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Surviving the BPTC – the Year so Far

Surviving the BPTC – the Year so Far

We hope you are all enjoying the preparations for the festive season and are looking forward to wrapping up the first term of your BPTC!

As with many things, now is a good time to have a look back at where you have come from, and more importantly where you want to go over the next six months or so. Hopefully you are now starting to get a feel for where your strengths lie, be that criminal or civil, advocacy or written work, and are getting a better idea of where you would like to practise, if at all, in the future. With that in mind a bit of planning is called for.

For most BPTC students, the first term of 2013 will include mock exams, final exams, the selection of option modules, a lot of pupillage applications and hopefully at least one or two interviews… not counting the continuing lectures, seminars, etc. With so many different things going on, it is easy to lose track of deadlines or to suddenly put yourself under pressure to revise in less time than you would have liked.

It may sound overly simplistic, but one of the most helpful things that we did at this stage of our BPTC was to get a wall planner, a set of coloured pens and sit down to sketch out what the rest of the year is going to look like. You may feel like the first term has been hectic, but trust us when we say that the next term will be so much busier, our wall planners were our saviours in this regard! Make sure you pencil in major deadlines, exams and application times, and then count back how much time you need to prepare for each of them. Chances are that you will find that just as one deadline approaches, another is tucked just after it; a recipe for stress if ever there was one!

Make sure you put in all those things that come under the mental heading of ‘blatantly obvious’, like when does your student tenancy run out, because things rapidly become less obvious the more you try to cram. Another good thought is to put in the opening dates for things like registering your option choices, not just the deadline by which you have to reply. Although this will vary by provider, at Helen’s provider it was a ‘first come – first served’ system – several people later found themselves studying topics they would never have chosen, purely because they left their option selection to the last minute.

Most of you probably already know about the Pupillage Portal, but for those that have yet to come across it, now is a good time to register and get familiar with it. Word on the grapevine is that the system is being re-invented this year, so do not take any prior experience for granted here. Check that the chambers you want to apply for use the portal, or if not, the timeline to which they are working. Chancery sets in particular tend towards using their own forms with a deadline of the end of January, and these ‘non-portal’ sets are an easy way of practising your application skills without detracting from your 12-application limit.

Miserable as it is, now is also a good time to start thinking about what you will be doing in July.  Both Emily and Helen, having completed the BPTC and been in the inevitable job scrabble come summer, can testify that finding work is not easy at the moment, however good your qualifications or however wide you cast your net. Experience seems to suggest that you need to start looking at least two months before you want to start – another deadline to add to the chart. Whilst the idea of not walking straight from the course into pupillage is one that none of us enjoy, sadly it is the reality for the vast majority (even those with Oxbridge Firsts and Oustandings on their CVs!).  Thinking about it now, though, will at least give you a fighting chance at applying for something that both pays the rent and helps further your career.

… the aim of this year is to pass the course with the best mark you can.

We will finish this week’s column with a couple of words of wisdom from one of Helen’s old tutors. He would remind us on a very regular basis that the aim of this year is to pass the course with the best mark you can. Having astounding pro-bono work on your CV is all very good, but if you fail the course because you were too busy with clients then all your work was for nothing. Similarly, the sun will come back! You may be getting up in the dark and getting home in the dark, only to try reading the White Book in the dark, but it does get better. You will start to get your head round the topics that currently trouble you.  You are getting better as an advocate (just watch the DVD of your first outing if you don’t believe me!).

Believe us, that post-final-exam drink is not as far away as it feels, and it does taste good! In the meantime, do make sure you enjoy the Christmas break, but do also make that important decision about how you use your time while you are free from lessons – the best of both worlds (some important rest, and some catching up on work) was the approach favoured by many in our cohorts.

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