – get into a good uni, tick, do really well, tick, go to the Bar, tick. Then c. 5 years in they realise that this is their lives and they need to do this every single day. A fair few (still very much a minority) re-evaluate and leave.

Being smart and articulate is necessary but not sufficient – it is equally important to be able to cope with stress. For some people it is a nightmare. But for those who can deal with it, it is the best and most rewarding career.

(30)(1)
Anonymous

Regularly throw up before trial? They really shouldn’t be in the job

(3)(8)
Ambrose

I know one who takes an “Anxiety Poo” before starting a trial. Every time!

Some joker once left a package of incontinence pants in the robing room of Barnstaple Crown Court with a note saying “Pupils- please take one”. Perhaps it ought to have been sick-bags!

(3)(0)
Impressed barrister

Fair play to both. It takes real courage (balls?) to take control and make a change like that. Qualifying as a practising lawyer is too often seen as an end goal in itself, I suspect many of us preserve in the profession against our better judgement because we’re too afraid to make a sensible leap into something new

(13)(0)
Scouser of Counsel

Having witnessed my wife give birth, I could never ever again regard women as the weaker sex, whether physically or emotionally.

I suppose that makes me a “beta”, “cuck” or “fggt”?

(7)(2)
Trumpenkrieg

It’s not not thinking women are the weaker sex that makes you a beta cuck “fggt”, it’s acquiescing in the modern practice, so beloved of virtue-signalling liberals, of having fathers present in the delivery room.

(0)(2)
Scouser of Counsel

You were bottle fed and subsequently packed off to boarding school as a four-year old, weren’t you?

(3)(1)
Charles

I think it’s incredibly brave to give up on years of self investment and admit that you had made a bad decision. Not only that, you go from financial security to a more precarious lifestyle. I’m sure these women will succeed as they are evidently talented but there has to have been that fear before they jumped. Their choice speaks to their resilience rather than the other way round.

(2)(0)
Anonymous

Many of the comments on this thread display a childishness or cretinism that is a new low even for Legal Cheek.

(1)(1)
Anonymous

The delicious Livvy Potts. I’d eat her if she was made out of cake.

(1)(2)
Anonymous

I think it is a really interesting admission as to what a training contract at Linklaters is like.

It does not surprise me either that there is an inference that being a criminal barrister is not up to much and is stressful.

I heard recently of a police surveillance operation (a few years ago now) on a smugglers’ site where thieves stored stolen mechanical plant.

The police monitored it, waiting for the thieves to show up and reclaim the plant and take it to where they intended to shift it out of the country from. Once the thieves showed up, the plan was to make an arrest !

Those are the facts around which a major Crown Court trial ensued against a particular Defendant.

En route, there was a Voire Dire about whether the Defendant should have been cautioned a question or two before he was cautioned when the lead copper arrested him !

No doubt the stress comes from the fact that you are dealing with someone who does not want to go to jail for ages , and the fact that you have to read a shed load of stuff, and watch out for a shed load of rules surrounding what is probably the activities of eight men or so on an hour of a particular day.

If you are lucky enough to be able to bake cakes to a professional standard, and you do not think that you will find that boring after 30 months or 72 months, respectively, then go for it.

Alternatively, think of this: There is more to the whole of the Legal profession than Linklaters or 5 Paper Buildings. Don’t say you have quit forever, think about doing something challenging and worthwhile somewhere else, too. 🙂

(0)(0)
Anonymous

Career change isn’t always easy but it is possible. Most people make a change when they are ‘in pain’/experiencing a ‘career crisis’, fewer plan it in advance with a career strategy. Two films to inspire you if you are considering a career change in 2017, ‘The world’s fast Indian’ and ‘Eddie the eagle’. Neither had it easy but they had an inspiring goal and were persistent and tenacious in achieving it and overcoming obstacles. Career change is harder for lawyers than other professions because you are trained to be risk adverse and see the downsides. Breaking change into small steps and blocking out time to make it happen are essential.

(2)(0)

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