Why are you still here? The lights are coming on and the bar is taking last orders….

Like so many others in my profession, the law, I have spent much of my grown up life toe-ing various lines and trying to be a paragon of restraint and decorum. Those who know me, will  be howling with laughter at that last  part.  We barristers pretend to be free spirits and yet wear a uniform to work every day. But no more. I simply cannot afford  to carry on and therefore can no longer sit like a good doggy waiting for the next scrap from the table. I wasn’t always a barrister but worked as white slave trader before ( a story for a different day) so I came the bar a bit older and no wiser than some.

There are other blogs that have eloquently told of woes in the CJS but I am going to share those daily, mundane things that actually shed light on the  reality of it all.

Myth 1

Today a friend told me that she thought I at least  had a PA ( I wish). I  do ALL the work by myself. Now before my instructing solicitors point out the bleeding obvious, I mean, my part is done by me with no support. I type documents, file,sort,hole-punch and get my own coffee. It is me that gets up at  5am  to work and its me that worries about whether today through stress or tiredness it may all go wrong…. Please see other blogs for stories of hubbies shouting at kitchen tables and windswept train stations.  I chose this job warts and all, and the fact that my right arm is now a good 3″ longer than my left through pulling trolley bags is my own fault.

Myth 2

I’ve read all the other blogs about what it costs to practise now and how much it cost to come to the bar. I think it obscene how much the BPTC costs and the fact that (young) people are being sold a dream which on closer statistical analysis means the odds are always against the majority and will inevitably lead to heartbreak. I used to be on the Pupillage committee and it used to make me weep seeing these people anxiously phoning up their loved ones to report back on how the interview went, knowing we could only offer one the place.

But here is a question I want to ask my fellow barristers ( solicitors you’re disqualified not because of snobbery but because I’ve genuinely always thought that anyone prepared to do police station work and deal with our clients on a daily basis, mark you out as somewhere between saints and plain bonkers) I want you to look at yourself in the mirror and ask this fundamental question: “Why did I become a barrister?” None of the stock pupillage answers but the searing truth of why your younger self chose this path.

Any of you who say it wasn’t for the money is hereby disqualified. If we are all truthful that played its part but it wasn’t the only thing. Status was another. It was a well-respected profession that required intellect and ability. It took years of training and poverty to learn the craft ( unfunded pupillages were wrong but it also meant we could offer more places). The quid pro quo was that we were paid the money that was that a profession with  rigorous entry requirements,training and ahem, “standards” to be maintained,commanded. We operate with integrity and honour at all times as well as with large doses of humour. A friend of mine observed, “You lot are like doctors – you do shit hours and work for no pennies at the start but the payback is that when you’re a bit more senior at least you get paid OK.”

Contrary to our protestations, we liked telling people at parties/pubs/school gates what we did as they gasped and asked the standard question. We felt like pocket Rumpoles – nobody makes drama series on the high excitement of actuaries but they make them about us. And I very much doubt some  of my male counterparts would have partners if it wasn’t for the job title. Barrister was sexy, management consultant was not.

I know how I answered the question when I realised a couple years back I was going the way of the Dodo. In no particular order:

I enjoy arguing and will argue with a lamppost  if it’s in my way.

I believe in fair play and equality – I don’t like seeing the little fella being picked on (victim or defendant or witness)

I loved the dressing up and the drama.

I like the intellectual rigour.

I work with some of the funniest, brightest people who make feel I am in a family ( albeit weird and dysfunctional at times).

I am doing something worthwhile which actually matters especially to those affected by Crime.

I learn something new everyday   – not always nice things!

And occasionally, I do it for the money….


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