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Bar graduate Adam Fellows on why, in spite of the odds, he’s determined to land a pupillage

Earlier this month, a few of my colleagues and I went to the Bar Council to take part in an evidence gathering session to feed into a review of the pupillage application system. The online application system has been overhauled over the past few years, and chambers change their minds every year as to whether they want to be a part of it, or not. However, regardless of their membership of the Pupillage Portal, each chambers asks the same question, “why do you want to be a barrister?” The question typically allows 150 words. Thinking about it, the focus of the question can change a lot depending upon where you put the stress on the sentence.

“Why do I want to be a *barrister*?”

Half the problem is that people aren’t generally aware of what a barrister is. For all the gritty court room dramas, including the supposedly-realistic Silk (which has started filming in the inner temple), the public image is still that of the barrister a la Clive Reader: extremely posh, extremely rich, extremely well-connected, and also extremely disconnected from the average client. When I was growing up, I never really considered becoming a barrister until well into university, for the simple reason that I didn’t think I would be very good, that I wouldn’t fit. For someone who was happy at a young age to get up and talk to a large crowd, such a perception can have the stopping power of a well-aimed half brick.

“Why do *I* want to be a barrister”?

I am the first person in my family to go to university, let alone enter the legal profession. However, I found once I had started on my courses and dining sessions at my inn that I already had a lot of the innate skills needed for the bar. At a recent conference on the future of legal education held at the Inner Temple, James Wakefield of Kaplan Law School listed some personality traits common to barristers. As I responded, my parents would have recognised a fair few of them in me. Yet for all this, the image problem crops up once again; a lot of people on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) don’t fit into the image that the public has of the average barrister to be.

“Why *do* I want to be a barrister?”

This questions creeps up on me at 3:20am when I think about the statistics for getting pupillage, or the large loan that currently takes over £400 a month out of my salary. Why have I chosen to attempt to enter a profession which is increasingly difficult to get into, and even then has no guarantee of security? I enjoy the advocacy, I enjoy the research, and I really enjoy the feeling when I explain to my friends the latest hi-jinks on a mini-pupillage. I am often told that the profession is worth the risk, and from what I have seen I really agree. I want this really badly.

Adam Fellows is a non-practising barrister, called by the Inner Temple in July 2011, who wants to specialise in public and media law. He currently works as a legal researcher.