Lawyers share their biggest humiliations, from dozing in court to falling off chairs in interviews

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By Katie King on

It’s all to show failure is normal

Law students hoping to enter the profession may see Supreme Court-appearing silks as infallible bastions of legal knowledge and sharp wit. But did you know one such QC showed up to a City law interview so hungover he walked into the door on the way out?

This was the experience of Sean Jones QC, a tenant at 11KBW who has represented the likes of the University of Oxford and Newcastle United. Sharing some of his stickier moments on Twitter using the #FailureIsNormal hashtag, he revealed:

The #FailureIsNormal campaign was this weekend launched by Adam Wagner, a human rights barrister at Doughty Street Chambers. He told Legal Cheek:

“The point of #FailureIsNormal is to try and show people that almost every successful career is built on a foundation of setbacks, humiliations and outright failures.”

One particularly “crushing” elements to trying to make it as a barrister is the rejection. There are plenty of people who are easily good enough for the job but because of the low number of places they can spend years fighting for a pupillage spot, Wagner said. And he knows exactly how that feels: debuting the hashtag a few days ago, Wagner told his 37,000 Twitter follows he’d faced 23 pupillage knock-backs:

Plenty of other barristers were quick to use the #FailureIsNormal movement to share their tales of rejection. Zoe Saunders for one admitted she’d failed one of her A-levels then faced “numerous interviews” before making it as a family barrister, while 5RB’s Felicity McMahon said she made almost 50 applications:

Aside from tales of rejections, there are also those of embarrassing — and very relatable — moments. For starters, anyone who has ever observed in court will understand why Max Schofield, a first-six pupil, dozed off partway through a case:

And then there’s Ollie Persey, who is training at the Public Law Project. He slipped off his chair during one interview and battled food poisoning in another:

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