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

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By Katie King on

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


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.