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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.

22 Comments

B

If I may, for a moment, speak on behalf of ‘the sticks’ I think it would be an awful thing for you to take pupillage here. Please stay exactly where you are.

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Carrie Allcott

As a ‘sticks’ dweller, I wholeheartedly agree. What drivel. Surely not a serious post?

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I say it with love

Dammit, Alex.

You got me.

This is obvious fiction and linkbait!

Well crafted!

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Anonymous

I’m sure they had a high opinion of you too.

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Barrister

Ok, well I think this post conclusively proves that “OccupyTheInns” is a troll – the only question remains; is he the ‘David Rose’ to Alex’s Johann Hari?

Either way, these posts are starting to become increasingly tedious and do the blog no favours. The best blogs out there don’t have to rely on the shrill ramblings of semi-literate provocateurs to get a readership. They do that by regular, high-quality writing.

Come on Alex, get it together and put out some decent content.

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Barrister

Interesting to see that comment moderation has been turned on!

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Kevin Poulter

Anyone who has heard the #roundmykitchentable podcast will know that I am not a Londoner. I trained in ‘the provinces’ albeit as a solicitor and I forged my career there. I’m now in London and I am reassured that the training I received and career I built in the North was as good as, if not better, than much of what is on offer in the capital. Training in the sticks isn’t a bad thing. Quite the opposite. If you want to move back to London, you can (if you can find someone to take you) as a qualified lawyer.

Otherwise, I fear your blinkered narrow minded approach may be your undoing.

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Subashini

As a fellow pupillage-hunter I rather admire the other circuits outside of London, there’s a wealth of connections and you forge a closer relationship between both sides of the legal profession.
As someone from a small town, there are cultural hot-spots, but most likely you didn’t have time to walk through the back alleys to explore fully the area.
Pupillage is meant to be the hardest year of your life. My relative, who currently practices, lost most of his social life in that period – and the rest with establishing practice. I don’t understand why that has to be a big factor for you, as you’re going to lose it anyways.
From being desperate about finding a pupillage (enough to cause commotion last year) to being choosy over where to practice…

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Adam Wagner

You still haven’t answered the question I posted on your last post…

“So @occupytheinns, are you a hoax/ wind-up merchant or not?!”

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D_T_T

This is now very obvious comment bait and I am now convinced such posts are not actually written by a real pupillage-hunter.

Real or not, I agree with the post above suggesting this blog should engage in some proper reporting instead of continuing to print this drivel, but no doubt in adding to the comment numbers I am just encouraging things!!

If this piece is for real: what makes you think the regions (or “sticks”) actually want you?? Ok an interview, very good but I don’t see mention of a pupillage offer being made and considered? Is it just that you are considering different roles that you haven’t actually been offered? I think I’ll sit here and consider in detail the pros and cons of whether I would accept a Hollywood acting gig over a leading role in the West End and whether I would rather work as a brain surgeon or an astronaut.

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Simon Myerson

Barristers everywhere but London will sleep easier in their beds tonight.

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Botzarelli

Actually this doesn’t sound too unrealistic to me. If you have no connection to the major cities of England outside London they can seem a step too far as a young aspirant barrister. I personally chose not to apply to sets outside London for similar (although less disparaging) reasons even though one of my best friends from uni was doing pupillage in Manchester, getting good work and had far better tenancy prospects than most of my peers battling it out in London in the less competitive environment of the early 90s. The reality is also that no provincial set would offer anyone who was not credibly committed to making their career there a pupillage.

The fact that like the possibly fictional author I was unwilling to broaden my search geographically helped me to realise that I didn’t burn to be a barrister in chambers quite enough to make my life fit it rather than seek to make it fit my life. Ironically, 10 years after being called and well into a career in solicitors’ firms and in house I relocated to Leeds. In retrospect perhaps a provincial pupillage might not have been such a bad idea!

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RM

I agree with Botzarelli – while the tone of OccupyTheInns’s posting may grate slightly, and criticising potential employment options may be a little gauche in an environment as competitive as that experienced by aspiring pupils, he makes valid points.

I am in a hugely peripatetic career, and have worked in London for a couple of years, between jobs around the country, and around the world. Within the UK, the contrast between London and the regions is immense. I am likely to change employers in a few years time, in part specifically so that I can move to London permanently – so I empathise with OccupyTheInns’s views.

My view of the posting –
Substance: A
Style: C (though funny!)

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vanderbar2011

OcuppyTheinns is obviously a troll,but of what kind?A well known,though,i have figured,not liked blogger/writer/journalist or some other miscreant.One thing is certain however,he/she is epitome of thousands of would-be barristers failing to cut their teeth in chambers,read pupillage. The rants of someone that thought they had made it,”i have been called by my Inn,i am a Barrister”.Then.wait,what?i cannot even call myself a barrister unless i am playing house with my chums in the back garden.The bank account reflects the scars of war,a perennial low bank balance, prefixed by a – with no end in sight.I am sure that would drive even the most composed of individuals into hysteria.The question that needs to be asked is, Why does our fledgling barrister spurn pupillage outside London?The answer is quite simple,the chambers do not want him there.He is obviously not barrister material or at the very least they see the tag “i failed in London” so i have come here,albeit reluctantly.I would not give you a job as a cleaner with that attitude.Most of the dissenting voices are from Barristers but here i am, a mature student,that is starting my second degree,but this time,in law in September.My plea is to let the troll be,through his madness,we shall know what never to repeat.Through his rants,we shall make ourselves better pupillage portal candidates.I think ‘our’ should become a journalist,maybe, even a blog going,with podcasts and all.Maybe,just, maybe, we would be commenting on his blog and not this one.

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kevim

I take it they didn’t offer you pupillage.

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Morus

I just don’t think I’m prepared to sign for a Premiership club that isn’t based in Manchester.

I know they have some half-decent teams in Liverpool and London, but there’s something about the trappings of football in England’s northwestern metropolis that matches the sort of life I think a footballer should lead. Indeed, those trappings are far more the reason I want to be a footballer than the actual football itself.

Of course, when you’re in a stadium, they all seem much of a muchness, but once you get outside the ground, there really just is this feeling of ‘how elite are the other footballers I’ll meet at the local bars?’ and no-where is quite like Manchester for that.

Of course, I’m not a professional footballer at the moment, and no Premiership clubs have actually offered me a contract, but if they did, I’d probably turn them down unless they were either Man Utd or Manchester City.

Of course, saying that I’d refuse to play for the majority of clubs in the country is in no way inconsistent with my previous claims to be desperately interested in a career in football. My previous insistence that I should get a contract because I’ve actually wanted to do this for purer and longer-standing reasons than some of the people who have contracts that they clearly got through nepotism or going to better football academies than me is not invalidated by a pickiness that clearly shines through in every trial I do, and probably part of the reason that managers are reluctant to sign me. Not at all.

The problem isn’t remotely with my attitude, or skills, or training, or approach. What’s really the problem is the clubs, the managers, the training, the fans, the stadia, the cities and the sport itself. Why can’t it just all change to accommodate me?

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Simon Myerson

Now that’s more like legal talent. Occupy an Ego should take note.

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Morus

Coming from someone for whom I have the utmost respect, that means a great deal. Many thanks indeed.

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Jade

Gosh, The Provinces?! I hope you got your vaccines in time.

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[…] dignify those accusations with a response. If, however, I struck a note that offended people with my previous post about the provinces then I can only express my regret at […]

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[…] At 21:17 of the podcast, Legal Cheek editor Alex Aldridge stumbled into specious territory: “If you want to talk about the hierarchies [of chambers] let’s be blunt…The regions, there’s no doubt, are in status terms below London,” he said. It is a refrain since taken up by others on this site. […]

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Littlewig

This is clearly a wind up, or if it isn’t you poor misguided fool.

I originate from the South and it is this pretentious attitude towards anything and anyone past Wolverhampton that made me move up North, study up North and stay up North. At my first dining session, I was greeted by a Southerner who noticed my dulcet tones, and asked why on earth hadn’t I studied in London. I think she answered her own question.

Why this London centric bubble exists remains a mystery. Comparing those top Barristers from the North West sets I have encountered who are friendly, helpful and seem to have a grasp on reality to those London based Barristers I have met, whose general attitude is that they shouldn’t have to lift a finger in court, god forbid they have to carry their own suitcase or brief, and gesture madly behind them in court when something goes wrong, give me a Northerner any day.

Even if this post is a wind up, it further fuels this ridiculous divide. Every Barrister has fought hard to be where they are, and the respect they are given shouldn’t be dependent on whether they pronounce Bath ‘Barrth’ or ‘BAth’. Has it ever crossed OTI’s mind that perhaps people chose not to take pupillage in London? I doubt it.

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