“[D]on’t make a fool of yourself by getting drunk at chambers events”: some sage advice given to pupils by Adam Kramer and Ian Higgins in this highly readable new edition of ‘Bewigged and Bewildered? A Guide to Becoming a Barrister in England and Wales’.
“Do strut – you’ve earned it”
In the course of this fairly short volume the authors give the reader a comprehensive overview of everything you need to know to inform your judgments as to whether you wish to pursue a career as a barrister and whether you are up to it, and what to do once these two boxes are ticked (and to help ensure that the latter remains so). More than this, they give some top advice to those who make it: “Do strut – you’ve earned it”.
The authors are themselves two barristers at 3 Verulam Buildings (a top commercial barristers’ chambers based in London), one of whom formerly practised as a solicitor, so you can be sure that they know what they are talking about. Their experience also allows for the occasional light-hearted anecdote, adding some welcome colour to what is a highly informative and concisely written work. What’s more, they manage to explain everything with great clarity (assisted by a helpful glossary), thus not assuming existing knowledge of the path to the Bar on the reader’s part, without appearing patronising.
“resist the temptation to rush for the biscuits and the sandwich lunch”
I am myself an aspiring barrister who has just graduated with a Law degree. Kramer and Higgins certainly provide useful guidance for someone in my position, but also address anyone seriously considering the profession as a career choice, from those at the early stage of taking their GCSEs to those preparing to commence pupillage (the barrister’s apprenticeship). For example, they take the time to suggest ‘Steps to Take During Your School Years’ (chapter 6) whilst also telling you about ‘Life as a Pupil’ (chapter 13): “resist the temptation to rush for the biscuits and the sandwich lunch when it arrives” during a conference. This book is therefore well worth a read by all those interested in working as a barrister.
Although I felt well-informed as to my decision to pursue this career path prior to reading the book, the insights it provides are excellent, particularly chapter 3: ‘A Week in the Life of a Junior Barrister’. These snapshots of the lives of junior barristers in every major area of practice, from Tax to Employment Law and from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the independent Bar (i.e. the 12,000 or so barristers who are self-employed), are invaluable in giving a personality to what might otherwise seem to be mysterious areas of law. If you are tentative about pursuing a career at the Bar, this is the best chapter to dip into for a flavour of the life and work of a barrister.
Laudably, the authors make no attempt to shy away from the sticky issues associated with going to the Bar. They note in chapter 12 that whilst in 2014 more than 1,000 people passed the (very expensive) Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), in the same year fewer than 400 pupillages were available. Separately, in chapter 2 they highlight the challenges facing the publicly funded Bar (particularly for those specialising in Crime). However, Kramer and Higgins emphasise that if you are genuinely academic and articulate, and can bag the mooting experience, mini-pupillages and perhaps a Master’s to match: “then the Bar is for you, whatever your university background. Go for it!”
We are running a competition giving you the chance to win one of three copies of ‘Bewigged and Bewildered?’! All you have to do is follow us on Twitter and tweet us @TSL_Tweets with the hashtag #ImBewiggedAndBewildered. The competition runs from Monday 3rd to Sunday 16th October, so there’s not a minute to lose! Good luck!
(Author: Joseph Docherty)