Wednesday 14 August 2013

Moving on

Today was my last day at chambers. I've been pupil then tenant for seven years now but I am leaving for pastures new. A new set, though, not a new career.

Personal effects
The offer of a new tenancy was made Friday. On Monday some key people weren't in chambers so I waited until Tuesday to tell my head of chambers first, then the main members of my team. It was hard, and I am genuinely sorry to be leaving. I am excited to be moving on, though.

I called The Master to ask his advice. He is a QC now and left chambers several years ago. He has been difficult to track down, though, and I've finished in court too late the last two days to be able to catch up. I still hope for some sage words of wisdom in starting out at a new set.

My barrister colleagues all took the news well, expressing sorrow that I was leaving but congratulating me on the move. Initially I thought the clerks were going to be difficult. The news had spread faster than my legs could carry me and they heard on the grapevine rather than directly from me in person, which I regret. That was yesterday, though, and today, my last day, all seems well. I have been through my diary to work out what work should stay and what I should take with me and I have sorted my papers into three piles: comes with me, return to solicitor, money outstanding.

My abiding memory will be my final farewell this evening. I stayed late to organise my effects for collection tomorrow and delete my computer files. As I left, one of the original senior clerks was on the telephone to a solicitor in an otherwise empty clerks room. It is a scene with which I am very familiar. I gave him a wave and a smile, as I frequently but not invariably did, and he paused to mouth 'good luck'.

I promise you, there were tears in my eyes as I descended the stairs for the final time, just as there are now as I type this.

Thursday 5 July 2012

Silk Party

It was The Master's silk party this evening and I am on my way home, my appetite unsated by three amuse bouche, several glasses of champagne and Pimms and a great deal of awkward small talk. How things have changed since the last time I logged in! I can write this on a mobile phone on a bus. The Master left chambers several years ago. The Blawgosphere has grown hugely. Geeklawyer has been disbarred. Charon QC and Nearly Legal live on, thankfully. I have a busy practice, a professional blog getting 2,000 hits per day and two children. What happened? The Master certainly deserved Silk and it couldn't have happened to a better pupilmaster.

Thursday 29 November 2007


I was chatting to The Master (this one) yesterday about a high profile case he has been working on. As I was leaving his room, he said, as if as an afterthought, 'You must show me the blog some time.'

'Which?' I said, wearing what I suspect was an expression resembling that of a myxomatosis-riddled bunny in headlights. One that was quite dopey to start with. Even by rabbit standards.


Tuesday 30 October 2007

OK, OK...

Geeklawyer persuaded me at the 'small but perfectly formed' bloggers drinks last week that to keep readers hanging on was one thing but actually not letting them know was just cruel. I have been meaning to post since then and have finally been goaded into it by the most recent comment.

I was offered (and have accepted) tenancy, I did open the bottle of champagne and I have tried to be nice to the pupils, although this is rendered difficult by being out at court rather a lot.

Chambers hit me with a rent bill immediately, so I've gone overnight from receiving a pupillage award to paying chambers to work here. I've also sorted out my insurance with Bar Mutual, which is actually free until March for those starting after 1 October and taking the minimum level of insurance.

I'm far more relaxed now I have some security, the early signs for my practice look good and all is essentially well in the world of the ex-blogger formerly known as Pupilblogger.

Thanks for reading!

Monday 8 October 2007

Last Post

As I sit here at home an hour, now, after the tenancy decision meeting was due to start, I feel nauseous. I have felt this way all afternoon. As I drifted around chambers during the day, no-one would meet my eyes. I sit here and wonder whether this was an early sign of my impending rejection, or just simple paranoia. Perhaps no-one used to meet my eyes, but I wasn't looking.

I am also thinking about the alternative endings to this blog, this record of the prolonged hazing process that has been my pupillage.

In one of these endings, I am rejected. I feel bitter. Unavoidably, I think about all of the things, both big and little, that I could have done differently. Top of this list is not wasting my time and energy writing this blog. I wonder what on earth I am going to do now. I think about my old workplace and whether they will take me back. Would I be a failed wannabe barrister who couldn't make it, or would I be seen as courageous for having tried? Perhaps, I think, one of my other tenancy applications will succeed, although I imagine that to be a hopeless prospect at this point in time. Perhaps I grit my teeth and apply for third sixes, looking to endure more of this ridiculousness. My mind then focusses on the immediate issues. Should I go into chambers tomorrow? What, if anything, will people say to me in the morning? How will I bear their sympathy, knowing they probably voted against me? And what happened to The Other Pupil?

In the other ending, I am accepted. I am delighted, of course. I open the bottle of champagne in the fridge and I consider my potentially glorious future at the bar, as a barrister. After my conversation with The Master last week, I simply cannot see both The Other Pupil and I being taken on, and I will have to embarrass us both with the expected platitudes. Looking slightly further ahead, I will have to start paying rent immediately, and my pupillage grant will come to an end. It is time to get to work.

In this second scenario, would I come to think of pupillage as a tough but effective selection process, being as it managed to select me? Like the Whig view of history, everything will have led to this current, blissful state of affairs. Even if some of the contributing events may have seemed nonsensical or even unpleasant at the time, with hindsight I might see them in 'proper' context, as part of the tough but fair process that all us barristers had to endure, the process which fashioned us into the brilliant, ingenious advocates we are today.

Perhaps most poignantly, from the point of view of Pupilblogger, the persona I now cast aside, how will I treat the new pupils? Will I myself become a pupilmaster in the years to come? Watch out for MasterBlog, should this strange turn of events ever come to pass. In the meantime, only occasionally in and around chambers myself to pick up briefs (and occasional cheques), with my own living to make and no responsibility for their welfare, will I simply fail to see them as others failed to see me?

I hope not. I hope that if I do become a tenant, I will remember.

Tuesday 2 October 2007


The Master called me last night. My first and original Master, so this was a surprise. It was about ten o'clock, but he always did have a tendency to call out of hours.

I bumped into him last week at the RCJ when we were both appearing before the applications judge in the Family Division on urgent ex parte cases. Mine was a simple matter, but his was a suspected child abduction. I picked up quite a lot of knowledge about this with the next Master I went to (I always suspected this conceit might eventually unravel! - the Austin Powers guy) and was able to make some useful suggestions about disclosure orders.

He suggested on the way back to chambers that I write up something straightforward for general child care family practitioners and include some precedents, so that in urgent situations like his they would have some useful pointers. I'd been thinking of sorting out some precedents for myself anyway, so I was happy to agree. He then suggested, schemer that he is, that he could circulate it around chambers and it might help my chances at the tenancy vote.

I was sceptical about the wisdom of this. Apparently a couple of pupils were rejected three years ago because they were perceived to be too pushy (they were women - I bet men would have been perceived as ambitious and go-get-em). I thought it was all a bit obvious, so I dragged my feet. I bumped into him yesterday and agreed to finish it off, but told him I'd rather he sat on it until after the meeting.

He called to say that he thought it was a really good piece of work and very useful, but that on reflection he agreed with me and that it was not wise to circulate it this close to the meeting. Rather dispiritingly, he then went on in Panglossian style to say that whatever the outcome it would probably be for the best and that he really didn't know what the outcome would be. To cap it, he then said that he would definitely try to be at the meeting and didn't think he had anything else on.

"!" said I.

Then I managed to say, fairly calmly, 'I'd appreciate your vote, Master.'

He's thinking of voting by proxy, he says. He very much supports my application, but if asked during the meeting he would say that he doesn't think that chambers needs another junior at the moment, as we are quite quiet work-wise. Apparently this is very much the view of some of the juniors and he would have to agree with them if asked. So he'd rather not be there, so they can't ask him.

In some ways this is probably worse news for The Other Pupil than for me as I have a bit of my own work, but it still isn't exactly good news, whichever way one looks at it. How strange is it going to look, I wonder, that one of my own pupilmasters hasn't turned up to the meeting?

The Next Generation

A new generation of pupils started in chambers yesterday. There was no fanfare or announcement, nor even an email. I did not know their names, and only came to know of their existence because I heard one's Master introducing her to a passer-by in the corridor. Pretty much everyone in chambers will be in the same state of ignorance as myself.

I arranged for myself, The Other Pupil and one of last year's pupils to take them both out for a quick drink after work. In the event the other pupil from last year and one of the other junior tenants came along as well, which was good. I thought it would at least give them an opportunity to talk to each other, and a useful platform for talking to others as well. Although how much longer I'll be here is still an open question. I feel like I'm on a less terminal version of Death Row, with a Supreme Court reprieve vaguely pending.

When I started I certainly had no welcome to chambers and had no idea what to make of the whole thing. It was why I started this blog. Although I suspect that my reasons for starting this blog are proliferating faster than the main weapons used by the Spanish Inquisition, or a politician's top priorities. See my first post for what I then thought my reasons were. Anyway, I didn't want their first days to be as spectacularly anti-climatic as my own, after all those years of waiting and wanting.

I was positive and upbeat at the pub. There seemed little purpose in deflating any remaining enthusiasm after their first day. I hate the sound of a crest falling.

At the moment I am trying to think of useful advice. So far, it amounts to:

1. Be outgoing and friendly. Make lots of tea for other people. Do not hide away in your Master's room, as I persistently have.

2. Offer to do paperwork for other barristers. They won't see it as a hamfisted bid for their vote, they'll just appreciate it. As long as you don't screw it up, anyway.

3. Try to get on well with the other pupil or pupils. It'll look good for neither of you if there are obvious problems, as well as no doubt being bloody stressful.

4. Get a laptop. It's hard to get much serious work done without one. And don't leave it in sight where some little con can grab it after a con. I doubt you're reading this you little bastard.

5. Don't keep a blog.