Friday, 28 September 2007


I find myself thinking that it must be over two years ago now since I first sat in these chairs in the reception area of these chambers. About nine months ago I sat in them again, just before I started this blog, waiting for several hours for someone to come and do something about this bloke who had arrived claiming to be the new pupil.

One of the junior clerks walks past and, surprised to see me sitting in the waiting area reading a book, nods and smiles in my direction. The faces of the more seasoned passers-by morph with impressive speed from the same expression of puzzlement to one of affected disinterest. Eye contact is avoided.

The interivew goes well. At least, I think it does. I have prepared some thoughts on why I want to be a barrister, why I want to specialise in this particular area of law, what I have to offer these chambers and why I want to practice from these chambers. This last point has provoked some soul searching, and I find myself wondering who I am trying to convince. This preparation turns out to be redundant, and I am pleasantly surprised not to be patronised by such questions. The three relatively junior members of chambers conducting the interview seem to be willing to assume that I know what I am doing in making this application for tenancy, which is a relief.

I am asked instead about high points and low points. I have to think quickly. There are plenty of low points, but most of these are best avoided. I talk about a case that I felt should have succeeded that has been gnawing away at me since. This was hardly the most heart-rending case with which I've dealt, but for some reason it has become one of several cases that I think about in quiet moments.

The high point that jumps to mind is not a moment in court, in fact. It is the conference I attended with The Master, the head of chambers and a prominent solicitor for the House of Lords case. It was not something I had dwelt on, and I'm not sure what suddenly brought it to the front of my mind at that moment. I said it was the fast flow of ideas and the fact that I was able to contribute something useful, but I suspect it was also the excitement and the warm sense of welcome inferiority that enveloped me as the conference progressed.

At one point at the very end I mention that I have not applied for tenancy elsewhere. As soon as I say it, I realise that this is not a sensible strategy. I don't mean the answer, I mean that I really should have applied elsewhere. I am genuinely ambivalent about whether I want to practice here and now is the time to be applying to other sets.

I can't really remember the rest of it. I've always found that to be the case with my big interviews. The moment I stepped out of my future tutor's room at Oxford I could remember nothing at all about what had just happened.

They called me the next morning to say that I would be recommended 'as someone suitable for Chambers to consider' for tenancy. I get the impression that getting through this screening process is not much of a first step.

Later that day, I fax two tenancy applications to other sets, hoping it isn't too late.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

This is it...

...except it isn't, really. I'd be very surprised if The Other Pupil and I don't both get recommended to chambers. And if we do, well, we're both good and we're not really directly in competition as we work in different areas of law. We could both be taken on. With the way the work looks at the moment, I'm probably in a slightly better position, but that's no reflection on her (or me) at all, it's just luck. The most recent tenant did eighteen months of pupillage here and was taken on only six months ago. There is undoubtedly a question about how much junior family work there is in chambers. But I don't do much family work at all, I specialise in other areas, and I've been fairly busy.

I've heard that many family sets are simply not recruiting at the moment. Apparently Coram Chambers, for example, have turned around to their three pupils (paid £20,000 each) and said to them that they are not recruiting this year. I've heard that our chambers are interviewing twelve candidates for third sixes, which suggests there are a lot of 'floaters' out there.

There are a lot of nervous junior family law barristers out there, waiting to see how the legal aid reforms work out.

Am I kidding myself? Trying to convince myself that there's no race here? Ask me again in a month.

If one or both of us are recommended, it goes to a vote. It is a simply majority vote here, but in many chambers there is a two-thirds requirement.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007


Late last week The Other Pupil and I were emailed in (more or less) the following terms:

'If you want to apply for tenancy or a third six, send us a CV, covering letter and any references by yesterday. Interviews next week.'

We were both rather taken by surprise. So, I've cobbled together a covering letter over the weekend, re-written it a million times in various styles, ranging from cowering and unworthy to arrogant and overbearing. I finally settled on an unendearing and rather schitzophrenic combination of both these qualities.

I also spent quite a lot of time getting together some solicitor references saying (a) Pupilblogger is the best thing to hit the Bar since alco-pops, (b) I have instructed Pupilblogger a LOT since the Bar was graced with his presence and (c) you would be lucky to have him, and if you do I'll send both you and he LOADS of work.

I now owe a lot of solicitors a lot of beer, and could teach a thing or two to Colin 'The Forger' Blythe from The Great Escape.

I have also very belatedly decided, after a conversation with The Other Pupil's first pupilmaster and the annoyance of the stupidly short notice for making the application here, that it is time to apply for tenancy elsewhere. I'm setting up a meeting with someone at one set and will fax a couple of applications off tomorrow.

The interview is Friday. If I were to get through this, I would be recommended by the tenancy committee to a full AGM of chambers, where a vote would be taken.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007


August and even this first week of September are a VERY quiet time in the legal world, it seems. I am suspicious that there are no fewer problems occurring in the real world. Indeed, with children making nuisances of themselves at home and down at the local shopping mall, rather than being tucked away safely at school, I would have thought we lawyers might be busier than normal.

Not so. The judges and barristers have migrated to warmer climes. I'm not so sure about the solicitors. I think they might all be in Skegness, Blackpool or somewhere similar.

Yet the world has not ended and, despite the efforts of the screws' union, normal folk are going about... normally. Lawyers are leeches and parasites, create work for themselves and are unnecessary? No, surely not!

It's been a good time for The Other Pupil and I, though. While we have on the whole been kicking around chambers an awful lot, we've also picked up all sorts of interesting scraps from other barristers both in chambers and out. I had my first contested non-molestation order in front of magistrates, for example, which was useful experience.

Pupils are recommended not to go away in August and I can see why. There are benefits to being here when others are not.