Law: the fantasy Vs the reality

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By Judge John Hack on

Life as a solicitor or barrister isn’t always what it seems


Law school — the fantasy:

The glossy brochures depict bright-eyed, keen, intelligent and beautiful young people, hanging on the every word of their powerfully clever lecturers and confident of high-paying jobs to come.


Law school — the reality:

Intense stress and pressure, with the knowledge that almost nothing of certainty lies at the end of the tunnel — apart from years of paying off various loans.


Court advocacy — the fantasy:

From Rumpole to Silks — it’s all about the glamour of wooing juries and judges and winning the big case with your sharp intellect and rapier wit.


Court advocacy — the reality:

Hanging about for hours smoking fags and drinking gallons of cold tea outside a grim magistrates’ court waiting for the list to get to your shoplifting case.


Life at a law firm — the fantasy:

Clifford Chance’s swimming pool at the global mega-firm’s Canary Wharf HQ sums it all up. Sure the hours are long — but there’s nothing like 50 lengths and a spot of energising sushi in the luxurious canteen to ease the pain.


Life at a law firm — the reality:

The grinding despair of practising at a high street legal aid firm perched above a chip shop in Camberwell. The hours are long — and all you get is the option of greasy battered cod … or an equally greasy kebab.


Chambers — the fantasy:

A collegiate atmosphere at the inns of court, which mirrors the look of the ancient universities the inhabitants doubtless attended. High-brow banter and frightening intellects abound.


Chambers — the reality:

Hot beds of bullying and sexual harassment, which these days are increasingly likely to be housed in serviced offices on an industrial estate rather than the equivalent of a Cambridge college quad.


The togs — the fantasy:

Smart chalk-striped suits (for him and her) cut by master tailors from at least Ede & Ravenscroft if not from Savile Row itself. Suits you, sir/madam, and a snip at 3,000 quid. Now, would you like to see our latest brogues?

Ede & Ravenscroft, purveyor of legal wigs and gowns

The togs — the reality

Marks & Sparks (for him and her) for the lucky ones — with many satisfying themselves with a session at Primark.


Fighting for justice – the reality

Despite having to hang about outside rain swept mags’ courts, working above a chippy and wearing a six-year old threadbare suit from a charity shop, it’s all worth it because you are battling for everything that is right in the world, on behalf of those with no voice but yours. So chin up — you’re on the side of the angels.


Fighting for justice — the reality

Poring over 945 pages of a tedious contract until 3 o’clock in the morning for seven days on the trot in the run up to a deal that a partner you’ve never seen and who has no idea who you are will take all the credit for.


Chin up — at least you’ve got a job.