Thursday, 16 November 2006

I went to Oxford, don't you know!

Things are looking up a bit. I got a call at home from my pupilmaster (not a term I can bring myself to use much – supervisor will suffice) to introduce himself and make sure I have some activities with which to amuse myself. I’ll be tagging along to a care hearing on Monday with him and there are apparently eight lever arch files for me to start reading beforehand. He also arranged for me to observe a Court of Appeal hearing with the head of chambers, which turned out to be very interesting. The parties were all in agreement that the appeal should be allowed. Presented with this unanimity the Lords Justice didn’t really bother identifying the actual error of law, nor did they bother with a judgment as such. The hearing was notably conversational, constructive and friendly, not something to which I’ve been much accustomed in my previous legal work. The best interests of the child concerned and achieving a swift resolution were very clearly at the forefront of everyone’s mind. In particular, the apparently up and coming Lord Justice Hughes made several intelligent and helpful interventions.

As everyone was in agreement as to what should happen, some might think that the four barristers, four sets of solicitors and two Lords Justice (none of the actual human beings affected by the case were present, for various reasons) might have found something more productive to do with their morning. Especially since, as is completely standard, there were several cases on the court's list, meaning that we didn't get started until about 11.30am but were waiting around from 10am.

A slightly odd and offputting aspect of my initial conversations with both my supervisor and, the next day, the head of chambers was a gratuitous reference to the university at which I studied, Oxford. My supervisor brought it up on the phone the first time we talked and the head of chambers mentioned it when we were walking to court. My educational background had clearly been mentioned to them at some point. They both studied there as well, it seems. On top of that, one of the players in the case was referred to in the pre hearing chatter as being a Cambridge man, as if this was significant.

The whole Oxbridge thing would certainly appear to be important to them, otherwise it wouldn’t have been mentioned. While I fully realise it may be naive of me to say this, I was surprised. The chambers I’m at have a fairly progressive reputation. On the other hand, being proud of the university at which one studied is natural, and had it been a different institution and they had also studied there, perhaps they would also have mentioned it. It isn’t quite as simple as this, I suspect.


Smartie said...

>The whole Oxbridge thing would certainly appear to be important to them, otherwise it wouldn’t have been mentioned.

It became awfully important in pupillage interviews for me, which was irkesome esp as conversations went back to who was teaching me what. Incidentally, i only did my post-grad there. Prior to that my undergrad uni was never mentioned in pupillage interviews.

Oberon2001 said...

Do you need to have gone to Oxbridge in order to become a barrister?... there must be one or two that aren't from those hallowed places?

pupilblogger said...

There must be plenty of barristers who aren't Oxbridge, but there seem to be an awful lot who are. I've heard several comments in the last three weeks that make me wonder how non Oxbridge graduates feel about the whole thing, such as about someone being referred to as being from a second rate university (behind their back, obviously) and someone being the top Oxford first in their year. It may be that the chambers I'm at (or at least some of the members of chambers) are particularly old fashioned and elitist, though, which wouldn't exactly come as a complete surprise given my experiences so far. That said, I've come across several interesting barristers here who come from diverse backgrounds - mental health nursing, various charities and Non Governmental Organisations and so on.