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Ask questions, avoid bullshit and shop in Tesco’s bargain bin, Secret Barrister tells new pupils

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Mystery blogger dispenses pupillage wisdom in open letter to younger self

Anonymous author The Secret Barrister (SB) has dispensed some pearls of wisdom about life as a rookie lawyer in the guise of a “gritty” open letter to his younger pupil-self.

Writing in Counsel Magazine, masked social media heavyweight SB offers some tongue-in-cheek self-congratulates for overcoming Hunger Games-esque odds to successfully secure pupillage. “Having made it to this stage, you are in the enviable position of being primed and ready to be unleashed in court,” SB writes.

But here’s where the back-slapping stops and the hard work really starts. “Nobody cares how decorated a mooter or debater you were at law school,” SB explains. “No one is going to fawn over your degree classification or pat you on the back for making it so far in such a ruthlessly competitive industry.”

So what words of wisdom does SB have for those commencing pupillage this month?

First, pupils need to realise (and accept) they know nothing. “In your first six, and well into your second six, you are not going to be good at this job,” SB writes. “Some days you will be absolutely terrible. Nobody is a born barrister.”

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To reduce the number of “stumbles” on the road to qualification, SB advises rookie barristers swallow their pride and not shy away from asking questions. “You’re new at this; that’s OK,” he (or she) says. “This is how you will learn. It’s how we all learn.” Also avoid the temptation to “bullshit”, SB warns. “If you don’t know the answer to a question, admit it. Accept that you should have known it, and undertake to find the answer.”

Elsewhere, SB explains to pupils that their “personal life” will take a “bashing”, through a combination of cancelled evening plans and having “even less money than you did as a student.” They continue:

“The bargain aisle at Tesco is your friend. Go just before 7pm and the yellow-stickered discounted produce will yield some absolute bargains. I recommend the full-size children’s birthday cakes.”

SB also advises those taking their first tentative steps at the bar to be “nice” to court staff. “[They] are [the] ones who keep those places running. They are the most important people in the building. What’s more, they talk. They have nicknames for us. Make sure yours is one of the nice ones.”

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49 Comments

Anonymous

STOP THE COUP

JOHNSON OUT

Anonymous

VOTE LEAVE

TAKE BACK CONTROL

Anonymous

STOP THE COOP

Chicken coop

Coup 10x

See me for detention

Anonymous

The Co op you twat. Its a supermarket.

Anonymous

What is a supermarket?

Anonymous

Cue first year LLBs masquerading as US Associates claiming they’re above the bargain aisle at Tesco, whilst they’re actually eating Super Noodles and knocking one out into an old sock…

Not_a_fresher_i_swear

God damn im so above the bargain aisle in Tesco i outfitted the lambo with a hydraulics system to cruise at average residential building height looking down at the plebs.

The Question Master

Good advice to a barrister – ask questions.
Further good advice – breathe.

The Answer Master

Why does, pray tell, a Question Master not ask questions?

Anonymous

Unless of course you are going to the commercial bar where unless mummy and daddy were very generous, it will be far more money than most students.

Anonymous

It helps as well to go to the same London public school as three of the Head of Chambers’ children.

Definitely don’t need a BCL then.

Anonymous

You aren’t entitled to become a chancery barrister, darling. No matter what mummy and daddy told you, you aren’t special.

Anonymous

Always bragging about 5* resorts, chasing airline status and fancy restaurants.

All to try and emulate the clients and impress other barristers.

Any wonder so many of them are unhappy alcoholics?

barrister lad

I’m a very happy, functioning (semi) alcoholic actually.

5* escorts is closer to the truth.

Anonymous

Or….avoid the bar unless you have a first from Oxbridge, UCL or LSE, possibly a BCL and the ability to get into the commercial, chancery or construction bar with a solid pupillage award and ability to take an advance during study.

Otherwise, for your own sake, apply to a City law firm and qualify as a litigator.

It is not the responsibility of pupils who cannot afford to, to, in an attempt to be virtuous, target the criminal bar and entirely self fund (for example) – this is a matter for the government.

Anonymous

…to address through changing their position on legal aid.

Anonymous

There’s more to the Bar than the dichotomy between commercial/chancery sets and criminal sets.
There are many decent common law sets which have a pupillage award similar to a good TC salary but where you can focus on crime if you want, whilst supplementing your income in the early years with civil work.

Anon

The ones I know in ‘mixed’ sets struggled to be known for civil work and relied on Treasury Solicitor drafting work or big government inquiries to get a regular income.

The really savvy ones slept with solicitors to always be able to pay the bills.

Anonymous

I bought my own Tesco near to bond with the other pupils…

Anonymous

The way I see it is you can either aspire to become an Equity Partner at a law firm or a QC at a top ranked Chambers in your field. Now, most people would say an Equity Partner will make a lot more money but once you factor in buy-in costs as well as any liabilities and tax am I wrong in thinking a top QC will earn more? Considering as a self-employed practitioner you can set up your own corporation for tax reasons and pay and flat rate of corporation tax after rent?

Anonymous

On your last sentence, I think it is unlikely that a set of chambers would approve the entry of a personal service company as a member of chambers. I don’t think this is something that actually happens at the best chambers?

Anonymous

The fiscal upside to using a company is so small compared to earnings it is not worth it, especially when the added costs and administration involved are factored in.

Anonymous

Well no, I think the fiscal upside is in theory pretty substantial – if you incorporate and pay yourself a mixture of salary and dividends you can reduce your effective tax rate by about 20%. The annual administrative costs of running a company can be as low as a couple of hundred quid a year. I think the main stumbling block is that no chambers is going to allow a personal service company to join as a member

Anonymous

Why would chambers not allow a personal service company to join as a member?Surely you should be free to do what you want with your earnings, whether you put them into a company or not?

Anonymous

No, the real value for highest earners is only about £5k, and one needs to have accounts for the company and keep more records than as a self-employed individual. It can be somewhat better if the barrister is not a sole shareholder, but that only really works if the other shareholder, usually a spouse, is a non-working qualified lawyer.

Anonymous

….or go in-house to regain your personal life and enjoy the earnings?

future in-house mouse spouse

Serious question, i see this mentioned a lot. Is working in house really that much better for work-life balance than, say working at a top law firm? What if you go in-house for a top company?

How does one even find an in-house position, aside from random googling and client referral?

How many PQE do you typically need?

MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION OF ALL: what is the salary like?

Anonymous

Far better for work/life balance. 2 PQE in something commercial is a decent ballpark.

Use a good recruiter to find in house positions. You won’t find them all yourself, bar at household name companies. Nor will your recruiter, so chances are you will need to use more than one.

Anonymous

Counsel magazine is just a mouthpiece for the left wing diversity pushers demanding quotas and discrimination.

Anonymous

The Secret Barrister is just another attention-seeking twitter bore. She has almost nothing new or interesting to say about anything. And she’s not funny, although she does try.

1/512th Cheyenne.

He/She is a police shill.

Bob

in what sense?

Anonymous

Why are comments stating that people find SB pompous being deleted?

Is it now ‘wrong think’ to hold the opinion that you find a barrister’s writing boring?

Do you fear their egos can’t handle the criticism?

Anonymous

Also, why hasn’t Legal Cheek opened up comments on the story about Eve Cornwell?

How much does she pay LC for this criticism-free advertising?

Bored of the attention-seekers

I want my lawyer to get on with the job they are paid to do.

If vlogs/makeup/YouTube/social media ‘likes’ are more important to that lawyer than the job I pay them to do, I wouldn’t want them as my lawyer because there are many others willing to focus and get on with the job.

This does not make me a ‘jealous hater’. This makes me reasonable.

Anonymous

Waiting for her to vlog some client work, to report her to the SRA and have this be done with.

Proper boy

Shes annoying and her style is very pre-schoolly and frankly quite boring to watch, but i disagree with what you said. So what if she has vlog / channel? As long as it doesnt make her worse at her job i couldnt care less about what she does with her free time.

Me, i enjoy nice walks on the beach and pissing in my girlfriends bed whacked on proper acid.

Nick

If you really want to avoid bullshit…. Avoid the oxygen thieves at Wellbeing at the Bar…. Douche bags the lot of them

MC Trainee

What sort of student shops in the Tesco bargain aisle. Any self respecting person goes to Marks and Spencer or Waitrose for food – the price difference to Tesco really is negible and it’s not that expensive.

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