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‘IT’S TIME TO OCCUPY THE INNS OF COURT’

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Jobless law graduates should follow the St Paul’s protesters’ example, argues OccupyTheInns

As the Occupy Wall Street camp is cleared, and the City of London commences legal action against the Occupy London protesters, why am I proposing the occupation of the Inns of Court? Simple. Because I, and many law graduates like me, are angry. As we have seen in Egypt, New York and at home in London, anger can be a great energiser.

Through no fault of our own, a generation of Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and Legal Practice Course (LPC) graduates find ourselves with no jobs – or no jobs as lawyers anyway. The lucky ones are paralegals. The unlucky ones work in bars (not the Bar).

This generation did all that was required of it, and in many cases much more. We obtained A-stars and high 2.1s from the best Russell Group universities. We undertook all the extracurricular activities that we were told prospective lawyers need to have on their CVs nowadays.

For my sins, I chose to become a barrister, and so did the BPTC. The Bar has always been a dream of mine; in order to promote justice, to help those from less fortunate backgrounds than myself, to pursue an intellectually stimulating career. Those were, and still are, my aims.

As I mentioned above, I have a high 2.1 from a leading Russell Group university, where I read a challenging non-law subject. Also, without wishing to sound arrogant in any way, I am very able as an advocate (something reflected in my BPTC grades and the success I have enjoyed at mooting competitions).

Yet a pupillage remains out of my, and many of my contemporaries’, grasp. The statistics are frightening. Approaching 2,000 students do the BPTC every year, but just over 400 obtain pupillage. Those are not far off National Lottery odds!

It is for these reasons that I propose peaceful direct action. It is time to occupy the Inns of Court. To those of you reading this in my position, please get in touch, by Twitter (@OccupyTheInns), by email (occupytheinns@hotmail.co.uk ) or by commenting beneath this article.

OccupyTheInns graduated from the BPTC this summer, and was called to the Bar in July.

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14 Comments

Jay

I agree with the other commenters here – anybody who does the Bar course does so knowing that, unless you stand out head and shoulders above the rest, or can rely on special connections to help you, the odds are stacked against you. On my bar course I think only three people had pupillages by the end of the course, out of maybe 45 people looking for one.

That being said, I wonder what the outcome would be if hundreds or thousands of rejected barristers got together to demand access to the profession. I suspect that it might get some sympathetic coverage and put off a few more seventeen year olds from applying to law courses at university. It wouldn’t achieve much else.

A small crumb of comfort for rejected barristers is that other legal jobs exist, and rights of audience are being expanded. That aside, I wouldn’t expect much to change until even the sons and daughters of MPs, lords, barristers and judges find it difficult to obtain pupillage. Then, I imagine, “something must be done”.

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Amanda Jones

“That aside, I wouldn’t expect much to change until even the sons and daughters of MPs, lords, barristers and judges find it difficult to obtain pupillage. Then, I imagine, “something must be done”.”

And the basis for your assumption that it’s easy to get pupillage if you’re the son or daughter of one of the above is…..?

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Benjamin Gray

In seriousness though, while I’m sympathetic to those who feel short-changed by the current way people train for the Bar, and think there’s a lot that people can justifiably feel aggrieved about, I don’t see how an occupation of an Inn is going to achieve anything at all. Wrong target, wrong tactic.

And more worryingly, no agenda. For all the anger, I don’t see a single proposal here beyond sitting on one’s backside in one of the Inns in a freezing November and irritating the very people you want to give you a job. It’s a complete lack of engagement with anything that might usefully be done to fix the problems.

Fundamentally though, there are always going to be more people applying than there are places to go around. Things can be done to make that competition fairer and less prohibitively expensive. But to suggest that it’s all everyone else’s fault and it’s so unfair and you’re going to sit around until Somebody Else fixes it for you is hardly a serious proposal for change.

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Raj

Ha ha ha! You don’t have a job and everybody’s laughing at you!

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Another failed BVC graduate

Aren’t you turning your inability to make the cut into someone else’s problem.

“An SEP is something we can’t see, or don’t see, or our brain doesn’t let us see, because we think that it’s somebody else’s problem…. The brain just edits it out, it’s like a blind spot. If you look at it directly you won’t see it unless you know precisely what it is. Your only hope is to catch it by surprise out of the corner of your eye.

The technology involved in making something properly invisible is so mind-bogglingly complex that 999,999,999 times out of a billion it’s simpler just to take the thing away and do without it……. The “Somebody Else’s Problem field” is much simpler, more effective, and “can be run for over a hundred years on a single torch battery.”

This is because it relies on people’s natural predisposition not to see anything they don’t want to, weren’t expecting, or can’t explain.”

I don’t have pupillage. The reason is simple: a lack of ability and serendipity in the appropriate quantities required for success in any field.

The reasons I don’t have a pupillage is not that the powers that be of the legal world couldn’t just hand me me a job with my degree certificate. A job to which I should apparently feel a sense of entitlement to. God forbid I just didn’t make it.

Presumably these jobs for all must come from some other mystical ‘L Space’ space in which they store a bountiful supply of work (and funding) for everyone called to the Bar?

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meewaan

you need 10 tents to start. make a start. good luck.

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[…] course (LPC) graduates find ourselves with no jobs – or no jobs as lawyers anyway,” wrote the graduate under the pseudonym OccupyTheInns on Legal Cheek, a blog I edit, after making contact with me on […]

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[…] course (LPC) graduates find ourselves with no jobs – or no jobs as lawyers anyway,” wrote the graduate under the pseudonym OccupyTheInns on Legal Cheek, a blog I edit, after making contact with me on […]

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Richard Borrett

An interesting idea, and I certainly understand the sentiment – with a non-Oxbridge degree it took me almost 3 years and some 60+ applications to finally obtain my pupillage.

Unfortunately, there is of course no ‘magic formula’ – not even an Oxbridge first – if that were the case there would be no-one at the bar with anything but an Oxbridge first; the reality is, when you look away from the top-flight specialist sets (Matrix, Brick Court et al) there are a good number of (mainly young) practitioners with ‘alternative’ backgrounds and degrees.

Many of my fellow young barristers are the first in their families to go to university, many did not go to Oxbridge, or even Russell group universities, and many of those who did still struggle to find pupillage.

So I suppose what I am saying is that the system is unfair to those wishing to join it, but not for the reasons many think. I genuinely believe that most sets are no longer elitist about universities or background. Even having the best degree you could wish for won’t necessarily seal the deal. At the bar a major part of ‘making it’ is having qualities that simply aren’t demonstrated through academic success; qualities many will not know whether they do or do not have until it is too late.

Whilst I stand by what I said about non-oxbridge students, a good set of A Levels and a reasonably good degree is, of course a must. It is, sadly, the other elements which cannot be taught.

There is of course a great deal of luck involved – most sets receive hundreds of applications and even after removing those without specified qualifications or experience, there are usually still far too many to interview. Robing-room gossip tells of applications being tossed down stairwells, and those landing face-up being offered interview: hopefully untrue, but a sad indicator of the sheer numbers of people who , on paper at least, could make it.

The solution? The difficulty is that some of the blame must lie with the course providers. Though they are a mix of academic institutions, charities and commercial outfits, all of them take on far too many students who have no real prospect of ever making it to the bar. Of course this is wholly unfair on those students, spending tens of thousands on courses, living expenses, dining and the rest, whilst racking up huge debt without the LEA support many of our older colleagues received.

Even so, there are likely to still be far too many students with the right boxes ticked ‘on paper’ and dealing with this is much more difficult. For a start better education is needed about what it takes to be a barrister – it is no longer a school tie and the right surname. i also sometimes wonder if there are legs to the argument that pupillage should be obtained prior to study – but that would require a wholesale change in attitude and approach- and change is something with which the bar struggles.

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[…] this point I would like to clarify that I am no longer advocating the occupation of the Inns of Court – a campaign I brought to an end last year. However, it seems that my pen name has proved rather […]

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Anonymous

Can I suggest that instead of Occupying the Inns, you occupy the law schools and providers of the Vocational Course.

There are 400 pupillages because there are only so many tenancies per year to fill. There are only so many tenancies because there is only the work for so many new barristers.

The 400 pupillages (incidentally funded by barristers) allow for enough candidates to fill those tenancies and allow for natural wastage etc.

So, suppose there were more pupillages, all you would have is a further year of training with no tenancy.

The real issue is over provision of legal education (at vast cost to the student) which means that there is a huge bottleneck at the pupillage stage. The Bar objected to this overprovision as inevitably causing this bottleneck and was overruled.

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[…] idea has been taken up by the anonymous paralegal whose idea was to occupy the Inns of Court because he hadn't got a pupillage. He is confident that the proposal would “also have extremely […]

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Priya

I agree that OccupyTheInns is an entitled fool who should take his lumps with grace. You played the law school game, and you lost. Sorry, but you should have known the stakes before you began.

But all is not lost – Lexis would probably hire you. Decent salary, benefits, and legal work. Not what you wanted, perhaps, but better than busking at a tube station or checking out groceries at Sainsbury’s.

By the way I was seriously considering applying to Linklaters and Freshfields (which I still can’t think about without imagining a dairy farm) in London for a summer associate position next year. Now I’m not so sure – as incredibly shitty as the American legal market it, there are still more high-paying jobs over here and if you go to at least a top 25 school with perfect grades, you still have a good chance of getting that $160k salary.

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[…] Temple! I know that this may seem like a strange sentence coming from somebody who advocated a campaign to occupy the Inns of Court just months ago, but I am really rather impressed by the Pegasus Access Scheme Inner launched this […]

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