Back when I chose to be a barrister I really didn’t know a great deal about the profession. I guess I was probably attracted to the performing side of the Bar, the going off to court and having an argument, writes BabyBarista author Tim Kevan.
Certainly I did end up enjoying that aspect of the job even in the most mundane of car cases in which I often appeared. But there were many things I really didn’t appreciate when I was starting out. Three spring to mind.
First off, the independence of the bar stands out. This comes from the fact that most barristers are not employed but instead have many solicitor clients who come to them for advice and representation in their cases. On top of that is an embedded culture of fierce independence within a profession which takes great pride in its ability to speak its mind however uncomfortable what they have to say might be.
Alongside that is the freedom you can get as a barrister. Quite specifically you’re in charge of your own time and you can choose how and when you want to work. Now sometimes this is only in theory since most barristers work their socks off, particularly in the early years. But it’s incredibly liberating having the ability to take time off whenever you like and from my own experience it really did allow me to put time aside for other interests such as getting away to the coast, writing and business.
Yet despite, or perhaps because of this independence and freedom there is also an enormous sense of camaraderie within the profession. Much of this is based upon the shared experience of such an unusual job where you’re in the middle of a process which can have such a profound effect on people’s everyday lives. But it’s also probably due to the fact that there’s a rich vein of humour which runs through the profession and it’s this, above all, which my own BabyBarista novels reflect.
So if I knew all of this back then, I guess it would have reinforced my decision to choose the path I did. It’s true that it’s a very competitive environment and not always easy to get taken on in chambers. But if you’re lucky enough to make it through it’s a wonderful profession to be joining.