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Pupillage In The Provinces? Thanks, But No Thanks

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London-based pupillage hunter OccupyTheInns thinks taking a position in the regions could be a bad move

As time goes by, a dilemma that I find myself increasingly fighting with is whether I would consider pupillage in the provinces.

I am well aware that there are many highly robust chambers outside London, where some impressive members of the Bar proudly provide an excellent service for the people of their respective communities. However, I am also aware that London is home of the Bar and all its trappings – and home to the country’s very best advocates.

An interview I had recently at a very good regional chambers caused me to think through this dilemma in greater depth than previously. As I departed London on the train to this interview, I was full of a hope that was buoyed by the beautiful green countryside that the metropolis soon gave way to. Drinking a cup of tea in first class (a little extravagance I sometimes allow myself when I travel to interviews – if purchased in advance with a hefty discount!), I thought that I could get rather used to this. Then, sometime later, I arrived at the town in which my interview was to be.

Provincial cities so often feel to me as though they have been drained of all their colour and excitement, life and eccentricities, in comparison to London. Sadly, this city proved no exception, and a wave of disappointment washed over me as I exited the railway station and hailed a taxi.

Of course, one would have had no way of knowing that they were not in London once safely ensconced inside the chambers where I was to have my interview. Exceptionally furnished, with high Georgian ceilings and a name board outside the door positively over-spilling with silks, the surroundings were on a par with the very best in the capital. In person, the calibre of the barristers was obviously high too, as they fired incisive questions at me in accents that bore more resemblance to Jeremy Paxman’s than to the local dialect spoken by my taxi driver.

My disappointment was not with chambers at all, but with what lay outside. It wasn’t a bad place, just different. In the two hours I had to spare after the interview, I saw not a single independent coffee shop, but a plethora of McDonalds, just one theatre, but more chain pubs than one could shake a stick at. Unlike in London, where the people possess an infectious energy, here they seemed depressed.

Quite aside from my ties to London through my fiancée, this town simply wasn’t the sort of place where I would enjoy spending my time outside chambers. With work-life balance very important to me, and cultural hobbies like theatre-going, visiting galleries and DJing a key factor in the way I spend my weekends, I am just not sure that I would be happy outside London. Admittedly I am sometimes tempted by the idea of taking a pupillage in the provinces then moving back to London, but the barristers I have consulted on the matter tell me this little trick is more easily said than done in the fierce battle for tenancy.

Granted not all provincial towns are the same – and I am a big fan of Bristol – but although times are hard for pupillage-seekers, I fear rushing into a job in the regions in haste could be a decision that may cause years of regret at leisure.

OccupyTheInns graduated from the BPTC last summer, and was called to the Bar in July 2011. There’s more from OccupyTheInns here.