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‘I have found myself on more than one occasion having to bite my tongue’

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OccupyTheInns’ excitement at starting pupillage is tempered by frustration at the hierarchical nature of chambers life

“Go on, George Carman QC, knock their socks off son!” cried Dave, as I bid farewell to some of the brilliant lads I have been fortunate enough to befriend at my new local pub. It was “Pupillage Eve”.

I didn’t sleep very much during the hours that followed, I will admit. Too many thoughts rushing through this head of mine as I remembered the journey that has taken me from a leading university to pupillage in a new city, bringing with it a new life — via a strong performance at law school followed by a rigorous period of travel and human rights work.

For obvious reasons, I will not be disclosing identifiable details about that first week. What I will say is that I am lucky enough to be surrounded by an absolutely first class group of professionals practising in impressively diverse areas of the law. In addition I have strong reason to believe that the supervision I will be enjoying this year is going to be of one of the highest levels in the country, if not the world.

My only disappointment is that I could not do more. As fantastic as it was to finally be undertaking what I have waited so long to undertake, if there was a frustration it was in an uncomfortable feeling that I had been here before during mini-pupillages. Only a small amount of new ground was covered, although I am sure that the pace will pick up in the weeks and months which follow.

Entering the legal profession as a mature candidate in the latter portion of my 20s, I have enjoyed a whole host of rich and varied previous experiences, many with a high degree of responsibility. From coordinating complex tasks on major cases as a paralegal, to leading teams on human rights projects that impact on thousands of lives, I have consistently demonstrated an ease with leadership.

It is true that I was a very different person before I gained these experiences. Still robust, but less mature perhaps. I see that old me in the other pupils at chambers, and indeed in some of the junior barristers. Yet for reasons of smooth administration, we are placed in the same category by senior barristers and even clerks. As a consequence, I have found myself on more than one occasion having to bite my tongue.

Please do not misinterpret this. The clerks are an absolutely wonderful bunch of salt-of-the-earth types who remind me of some of the boys in my local. Already I have had several great laughs with them, and I am confident of continuing to do so throughout this year and during my career going forward. However it has been slightly disappointing that they seem to assume I am the same age as the other pupils, and behave towards me as if this is my first job. If one or two of them thought to hold their tongues a little more I dare say they might learn something.

Of the senior barristers I admit the situation is rather different. These busy men and women at the helm of some incredibly challenging cases cannot be expected to consider in detail the backgrounds of a pupil. I must earn their respect, and I shall.

Before then, however, I have case prep to do. At 11pm! As I am quickly discovering, the life of a barrister is far from the typical 9-5. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

OccupyTheInns was called to the Bar in 2011. He commenced pupillage at a leading national chambers this month. There’s more from OccupyTheInns here.

11 Comments

Anon

Nice to see that the unbelievable sense of self superiority and arrogance that the wannabee barristers at my University had doesn’t in any way diminish once they get their pupillage.

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Peej

“If one or two of them [the clerks] thought to hold their tongues a little more I dare say they might learn something. Of the senior barristers I admit the situation is rather different. These busy men and women at the helm of some incredibly challenging cases cannot be expected to consider in detail the backgrounds of a pupil. I must earn their respect, and I shall.”

The implication being, of course, that you don’t need to earn the respect of your clerks and that they should just pipe down and know their place (wonderful, salt of the earth types that they are).

If this is a parody of arrogant young lawyers it’s excellent. If it’s genuine, it’s appalling.

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Richard

Are the constant references to the other “mini-pupils” (deliberate) errors, or is OTI still only on work experience?

I worry sometimes that Alex’s alter ego is drifting too far into parody to have anyone believe it is real these days…

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A barrister

Must be a parody.

I look forward to how this ends – badly, I’m sure!

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Seriously?

There is so much focus on how amazing and excellent his colleagues are, I wonder who the writer is trying to persuade, us (the readers) or himself? I can glean from previous posts that he wasn’t keen on going to the regions to practice, but he seems to be trying very hard to assure himself (or us) that he made the right choice!

Also, it is well known fact that everyone on the junior junior end (especially the pupils) are lumped into one big group, regardless of experience. It comes with the territory. This is hardly unusual. If he can’t hack that, don’t do the job.

Also, we get it, you’re clever.

If he is looking for sympathy he is going the wrong way about it. The way he described the clerks is so patronising! What did he expect! For them to tip their hat in respect at the sheer presence of a barrister!

Also, aren’t most pupils barristers in there late 20’s, these days. Didn’t realise that was a mature……

Also, he may have done some amazing paralegal work or whatever else he did before, but what he wasn’t was a barrister. You weren’t working as a barrister when you did all this cutting edge human rights work, so you have no previous barrister experience! Why on earth do you expect to be treated as if you do?

Surely this is a joke, right?

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Anon

If anything, this is a parody drifting into farce. The language is (intentionally, I’m sure), utterly execrable:
“Already I have had several great laughs with them, and I am confident of continuing to do so throughout this year and during my career going forward”

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c

YES

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Concerned

A Harry Mount is born.

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Worried for the Bar

It’s precisely these egocentric, ‘my university’s better than your university’, ‘look at me look at me aren’t I fantastic daaaarrrling’ types that threaten the reputation and future of the Bar.

By ‘salt of the earth’ clerks he betrays some upper class roots perhaps in essentially labelling them as working class and even worse not Oxbridge educated, even if in hinted form. How accurate that is is anyone’s guess but to even suggest it is ludicrous. Well done good sir, you think you relate to the man on the Clapham Omnibus.

Utter tosh.

THESE are the people who get pupillage and represent lay people. What a scary thought.

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NRL

@Worried for the Bar- this is a parody (we all hope) rather than a genuine pupil. So please don’t regard this as indicative of the v junior end of the Bar!

On another note- if any lay people do happen on this blog, it’s hardly the most reassuring thing for them to read- especially given the current debacle at the Bar. On a similar line, if the DM happen upon it…

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Sandman

OTI is either a parody, or a genuine young barrister who is being deliberately obnoxious in his writing in order to be a troll.

The thing that bothers me if it is parody is that it did not start off as a parody. If you read the original OTI posts, you will find little of the laboured condescension or deluded sense of grandeur. It started off as an, apparently, genuine (albeit misguided) incitement to occupy the Inns of Court, followed up by some reflections by OTI on what could be done to remedy the situation.

If the initial posts were not written by a genuine angry young man, but were instead a manufactured attempt to stir up some trouble – then that is of some concern.

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