Survival Tips For Baby Barristers At The Publicly Funded Bar

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Last week, David Cameron’s former chief-of-staff, Alex Deane, explained to Legal Cheek why he tired of the genteel poverty of the criminal Bar – and eventually quit. Will things work out differently for this week’s guest, 2 Dr Johnson’s Buildings pupil barrister Stephanie Wookey (pictured), who joins Bircham Dyson Bell solicitor Kevin Poulter (pictured) and Legal Cheek editor Alex Aldridge on this week’s #RoundMyKitchenTable podcast?

As she comes to the end of her pupillage this month, Cardiff University graduate Wookey is preparing for a return to being a student – via a masters at Queen’s College, Cambridge, which she’ll begin in October. In an unconventional move, Wookey will continue as a “door pupil” at 2 Dr Johnson’s Buildings, picking up bits and pieces of work to help fund her masters, then hopefully return to a tenancy.

The pragmatic Wookey has spent the last six months doing a combination of criminal, family and private employment work in a bid to develop a mixed practice that’ll sustain her in the years to come. Poulter, who specialises in employment law, is impressed – suggesting that the more competitive rates offered by diversifying rookie barristers could tempt instructing firms (although he’s less impressed by Rookie’s decision to do a masters, which he regards as a costly frivolity).

However, this broad-based approach has a downside, concedes Wookey, who has found herself forced to put in many hours of unpaid preparation time as she bids to get her head round new areas of law. Still, having pulled in around £20,000 this year, and netted a CV-boosting place at Cambridge in the process, she’s feeling pretty upbeat about the future.

The podcast is also available on iTunes.



She only earned £20,000 a year?????????????????????? She could have earned that much as a sales assistant. Single mothers with 5 kids on benefits earn more than that.


A barrister

Yes, Elmore. And she’s done well. This is why the ‘fat cat’ tag grates so much with those that opt to do publically funded work.


I say it with love

She’s kidding herself.

Look, if I instruct a barrister, it’s because I need someone who knows more than me to get on their feet and do the job.

If someone’s a criminal hack, I don’t see how they have the expertise to run my employment case.

Kevin used the example of the three differently priced barristers.

Of course the lay client went for the more expensive.

They’d rather pay for someone who has the experience rather than someone, Cambridge LLM studies aside, who’s learning on the job.


Judge and Jury

” I say it with love” Actually the public and many solicitors have come to realize something The Bar does not get and that is Oxbridge means squat for any degree. It is the person that counts NOT the University. Chambers are so blind to some great talent because they go with the Oxbridge flow. It is unlikely any of them have the guts to try a pupil from anything other than Oxbridge. I talk mainly of the commercial bar who of course will refute the facts that out of the 10 top commercial sets in London circa 94% of the pupils are Oxbridge students, and then there is Wilberforce and One Essex LOL nothing but Oxbridge pupils.



Give the girl a break bitter people! She’s ambitious and dedicated to her chosen profession and has already made it a lot further than most people who try to become barristers. I don’t understand why she is being criticised for wanting to expand her knowledge by undertaking an LLM at one of the world’s best universities. What is so surprising about that? I’ve never heard of anyone who ruined their career by going to one of the world’s most well-know academic establishments.


Sales Assistant

20k as a sales assistant?

Jog on, lucky to make just over 10k.

And yes I am still in the wrong bloody job!


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