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#MyRoutetotheBar: Tweeting barristers share their unconventional career paths

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Features advice from a former window cleaner, lifeguard and nightclub DJ

Barristers have taken to Twitter to reveal their unconventional paths to practice.

Using the hashtag ‘#MyRouteToTheBar’, tweeting barristers offered a brief timeline of their careers — starting from secondary school and ending at tenancy. Evidence of alternative and unconventional routes to qualification, including career changes to law, will undoubtedly offer aspiring barristers comfort considering the competition for pupillage is fiercer than ever.

The Twitter trend was apparently started by CrimeGirl, an anonymous criminal barrister, who revealed she began her career as a receptionist, then subsequently became a legal secretary, a paralegal, and a mature law student, before going on to complete a training contract and, after transferring to the bar, securing tenancy.

Inspired by CrimeGirl’s tweet, other barristers opened up about their unusual career paths. Another anonymous criminal barrister, CrimBarrister, revealed they were a part-time club DJ, occasional venue booker, a rock journalist and a tabloid newspaper sub-editor before joining the bar.

Damian Warburton candidly revealed he “squandered public school education” and was a window cleaner, pool lifeguard, driving instructor, car salesman, police constable, army officer and law lecturer all before becoming a pupil at 45 years old.

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Meanwhile, Sarah Wait, explained she became a personal injury barrister at Manchester-based 18 St John Street Chambers despite having “average” GCSEs and no A-Levels.

Another barrister said she left state school with “good” GCSEs but “terrible” A-Levels, and without a degree went on to work in a bakery, in pubs and clubs as a barmaid, and in a call centre before starting legal training in her mid-30s.

OGPupil — who in their Twitter bio describes themselves as “basically, the Slumdog Millionaire of Pupillage” — revealed that after helping out in their family’s shop and caring for their father and grandparents, they were the first generation to go to university and got a paralegal job before securing tenancy.

The Secret Barrister, secretive as ever, responded to the trend saying they attended a “secret comprehensive school”, a “secret non-Oxbridge uni” and even flipped burgers for a living.

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48 Comments

ok.

ok.

(23)(0)

Anonymous

So what? The Bar powers that be do not care about socio-economic background at entry, or at silk or judicial application stages. It only cares about race and sex ratios and happily crushes the aspirations of working class entrants on the altar of virtue signalling. Socioeconomic discrimination is rampant at all levels / take a look at the schools the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal judges attended.

(28)(31)

Real

It would be worrying if the senior courts were not dominated by those who went to private schools. They are the cleverest and best educated in the country.

(103)(53)

Anon

Private schools are the elite’s way of preserving their position in society.

They rely on aspirational middle class people to prop up these schools with cannon fodder pupils whose fees come in handy.

These middle class people will never join the elites. But they labour under the delusion that by sending the kids private, they may one day be able to join these circles.

So which are you – a member of the elite seeking to preserve your position? Or a delusional middle class person who thinks they have successfully joined the elites (more likely)?

(23)(44)

Jane

By my parents paying school fees and I doing so this family is no longer down the coal mines in NE England. That alone is worth every penny of school fees my parents paid, I paid and my lawyer child pays for their child. I don’t know or care what “elite” is but earning many times average UK pay whilst sitting in an office is heaven on earth compared with coal mining and the modern equivalent and as elite as I need.

(29)(8)

Maths graduate

Doesn’t add up

Anon

Elite is knowing you have enough wealth that your grandchildren will be catered for even if your kid’s a junkie gambling addict.

Elite is moving on to the accrual of power not more money.

Elite is definitely not sitting in a plate glass cage doing the bidding of others in return for a few hundred pounds an hour. Elites have assets to do that for them.

Anon

A shame they had to pay private fees to achieve this – many successfully rose beyond the coal mines via state education.

Anon

“[M]any successfully rose beyond the coal mines via state education”. No, very few members of the working class achieved success through state education. It is such a poor system that it keeps people in their place.

Wannabe Miner

There aren’t any coal mines now so the fee money could have been paid.

I seem to recall hearing that many miners were relatively well paid (of course not super rich) and able to take pride in their work, whilst not requiring expensive courses over 4 years. Wouldn’t it be great to have some jobs like that on the go now? I certainly wouldn’t turn my nose up at a prospect like that if unemployed (working 12 hrs days at the coal face of my desk like most other lawyers at the moment).

History Lesson

@Wannabe Miner – Next you’ll be saying coal miners and Thatcher were best buddies

Anon

Coal mining is a great job, if you didn’t mind lung cancer / the risk of being crushed in a dark subterranean tunnel every day.

People are entitled to prefer the relative safety of the glass cage.

You can't be serious

Real, the high rate of permissions to appeal show otherwise. Imagine the numbers if appeals were affordable to many and not the few. Now that really is worrying

(5)(22)

Anonymous

First appeals have a 25 per cent prospect of any variation the first order.

Permission is a low threshold.

But you sound like a Momentum type, so the truth does not get in the way of your class prejudices.

(16)(7)

Right on compadre

You forgot to add, the model judge is the great Sumption. Don’t waste another breath on these plebs my friend

Anon

Barristers absolutely love telling everyone about their lives on social media

(27)(2)

Jeff Sm

They all seem to be criminal barristers.

What about the commercial bar?

(15)(0)

Oxbridge First

There’s only one route into the commercial bar:

First class prize-winning degree
BCL (especially if undergrad wasn’t at a top tier Russell Group)
Pupillage
Tenancy

(9)(1)

Bar

Your first degree should be Oxbridge. You can’t fool top chambers by laundering a non-Oxbridge degree via an Oxford BCL or Cambridge LLM. In their eyes, you are still non-Oxbridge. Very, very rarely are exceptions made, but such exceptions are so few in number that you should realistically count yourself out of a Magic Circle or top Chancery chambers if you do not have an undergraduate degree from Oxbridge. Remember that, at these leading sets, they are doing the most demanding work. Plus, your instructing solicitors will invariably be from City practices and themselves have Oxbridge degrees, and they will not want to seek advice from those who are not their intellectual equals.

(23)(6)

Oxbridge First

I’ve an Oxbridge first pal, most Oxbridge grads in the Magic Circle aren’t my intellectual equals either

(6)(13)

Anonymous

You can launder a top next tier degree with a good BCL result. No-one cares about the Cambridge LLM. A Cambridge LLM says “not good enough for the BCL”.

(7)(17)

Anon

No, you can’t. And it is tougher to get onto the Cambridge LLM than the Oxford BCL. Remember, too, that the LLM is a Masters degree, unlike the BCL, so the LLM is more substantively prestigious in any event.

Anonymous

7:23 wins the “talking out of their arse” award for that one, “an LLM is better than a BCL” what tripe! You obviously know nothing.

Insider

The BCL is a very prestigious degree and, all else being equal, it’s fair to say that it (just about) trumps the Cambridge LLM.

However, it is also fair to say that, once on the BCL, roughly half the cohort is awarded a Distinction. When one factors in the fact that around half the BCL cohort does not speak English as a first language, this essentially means that a Distinction on the BCL is no more impressive than an acceptance onto the course in the first place.

By contrast, on the Cambridge LLM: More than half of the candidates speak English as a first language; more than half of the modules are international in nature and favour civil lawyers; and only a 1/3 of candidates are awarded a first.

TL;DR: Oxford BCL > Cambridge LLM. First on Cambridge LLM > Distinction on Oxford BCL.

Ninny

7.23 thinks a BCL is a bog standard bachelor’s degree. Oh dear.

anonymous

Sep 30 2020 7:23pm: correct. Having been a law undergrad at Cambridge, I did an LLM at Cambridge and then the BCL at Oxford. The LLM was far tougher than the BCL, and the people on the LLM course were obviously brighter than those on the BCL. Indeed, the vast majority of those on the BCL were from second or third rate foreign universities.

Jeff

I love LC comments section.

Someone on here (presumably with a legal background) actually thinks the BCL is not a masters degree 😀

Anon

What kind of idiot does an LLM followed by the BCL? What an incredible waste of everyone’s time.

Anon BCL

Though doing a BCL after the LLM makes it pretty clear that the BCL is seen as a better qualification.

1. BCL
2. Good American LLM
3. UK LLM.

Jem

The BCL is not a Masters degree. It is a Bachelors degree. Hence the title. It is at Masters level in terms of complexity, admittedly, but it is not a Masters degree.

Anon

Be more interested in hearing about those of my colleagues who left the bar to do something more interesting and worthwhile than mopping up for the dregs of society.

Before someone chimes in, I’m not referring to criminal clients as the dregs of society. Most civil clients too.

(8)(0)

Anon

All those talking about ratios/diversity.

I am a white middle class/upper middle male. I have the most average non Oxbridge degree imaginable, with downright appalling grades in first and second year. Lucked a 2:1 in third year.

I have no starry work experience to speak of, other than being able to afford unpaid internships due to my parents’ wealth.

I did go to a private school. I don’t shout about this, (Eg it isn’t listed on my LinkedIn), but it no doubt comes across in my accent and demeanour.

And yet, despite being pretty average on paper, I am a tenant of under 10 years call in a London civil set that is top ranked in multiple sections of chambers/legal 500.

Me, a pretty average, non stand out, upper middle class white person. And you still pretend there is no problem with diversity? If you believed what you read on hear you would think it was positively difficult for a white middle class male to get pupillage compared to a woman or BAME candidate – au contraire

(20)(34)

Lord Harley

Has anyone noticed the growing number of BAME barristers / women at the very junior end of the commercial bar? Why does no one talk about this?

(4)(2)

Another Anon

Cool story, bro.

(3)(3)

Asquith

Given that to be a barrister or solicitor one has to have the morals of a prostitute and no moral compass, is it any wonder the average barrister earns £35k. A McDonalds team leader earns more today

The simple fact is barristers and solicitors are regarded as at the bottom of society and on a par with prostitutes, used car dealers and estate agents.

Until they’re aged 40 most barristers rely on Mummy and Daddy

(1)(8)

Scooby

– I don’t care
– I don’t care
– I really don’t care
– Whopdee-XXXXing-doo

(0)(0)

I think you might be lying

‘on hear’, oh dear

(0)(0)

Head of Trolling

It is good to see there are only four accepted responses to these articles now.

(a) demand that all private school students should be worshipped as the undisputed masters of the universe;
(b) use the working-class white man as a stick to beat successful women and ethnic minorities with;
(c) declare every white male a neo-nazi who thinks all women should work at home and all minorities be bus drivers; or
(d) troll all of the above.

Balanced views are for betas and won’t be accepted in my department.

(16)(0)

Asquith

Given that to be a barrister or solicitor one has to have the morals of a prostitute and no moral compass, is it any wonder the average barrister earns £35k. A McDonalds team leader earns more today

The simple fact is barristers and solicitors are regarded as at the bottom of society and on a par with prostitutes, used car dealers and estate agents.

Until they’re aged 40 most barristers rely on Mummy and Daddy

(1)(1)

Trevor

My route to the bar involved a gentle stroll through the local park followed by a short walk down the high street. I am not sure whether all of these life stories are necessary or appropriate.

(3)(1)

Know1cares

Look at me! Look at me! I’m a barrister AND I went to a State school! Cor aren’t I clever?

(9)(1)

Ken

I agree. Why is it news? Almost the entire country went to state schools. What makes state school kids so special?

(7)(1)

Milton Friedman

The older generation entered a completely different job market. The competition for pupillages shows clearly that candidates aren’t lacking in motivation. If you really want to help you should DIScourage people from applying for pupillages when their talents can be put to better use elsewhere.

(1)(0)

Anon

Plus, the prestige of the bar relies on seriously outdated ideas of what matters in society.

Most work at the bar is pretty pointless and servile. I genuinely wish I’d focused on a career at the sharp end of business, or that I had an entrepreneurial bone in my body.

Only way to be truly free is either a) to run your own successful business or b) have large assets that negate the need for a servile job.

(6)(1)

Anonymous

I found that by earning £300k plus a year in my mid 20s I was able to build up a large amount of assets quite quickly.

(1)(0)

Anon

Then I hope you left the Bar and let the assets talk for themselves.

Or did you stay a servant?

(2)(0)

Anonymous

No, I found I liked working for myself, having 12 weeks holiday a year, working from home and clearing £600k a year. I feel such a servant doing what I like, making plenty of cash and not really working that hard.

Steve

Ha. This is true. Everyone bangs on about running a business but the hassle of trying to deal with staff is underplayed. I can earn £400 ph and work or not work

Comments are closed.