Thursday, 18 January 2007

Who wants to be a barrister?

Certainly not barristers themselves, my experiences so far suggest. Yesterday, by no means for the first time, The Master told me what a hard life it is as a barrister. His exact words were, I believe, 'It's very hard. Very hard. Very hard. It's very stressful. Very stressful. Very stressful.' He then gave me the latest of a series of almost identical little pep talks on how I need to consider how hard it is as a barrister and whether I really want all the travel and stress. He told me some time ago that as a young barrister he very quickly gave up on his original dreams to do criminal defence work when he found out how much travel to far flung courts the job involved.

Very Atticus Finch.

The most naive, least worldly context in which I've heard this complaint was last week when The Master told me (again) and the social worker how stressful life as a barrister is. It was just as yet another evidential mishap was becoming apparent. The social worker and I looked at each other as he moved on to the next subject. 'Try being a social worker', we were both thinking in a moment of communion.

The Master tells me that he has been discussing career options with his son recently, and is seeking to persuade him to go down the solicitor route rather than the barrister one. Non legal options do not seem to have arisen. I gently pointed out that several city solicitors firms are reputed to have dormitories and that those of my friends who have followed that career path do not exactly report it to be a stress-free existence. Not unusually, he was basically talking to himself, though, and clearly wasn't hearing what I was saying.

It isn't just The Master. On several occasions now, when introduced as The Master's pupil to another barrister their first response has been "Don't do it, it's a hard life." In the legal blogosphere, Geeklawyer posted a very encouraging call to arms for myself and my fellow pupils: "Pupillage is hell and then things get worse as you hunt for a tenancy; after that, if you get it, things gets really bad. Enjoy the good bit." While Geeklawyer may have had his tongue at least slightly in his cheek, this isn't exactly what I want to hear, I have to say: 'Even if successful, all your years of study and training have only served to trap you into a futile, frustrating and unfulfilling existence which everyone else is seeking to abandon.'

However, I hope that barristers secretly enjoy their jobs. They moan and they whinge (and how!), but they must know that other jobs are far, far more stressful, less well remunerated and less interesting. Barristers have a bit of a reputation for being out of touch, but they can't be so far removed from the lives of others that they can't see the advantages of their chosen profession, surely?


P.S. Just as I was finishing this post The Master has put in a rare appearance at Chambers. His first words to me: 'It's very, very stressful, all this. Very stressful.'

4 comments:

Wabisabi said...

You think going to law courts in out of the way locations are bad? Try going to prisons located in gods-know-where. Very likely the taxi driver would only drop you as far as he/she could get to the prison, and you will spend the next thirty minutes walking on foot in the bitter cold or melting heat (whichever season it happens to be).

And the fun does not even begin until after the prison visit, when you are trying to make your way back to civilization...

Susie Law School said...

My contract tutor told us yesterday that all of us will be made to cry at some point during our training, male or female.

I'm going down the solicitor track, to a non-MC International Firm, so hopefully it wont be quite as bad as the Clifford Chance sleeping pods, but I anticipate being made to feel very very useless pretty much most days.

But if us idealistic little wannabe lawyers didn't exist - what would the world come to!

It may well be stressful but I still want to do it!

S.

geeklawyer said...

An ex-girlfriend of mine did a training contract at Nabarro Nathanson. She told that they had a shop in their building. The mind boggles: don't step out to get your suit dry cleaned; don't leave the building to eat; don't go home before 10pm because you need
to buy shit, buy it in the shop.

I think solicitors get it harder, in truth. At least the personal nature of practice at the Bar leaves a measure of non-corporate humanity. But only a measure, mind. If your pupilmaster is a c**ks***ing bastard, as most of mine, were the difference may seem elusive.

Smartie said...

>He then gave me the latest of a series of almost identical little pep talks on how I need to consider how hard it is as a barrister and whether I really want all the travel and stress.

The honeymoon period goes very quickly once the realities of working your way up in Chambers hits home, and the paltry money (Crime).

> He told me some time ago that as a young barrister he very quickly gave up on his original dreams to do criminal defence work

The numbers exiting Crim Defence work is vast. Before entering the Bar i always had members within telling me not to bother and become a solicitor. I thought they were trying to put me off or demean me but now i see it is words of wisdom wasted ;)

> when he found out how much travel to far flung courts the job involved.

I think that goes for Civil work too - to and from from County Courts, only its more structured and less stressful than (crappy) Crim Defence work.