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Pissed off criminal barristers have been tweeting about how rubbish their jobs are

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A stark glimpse of the “glamorous” reality of the criminal bar

Art

Junior barristers have offered their Twitter followings a no holds barred insight into life at the criminal bar, and all the stresses and strains that come with it.

Pulling no punches, Rebecca Herbert, a criminal lawyer at 36 Bedford Row, kicked off proceedings last night when she tweeted about the long hours she’d been working.

And then Ross Talbott joined in the fun this morning when he complained about leaving for work in the early hours to attend a hearing he wasn’t being paid for.

Unfortunately for the Lamb Building barrister, his day didn’t get any better.

Though light-hearted, the tweets provide a very honest account of life at the criminal bar, a profession often dressed up by TV and film as glamorous and flashy.

Unfortunately, the rigour of the profession and the toll it can take on its members are becoming increasingly clear. Research from LawCare, an advice helpline for stressed-out lawyers and law students (contact them here), has revealed that a disproportionate number of the charity’s callers (19%) are barristers. The self-employed nature of the criminal bar, teamed with difficult clients and highly charged emotional cases, tends to leave its lawyers burdened and juggling heavy workloads.

But that doesn’t mean it’s plain sailing over at the City firms. Many solicitors, particularly those in US firms, spend their working life under the ‘billable target hours’ raincloud. Hotshots at Kirkland & Ellis and Latham & Watkins, for example, are set an annual billable hours target of 1,900. Just below them is global titan Clifford Chance, whose lawyers are expected to work 1,800 billable hours a year. Check out the Legal Cheek Firms Most List for the full comparison.

Thankfully, with the ever-increasing popularity of social media sites like Twitter, students have ready access to information about law firms and chambers (and the grim reality of working there) that simply wasn’t available 10 years ago. The stress is still there, but now we know about it, and wannabe lawyers can make an informed decision about whether or not to join the profession and take on the responsibilities that come with it.

And mental health awareness within the profession itself is definitely growing. The commentary from Herbert and Talbott comes just days after Legal Cheek reported that 15 law groups — including the Bar Council, the Solicitors Regulation Authority, and magic circle giant Linklaters — have joined forces to promote lawyers’ wellbeing.

32 Comments

Anonymous

So two people moaned about their jobs on Twitter. It’s hardly a massive movement is it?

(43)(5)

Anonymous

Good man.

/woman.

(3)(1)

Knackered of Counsel

This barrister is knackered and underpaid but still loves the job.

Wouldn’t want to do anything else!

I do Legal Aid crime in the Crown Court.

(16)(1)

Anonymous

What’s the most emotionally draining and upsetting case you’ve ever had?

Also, have you ever had to defend a really nasty piece of work you suspected was guilty?

(4)(0)

Knackered of Counsel

Today as it happens. Historic sex. Horrible cases, but someone has to do them.

Much prefer a good old honest GBH running self defence!

(7)(2)

Anonymous

Thanks. We argue amongst ourselves about not doing criminal because some say it would be too upsetting but I always say what you said: someone has to do it. They seem to think I’m some criminal lover which is odd considering they’re law students and can’t grasp the idea that our job isn’t to be a jury.

Anyway. Thanks. You’re inspiring.

(5)(2)

Trumpenkrieg

I’m a ‘criminal lover’. I much prefer criminals to some of the other human refuse that prances around in a cloak of respectability. for instance social workers, journalists, Labour party activists… etc.

Anonymous

Grade A twat.

Mr Pineapples

Social workers? You don’t know anything mate. These people are working on very difficult stuff – so go and soak your brain

Anon

Don’t you feel slightly resentful that you are working long hours, travelling a lot, and doing an important job which requires much sensitivity- yet have a pitiful salary?

(5)(6)

Knackered of Counsel

No more so than you’re average nurse who does a far more important job and is paid a lot less.

It’s a vocation. If money is the sole concern, there’s always tax law…

(5)(1)

Anonymous

Reminds me of the Mail articles about twitter uproar with a cherry picked couple of comments.

(7)(1)

Doobie Diddie Dah

Why do people think we’re interested about the fact they got up early. “Woke up this morning, house blown up be a drone and then village attacked by terrorists”. That’s a bad day. Didn’t get enough sleep? Had to travel over an hour to work? Diddums.

(9)(11)

Knackered of Counsel

I have to agree with you there…

(4)(0)

Counsel, Bombay

life’s tough now, get along get along..

(1)(1)

Anonymous

The Pauperisation of the Bar and Legal Profession.It’s about time the public encountered the truths about what is really happening to the Legal Profession in order to support them.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

One of them is a part time Judge, I guess that you receive a salary for that – guaranteed income.

(2)(3)

Anon

Where on earth is Not Amused?

(5)(0)

Trumpenkrieg

I suspect the Tarquins and Clarissas get by on a bit of a periodic cash injection from the parents, at least in the early years of practice.

How else are you going to meet your rent on that north London Victorian redbrick and entertain Piers the financier and Henrietta the management consultant when they come round for sausage lasagne?

I remember an address at a pupillage event at my Inn by a Pupil in a criminal set, self-admittedly from a ‘privileged’ background. He advised rather unhelpfully that should discussions arise in criminal pupillage interviews about earnings at the criminal bar, we should remember that “it’s only money.”

I truly had to bite my tongue.

(9)(4)

Quo Vadis

You’re quite right. It is simply impossible for a poor student with debts to survive at the Criminal Bar.

(7)(1)

Knackered of Counsel

Not in the regions it ain’t. There were never any rich backers here.

I can’t comment on the London situation, though.

(3)(1)

Quo Vadis

There are several criminal/mixed sets in the North which only offer the minimum award, and I maintain that no-one can survive on £12k without outside help. Even £20k will be subsistence-level for a poor student with debts.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Have you ever been to the North? You can buy a three bedroom house in some places for under £50K.

Renting a student style room as a pupil can be done for peanuts.

Quo Vadis

You can buy a three bedroom house for under £50k, but it will be in a poor state of repair and a thousand miles from Chambers. Trust me, I know (and love) the North, but things still cost money up there. A cheap room in a shared house (in Leeds, perhaps) will be about £100 per week, all in. Another £40 for food, £30 for transport to Chambers, £30 for other necessities, and you have almost used up the minimum monthly pupillage award. Even £20,000 is hardly enough, given the need to repay student loans.

I also don’t think pupils should have to share a house. They are not students any more – they are educated professionals, doing a stressful job. They should not have to suffer noisy flatmates and unwashed dishes after a long day at court. If we are paying pupils (and junior barristers) so little that they have to contemplate living in a Rachman-style bedsit, then something is very wrong indeed.

Anonymous

Except you don’t have to repay loans on that kind of money!

Anonymous

Yes you do. For students who were undergraduates before the fees increase, loans are repaid when earning £15,000 or more.

Plus, the private loans that many need to take out to cover BPTC fees are not income dependent.

Anonymous

2 thumbs down from the inbred fuckwits there………

(0)(0)

Trumpenkrieg

Did I hit a little close to home there, Crispin?

(2)(1)

Anonymous

It’s wise to combine Criminal Law with Family Law or something similar.

(4)(0)

Trumpenkrieg

Not unless you’re looking for a professional negligence suit it isn’t.

(4)(0)

james vine

Dear Legal Cheek

There really is no point in publishing this stuff. You of all people should know by now that lots of people hate lawyers and will post crap and ill informed comments on your site.

Havent you got anything more valuable to post?

(2)(3)

Anon Again

Talking of angry criminal sols – has anyone else noticed that the LAA has lost yet another JR http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/law/laa-loses-legal-aid-contract-challenge/5055423.fullarticle

(2)(0)

Comments are closed.