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Top QC who branded unpaid internship ‘plain wrong’ offers aspiring barristers two weeks paid work experience

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‘I should put my money where my mouth is’, says Jaime Hamilton

Readers will recall how last week we revealed that a London chambers was advertising an internship lasting up to six months in which one lucky wannabe barrister would gain “real world legal experience”. Sounds good, right? Unfortunately, there was a catch: it was “unpaid”.

At the time, a spokesperson for 9 King’s Bench Walk (9KBW), a set covering crime, immigration and regulatory matters, appeared to defend the offer, pointing to the fact it covered interns’ travel expenses.

Our story prompted an outcry online. Victoria Anderson, a solicitor and CEO of social mobility charity Big Voice London, argued that unpaid internships “exploit” students “who feel the need to take the position and deters and damages the prospects of those who can’t”. Temple Garden Chambers barrister Daniel Sternberg tweeted: “There’s a reason why unpaid pupillages were ended. Unpaid 6 month internships are no different”, while a Legal Cheek reader in our lively comments section wrote: “Depressing that this still continues”.

Another vocal critic on Twitter was Jaime Hamilton QC, a criminal specialist at Manchester’s 9 St John Street, who described the “unpaid” offer as “plain wrong” and something that “just should not happen”.

However, the top silk went one step further, and less than 24 hours later, revealed he was offering a paid placement of his own. The successful candidate will receive “at least minimum wage” during the two-week summer internship, which Hamilton will pay for out of his own pocket.

Speaking to Legal Cheek this morning, Hamilton confirmed he will set out the application process for his offer within the next week or so, but did reveal this will involve a written application and interview via Skype or phone. He said:

“I will provide minimum funding so that it does not require the successful candidate to forgo two weeks of paid work. The two weeks will be shadowing a number of my colleagues and friends. I also intend to provide some personal mentoring for the successful candidate — I will provide them with an advocacy exercise and feedback and will provide them with advice about CV etc.”

On the issue of internships within the legal sector, Hamilton drew a distinction between short periods of unpaid work experience, including the traditional mini-pupillage, which allows aspiring lawyers to “experience what the role is like”, and lengthy unpaid roles which place a “handbrake on diversity”. Hamilton continued:

“An opportunity which is only open to those that can afford it runs the risk of providing someone with an advantage which is simply not open to everyone. The fact that it is not open to everyone in a way which is likely to disproportionately impact upon sections of society already unrepresented at the bar means that, even if well meaning and even if the internship has been a great thing for some, they should not be part of the landscape at the modern bar. There are better ways that chambers can assist those seeking pupillage.”

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66 Comments

Thanos

Fair play for acting on his words. That’s quite respectable.

Anonymous

I left my former chambers in London because I did not like the way it was going. When I joined it had about 25% “non traditional” members. Roughly ten years later that proportion had dropped to less than 10% and privately educated, Oxbridge members from relatively affluent backgrounds predominated. I was both privately educated and went to one of the best Oxbridge colleges, however, I did not want to continue being part of a set which bore no resemblance to wider reality. Nor did I want to spend the next 20 years surrounded by one extremely narrow drawn cohort of individuals.

Anonymous

See, you were doing okay until you just happened to drop that you, “went to one of the best Oxbridge colleges”.

Hope you enjoyed that humble brag. Do you feel superior now?

Anonymous

Yes, actually. Because I am.

John the goat manager

What a dick…

Anonymous

Lol, I don’t know anyone who went to Oxbridge (well, I suppose I can only speak to Oxford really) who speaks like that.

Perhaps, maybe, you would say (in private) “one of the *better* Oxbridge colleges”. But to claim there is a delineated “best” list is just something I don’t think someone who actually went there would do.

And yes, I went to a good college. I have no axe to grind. Just observing that the language strikes me as bizarre.

Anonymous

Your second paragraph undermines your first, and proves your hypocrisy.

Anonymous

What nonsense. Of course Oxbridge graduates have a concept of the internal pecking order of colleges.

Anonymous

My response exactly.

Anonymous

But the Bar does not represent society and nor should it. Most people are dim and badly educated. The rule of law demands that the Bar should comprise the cleverest and best educated members of society: and those people are privately educated and Oxbridge.

Anonymous

Ha ha ha ha. That really is brilliantly funny. No wonder you got so many likes. You should try standup.

Honestly the idea that to be brilliant you need to be privately educated – I nearly wet myself….

Anonymous

Did you nearly wet yourself because your parents let you wear Drynites for bed wetting instead of beating the laziness out of you at the age of 3 and packing you off to boarding school at 5, having forced you to put your teddy in a blender beforehand, like me?

Made me a stronger and therefore better person.

Anonymous

An argument indeed for the positive benefit of physical abuse

Anonymous

And clearly so well adjusted!

Anonymous

Is that all you heard from his statement? Erase private education, and he’s basically right. The Bar doesn’t need to represent “wider society”, it needs to represent good lawyering. In fact, the only industry (if it can even be called such) that can in any sense of the word owe any duty to represent wider society is the sphere of elected politicians. Everything else, virtually every other avenue of human vocation should strive solely to employ the best, brightest, highest-achieving individuals.

I’m a minority in the UK – I’ll always be a minority. When I walk into the office, I don’t care about seeing people “who look like me”, I care about seeing the smartest and most talented people with whom I can have intelligent conversations regarding both work and non-work stuff. Wanting people who look like me is no different than wanting people with long hair or blue eyes only. It’s the definition of shallowness.

Anonymous

You nearly wet yourself? Is that because your parents let you wear Drynites instead of thrashing the laziness out of you before making you put teddy in a blender and packing you off to boarding school at the age of 5?

Happened to me. Made me the strong man I am today.

Anonymous

Yes. But the best are not found in private schools. 85% of barristers attended state schools as we were bright enough to obtain top grades without needing Mummy and Daddy to spend the best part of £100k on private tutors. The best did it without needing help, but the Bar is open to supporting those with special needs and admits those who couldn’t pass without a lot of help as well as the majority who didn’t need it.

Anonymous

Be the change you want to see.

Anonymous

Well played, good to see someone acting on the principles they espouse.

(Not) Kronos

Insert idiotic Greenberg Glusker comment here.

Grown up

Followed by some nonsense about Corbyn.

Kronos

Yeah, yeah – whatever. Serious sense of humor failure from some people on here.

Separately, does anyone have the latest NQ at Kaplan Rice LLP? Need to get one of the titans here to do a benchmarking exercise.

Anonymous

A sense of humour means you can tell when something isn’t funny. Like non-stop comments about Greenberg Glusker for example, they are not funny.

Hope that clarifies.

Kronos

Clearly at some two-bit shop you are.

Anonymous

A student clearly you are.

Anonymous

No. Not going to disclose the US firm I work at but it pays full Cravath and some.

Anonymous

😆LOL! Yeah of course…!

The Fates

Unleash the titans, your monstrous band!!!

Anonymous

I like Kronos’s GG schtick. It’s much better than most of the dross we get on here from students and trainees.

With a bit of persistence it could have become an LC standard, like Not Amused and Niteowl.

JDP, Trumpentwat and that Corbyn retard should all pack it in. And as for Let’s Go Champ and that weirdo who used to just leave the name of some pirate radio station…

The Fates

Unleash the titans, your monstrous band!!

Scouser of Counsel

Credit where it’s due…

Good on him.

Skeptical Suzy

6months vs 2 weeks

Not quite money where his mouth is

Anonymous

6months unpaid free work vs 2 weeks paid experience.

In those 2 weeks the intern will do little other than shadow and learn, maybe odd bits of admin. 2 weeks isn’t long enough for the employer to make much use of the intern. Intern benefits, employer doesn’t really.

6 months is basically a full time admin bod for free. Employer benefits at the expense of diversity in the profession.

Liberturd Leftie

Actually when I was on a week long mini-pupillage I was put to much use. Due to previous background, I informed the QC of certain facts, that could assist the Court and him.

Was a very illuminating for me, and was a prime factor in my deciding my path going forward. So depending on the pupil/intern, if they are enterprising, you never know where it could lead.

Anonymous

Haha.

The QC thought you were a jumped up prick but was too polite to say it.

Anonymous

Good man

Anonymous

So they will basically do a 2 weeks paid mini pupillage… So will just shadow someone around a few courts just like any other mini pupillage, whilst not really learning much

Anonymous

Yes, but they won’t be out of pocket. So this opportunity is open to all. Unlike unpaid internships and minis

Anonymous

What a hero.

Anonymous

Are 9KBW going ahead with the unpaid job?

It is such bad PR for chambers that it would be better for them to just pay their employees NMW

Fungus the Bogeyman

Wow, I didn’t realise Dara O’ Briain had grown a beard and been appointed Silk. Well done Dara!

Mungo Jerry

Crazy stuff! Harry Hill is now sporting facial hair and is a top QC! Go Go Harry!!

Anonymous

Wow, Harry Hill is looking miserable these days.

Anonymous

This is funny. Well done.

City trainee

Thanks, I enjoyed being anonymously quoted.

Charlie Chalk

Amazing! Toby Young has been appointed Queens Counsel! Contrasts Tobemeister!

Anonymous

Although I totally agree that a 6 month internship should be paid, it’s totally bonkers to offer 6 months work experience in the first place. It’s way too long and is of no benefit to the intern. The point of a mini-pupillage is so that someone who is thinking of comming to the Bar to see what it is actually like at the coalface, so they can make an informed choice as to whether this is something they really want to do. 1 or 2 weeks shadowing a barrister is work experience. 6 months is a job.

Anonymous

Yep, this is not experience. This is chambers getting free admin staff. Why pay clerk/paralegal rates when you can pay them nothing just by calling it an “internship”?

Sourced interns for the Clinton administration

This man is despicable its not about the money it is about whether a candidate is motivated and willing to do “anything” it takes to become a barrister.

As a recruiter I am all for fairness and equal opportunities regardless of ethnicity, religion or class. So all that matters is whether a candidate can demonstrate good oral skills that will lead me to expect they can satisfy key stakeholders within a reasonable time frame.

My recruitment processes are holistic and its scope is not rigidly confined to maters concerning remuneration or law. The key quality I look for is whether a candidate can offer that “special something” to keep clients coming back regardless of outcome.

Its all about whether a candidate can ensure satisfaction and retention by all means necessary. Being concerned about money during an internship suggests hubristic pride.

In my day expecting payment for a legal internship was unthinkable. Chambers and law firms receive hundreds and in some cases thousands of applications from desperate eager to please applicants who in my experience are willing to anything to get work experience. That is the mindset an intern must have. Only an entitled brat would want payment for having the privilege of a legal internship.

I always emphatically advise employers never to hire a candidate that wears a fully buttoned up shirt and dares to ask about payment, rights, or any of that bollocks,

Anonymous

Anyone quoting “stakeholders” is a twat. Sorry.

Anonymous

Hmm. Hope that is satire. As an actual barrister, the last person I would want covering my return is a chinless wonder bailed out all his or her life by the Bank of Mummy & Daddy. I would instantly reject anyone a) silly enough to accept an unpaid 6 month internship; b) who obviously doesn’t need to work or impress solicitors and treats the Bar as a hobby.

Anonymous

Chinless wonders bailed out all their lives by the bank of mummy and daddy sounds like about half my BPTC cohort.

Gareth

I think this was called work experience in my day. What a load of rubbish.

Anonymous

A week is work experience, 6 months isn’t. In my day I did three 1 week mini-pupillages (unpaid but got bought lunch and drinks). Nobody asked me to do a 6 month unpaid internship in return for, well nothing at all. Pupillages have to be openly advertised so the 6 month internship doesn’t even get you an interview, never mind an offer. A disgrace to offer it. Even more of a disgrace to accept it.

Anonymous

Great to see that there was life after ‘Enders for Max Branning and very nice of him to finance a two week, paid work experience placement for a wannabe barrister.

Anonymous

Bill Bailey looks much better now that he has cut all that silly hair off

Anonymous

That’s Wooly Willy.

Gordon the Gopher

Crazy times, Aldo Zilli the famous restauranteur has joined the Nights Watch! High Five Aldo!

Bingo Bigglesworth

Shucks, Uncle Fester from the Adams Family has come along way! Back of the net Fester!

Anonymous

So that’s what Greg Wallace is doing now that the latest Masterchef has wrapped

Lord Harley of Counsel

I’m offering a similar scheme. Applications via JAFLAS on Harry Potter headed notepaper only.

Victor Volleyball

It’s nice to see that following a life of dodgy derring do, Phil Mitchell has sought to make something of himself and is now one of Her Majesty’s Counsel. Well done Phil!

Dominic D’Souza

Having recently been prosecuted by Jamie for a couple months I can say he is not only a great barrister but a thoroughly decent man and I am unsurprised that he has taken the stance he has for unpaid interns. We should perhaps employ him to take a similar stance for (practically) unpaid counsel!

Dominic D’Souza

Of course I meant Jaime not Jamie. Both I’m sure are noble names!

Director of public panter

He should give the placement to a practicing criminal barrister. Two weeks of minimum wage would really help them…pay some of the interest on their loans and buy some new shoes…from Oxfam…on their way to the hostel, via the food bank.

Anonymous

Why do “Top QCs” always look like something out of Fraggle Rock?

https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/muppet/images/3/38/JuniorGorg.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20101120230645

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