‘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.