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mctc890
Posted - 06 February 2018 02:10
Thanks Many, that's pretty much my view (particularly sitting in the office at 2am). I can't really discuss it with friends at work hence asking for advice/thoughts.
mctc890
Posted - 06 February 2018 02:30
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Just via the ordinary application process. An assessed mini-pupillage, then an application and two rounds of interviews
Le Chiffre
Posted - 06 February 2018 02:32
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Why did you not apply to the Bar before (ie you went for the solicitor route)?
mctc890
Posted - 06 February 2018 03:30
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Mainly because I thought I could get interesting legal work at a city law firm. Also, although I did do well at university (inexplicably got a first from Cambridge), I do have a very normal non-Oxbridge background (no one in my family had ever gone to university), so the idea of turning down a fully funded offer from a magic circle firm seemed like a huge risk.
Jonas
Posted - 06 February 2018 06:13
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I have mates at the commercial bar in Manchester in Leeds. Both cleared £100k in their first year out of pupillage. Once was recently moaning because his income had dropped below £250k. And he is *only* about 5 years PQE. That said, he is up at 6am and rarely finishes before 10pm.

You will be self-employed on paper, but remember that the clerks run chambers and if you are sh1t or p1ss them off you won't get any work. You will also have to sacrifice the first 2-4 years of your life at the bar to establish yourself.

The commercial bar is also largely a paper practice. Yes you will get Court time, but expect to spend most of your days in front of a laptop smashing out opinions or pleadings.

The grass is not always greener, but I imagine anything is better than getting thrashed in a MC firm.
Bailey*
Posted - 06 February 2018 07:31
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Well done for working out what you want early on. The Bar, crim or commis hard but worth it. Not sure I’d be happy out of court but that’s just my preference and why I opted for crime.

Laz, love, the reason this fella gets advice and you received opprobrium is, I imagine, down to actually doing this thing rather than talking about this thing. Action over fluff. It’s really as simple as that.

Oh, and I see he turned up for a mini pupillage. So that probably helped.
Jonas
Posted - 06 February 2018 07:46
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The criminal bar is not worth it unless you happen to get into a set that does a decent amount of private work. There are not many of them and even then you will have to slave away on legal aid rates for a few years before they send any decent private work your way.

On legal aid rates you are basically talking £2k a week, and that assumes you are in Crown on an effective trial every week. Which you won't be. Oh, and you get paid bugger all in Mags.

Don't forget you have to deduct chambers fees, travel and other expenses. Even when you write off some of it against the tax, I reckon you are talking £50k net 'in your hand' on legal aid rates. That's the equivalent of earning about £73k a year gross. And you won't get paid holidays or a pension.

People are leaving the independent criminal bar in droves for in-house roles at places like Kinglsey Napley or secondments to government departments on £400 a day.



Bailey*
Posted - 06 February 2018 07:50
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Yes, thank you for that helpful insight into a profession I’ve been immersed in for 21 years.

The doombell has been sounding loudly at the criminal bar ever since I joined. But, amazing I know, some of us do it for reasons other than money. Like actual real life job satisfaction.
Jonas
Posted - 06 February 2018 08:01
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Bailey. The problem is many people are sold the 'dream' at law school and don't realise until it is too late. Hence my post above, which was not directed at you as such.

That said, at 21 years call / PQE you are probably sufficiently established to make a good living out of it.

I know many people who are sub 5 years call who are seriously struggling to make a living in crime. I am talking people at central London sets earning 30k a year gross, and even then having to wait months to get paid. You would get more than that as a trainee solicitor at a decent shop.

The criminal bar is not a serious career prospect unless you happen to have wealth parents, a seriously loaded relative who is about to cark it, or a spouse who is absolutely coining it and can carry you on the months when you make fcuk all.
Heffalump
Posted - 06 February 2018 08:25
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heh@commercial bar in Manchester and Leeds

if you've been offered a pupillage at a chambers the calibre of (say) South Square (which would fit your description), then go for it - it's a good set, if you make tenancy you'll do well, the work will be interesting and they are a nice bunch of people. If you don't, there will be other sets who will think about you, and you can always go back to a firm.

if you've been offered a pupillage at a lower tier set - say Enterprise - then think about it, but things aren't so clear cut. If you get tenancy, fine - again, it's a nice set, with some people doing good work. But if not, you are less likely to get tenancy somewhere you'd want to go. And whilst you will probably still be able to go back to a decent firm, your cv will look like it's had a bit of a blip.

if your offer is from lower down the food chain, frankly I wouldn't.
battleguy
Posted - 06 February 2018 08:34
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This is grass is greener nonsense from this echo chamber forum.

What Jonas is saying is more or less spot on in my opinion.

Firstly, he rightly destroys the criminal bar.

Second, he mentions expenses. This article overeggs the pudding, but it's not far off:

https://www.legalcheek.com/2017/02/research-average-barrister-earnings-equate-to-60 000-salary/

His mates on 100k would probably be on 60k pre tax and at 250k probably at 140k. But that goes a long way up north.

Third, he comments on the illusion of self-employment. You're a hired gun. You get more flexibility than a law firm (e.g. working from home) but that flexibility is traded away by inflexible court deadlines and meetings.

Finally, he correctly, in my view, talks about the hours not being any better than MC law, and probably being a lot worse. Actually the pupillage year will really depend on the set in terms of how much they beast you - some have you generally doing just a 9-6 day. But that's because you're still a student/trainee. Beyond that the first 3-4 years will be very very hard work - and junior work is junior. Grunt work. Most jobs, including law firms, tend to get better as you rise up the ranks and get more experience, skill and control over your workflow. By doing the bar, you really do go back down to the bottom.

That being said, if you're an Oxbridge first who went in the wrong direction, you've pined for academia again, have a genuine academic interest, really, really hate law firms, and you're willing to work as hard as you do now, are not doing it for the money (because you're in a better position to earn more where you are now), then it quite probably will work out very well for you.
battleguy
Posted - 06 February 2018 08:38
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Heffalump is also spot on, really depends on the set.

Actually some of the top sets like Brick Court will treat you like a child. I think they're a set where they don't let their pupils do anything in court except in competition with each other once or twice a month.

Fountain Court might treat you better. 3VB too.

But as Heff says there are really very few GREAT sets. Personally, I don't even think of Enterprise as "lower tier" per se.
Heffalump
Posted - 06 February 2018 08:42
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tbf, if you get an offer from Brick Court, dress up in toddler dungarees if that's what they ask you to do
old git roundabout
Posted - 06 February 2018 08:46
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go for it. Congratulations on your Geoff from Cambridge.

If it doesn't work out, you should be able to get a job with a solicitors firm again with little problem, you're not burning your boats.
WACC
Posted - 06 February 2018 11:17
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OP, I have some direct knowledge of this, and I would say congrats and go for it, you can always go back later if its not your cup of tea.

The upsides you will be responsible for doing infinitely more interesting and demanding work than a solicitor of equivalent experience, you will earn very good money and be self employed and therefore largely dictate if you want to work or not. As to advocacy if you are going to a genuine commercial set such as 3VB, South Square, Littleton, Fountain Court oppourtunities will be very limited in the first five /sevenyears. You will be a 3rd, fourth junior on a case where your time will be spent drafting and settling pleadings and advices and the like , along with hours of very often tedious research for your leaders.

If you are going to a specialist set like 4 new square, or high end common law sets like Old Square, 2 Temple Gardens, Hardwicke, Keating oppurtnties for running your own cases and being in court 3/4 times a week doing your own advocacy will be plentiful. Either way you will earn what most people regard as significant earnings, but wither way as others have said it is bloody hard work
mctc890
Posted - 06 February 2018 12:16
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Thanks, I'm sure I'll accept. I'd say the chambers is more at the level of say SouthS than Enterprise. I know that they're probably considered the best set at company (and that my firm use them a lot for company/insolvency work), so I think I could make a decent living.
assox9l4
Posted - 06 February 2018 12:33
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Congrats. I'd say go for it. From what you've described it sounds like say erskine or south sq. Both are tip top company/insolency sets and work a lot with mc firms.

In the Navy
Posted - 06 February 2018 12:50
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Go for it. The lifestyle seems infinitely preferable to putting in face time in a generic corporate office in the City.
Yaani
Posted - 06 February 2018 13:28
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mctc890, out of interest (as this is something I might consider later down the line) are you in a general corporate/commercial department, and if so, is that the best route into the commercial bar as opposed to, say, being an IP solicitor?
mctc890
Posted - 06 February 2018 13:44
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litigation. Yes assox one of those two.
Yaani
Posted - 06 February 2018 13:48
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Ah ok thanks. I guess it's makes sense to transfer from litigation..
Yaani
Posted - 06 February 2018 13:49
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*it
assox9l4
Posted - 06 February 2018 14:11
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probably good choice mc, both top chancery/commercial sets
battleguy
Posted - 06 February 2018 14:11
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You should definitely go for it because:

1. you have a top tier set which is
a) not going to baby you
As said, many of the top sets are mini law firms where you are led by others and do grunt work and treated like a 2 year old.
b) a stellar one, not on the level of a Hardwicke, and you are most definitely going to be trading up on the money side

2. you are in litigation which
a) has piss poor exit options unlike corporate
b) is one of the more repetitive and tedious departments

I know several juniors who used to be solicitors. One is at Brick Court, Australian and a terribly nice guy. Easy to spot and if you send him an email he'll be sure to offer you advice.l and better info than us. Also a Scot at Fountain Court; again easy to spot. Most guys I know will go out of their way to help people considering it. Maybe they will give you some hints, tips, things to pick up on.

I still think it is a very individual course to choose which deserves a number of caveats as mentioned above.
assox9l4
Posted - 06 February 2018 14:13
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are you saying erskine/south sq are top tier and hardwicke is stellar?
battleguy
Posted - 06 February 2018 14:19
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nope
assox9l4
Posted - 06 February 2018 14:21
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what are you saying? didn't you tell him you should definitely go for it because you have a top tier set
battleguy
Posted - 06 February 2018 14:21
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I am saying where he is going is a tier above hardwicke
If it were Hardwicke, like Heff, I might raise an eyebrow.
assox9l4
Posted - 06 February 2018 14:30
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I'd say both are top tier in commercial chancery ie. company/insolvency although quite specialist. Also fairly sure both are quite a few tiers above the likes of hardwicke.
mctc890
Posted - 06 February 2018 14:36
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I think the barristers I shadowed there seemed to be doing very well. It's top tier in what it does but definitely more specialist than mc sets as it focuses on company/insolvency. It does quite a bit of work with my firm. Truthfully, I wouldn't really see the point in moving to somewhere like hardwicke as I don't think the work would be particularly great.
battleguy
Posted - 06 February 2018 14:38
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You might argue there are really two tiers: worth it and not.
battleguy
Posted - 06 February 2018 14:42
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I was sceptical at first, but given your background and the set, I'm sure you'll have a blast and do very well. You'll never look back.
mctc890
Posted - 06 February 2018 14:55
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cheers battle
Le Chiffre
Posted - 06 February 2018 15:53
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If it is a proper top tier set and you're willing to take the uncertainty of the move, subject to two bits of advice, go for it.

The first is - have you examined whether you can do a shorter pupillage. Some sets do this for transferring sols and it can significantly reduce the uncertainty etc of pupillage.

Second, what is your plan if you do not get taken on. The reason for going to a top tier set is obviously the work if you get taken on but also the fact that if you are not you might get snapped up by a second tier set. Would you be happy with that?
mctc890
Posted - 06 February 2018 16:10
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Thanks Chiffre, very helpful. I mentioned the set before. I wouldn't want to do a shorter pupillage. I think I'd be happy with that, the last pupil not to be kept on went to somewhere like wilberforce/maitland and they are obviously great sets.
Mr Nonsekwita
Posted - 06 February 2018 16:13
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I'd fucking hate to be a barrister. I'm a commercial litigator as it is and that's bad enough.
WACC
Posted - 06 February 2018 16:35
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@ battleguy, I think you are being very unfair about Hardwicke, it is an excellent set with some truly stand out individuals who any MC set would be overjoyed to have, such as Nigel Jones QC among others. I did 2 weeks of assesed mini pupillages albeit some while ago. The work I saw was top tier, and Nigel Jones was doing battle in the CoA against Sumption, Jones leading a very senior junior from a so called magic circle set.

It is true Hardwicke has proved to be a refuge for third six pupils who didn't get taken on at the MC type sets, but that said many who didn't have gone on to forge great careers and are highly recommended in legal directories.The most recent 5 tenants have firsts, highest mark prizes from Oxbridge, Kings, LSE & Durham. They used to certainly get about 600 pupillage applications back in the day also, and since they ditched the family and criminal teams there averegae revenue per barrister is about 375k

@ laz, what he said really if the set is decent, but nothing special you can always trade up if you are very good, but that is hard work.At the best sets work just comes through the door and you can be a journeyman, do interesting work and make serious cash.
WACC
Posted - 06 February 2018 16:41
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The test of just how good a set is, the quality and volume of quality of work it gets can be deduced from how many silks it has. A chambers with 70 members and 2 silks ain't long term likely to be up to much on this basis. Also when I applied, and if I were applying today, any set that claims to have a strong commercial/arbitration group, whilst doing knock about PI, and family work and offers 30k pupillage strongly suggests the set is a jack of all trades.

The type of set you are going to even if you don't get taken on you will still have a pool of really excellent sets to go for including Hardwicke.

Do remember Sumption didn't get taken on twice.....
assox9l4
Posted - 06 February 2018 16:44
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WAAC what does this have to do with the op? He/she appears to have pupillage from a much better set (south s/erskine), not sure why you think repeated posts about hardwicke are relevant to what the op asked?
WACC
Posted - 06 February 2018 16:49
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assox it was just that someone said they would raise eyebrows in someone moving from a MC firm to a set like hardwicke, I certainly wouldn't thats all. And I think Le c suggested if he/she didn't get taken on then he might not get taken on by a second tier com lit set. I would suggest Hardwicke, 4 New Square to name but a few are second tier com lit sets and have a track record of taking 3rd six pupils, as does Littleton, although I would pit them above 4 New square and haerwicke , no doubt.
assox9l4
Posted - 06 February 2018 16:52
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That's fair, I actually agree with you and think hardwicke is a decent commercial/general civil set. But the op is asking for views on the set offering his/her pupillage which seems to be a top-tier chancery set.
assox9l4
Posted - 06 February 2018 16:53
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Personally, I'd take 4ns over littleton/hardwicke any day.
WACC
Posted - 06 February 2018 17:09
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assox, depisite what 4NS say 90% of what they do is professional negligence, and they are very, very good at it. I am not sure if I could hack doing that and nothing else frankly. Personally I would go Littletion every time
mctc890
Posted - 06 February 2018 17:31
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thanks assox
Heffalump
Posted - 06 February 2018 18:16
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Littleton? nowadays they're basically an employment set
Tam
Posted - 06 February 2018 18:59
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go for it. if you don’t you will always wonder ‘what if’. if it doesn’t work out, it is far from the end of the world.

I’m making a biggish change. It’s a risk and a massive salary drop but I’m so unhappy I’m prepared to go for it.. I have bought new massively towering stilettos for my first day. top tip.
assox9l4
Posted - 06 February 2018 21:55
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I've never really come across littleton, I think they mainly do employment
WACC
Posted - 06 February 2018 22:59
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assox, yes they are one of 3 imminent sets doing high end employment high court employment work, they also do tonnes of high end com lit/arbitration work.

That said they have been loosing silks and stand out senior juniors...
battleguy
Posted - 06 February 2018 23:09
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Have they really been loosing there silks now?
WACC
Posted - 06 February 2018 23:30
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stuart ritchie qc now at fountain court
Ian gatt qc former herbies and head of chambers at littleton, now at stewarts law, ellena misra, Jeffrey bacon, to name but a few but all superstars in their own right
Aramis.
Posted - 07 February 2018 07:36
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Heh at this thread.

Res ipsa arguing with two bots that seem to have adopted his language.

To op: Sounds like Erksine. Great set. Small. Some slightly odd people but probably no more odd than anywhere else.

To res ipsa: I was told yesterday that Ed Cumming will take silk at 35. That should get you frothing.
Ash89
Posted - 07 February 2018 07:52
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I've used Littleton for employment.

I liked it. Decent biscuits.
old git roundabout
Posted - 07 February 2018 09:07
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I r8 Littleton.
Heffalump
Posted - 07 February 2018 09:25
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erskine is a great chambers
but the phrase "no more odd than anywhere else" requires "anywhere else" to be interpreted as being limited to traditional chancery sets and All Souls College Oxford
mctc890
Posted - 07 February 2018 11:47
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I was actually interviewed by Ed C at XXIV in December. Didn't get pupillage. But he was such a pleasant chap though, very courteous, and gave some very detailed, constructive feedback. He seemed very impressive, sure it's well deserved.
Ypells
Posted - 07 February 2018 14:35
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Go for it.

If you find city law dull, there is a good chance you'd find the commercial bar dull in some ways too.

You might be better off looking at doing something outside law entirely (management consultancy? Starting a business? Lots of options out there) or an entirely different part of law (family or criminal perhaps). But you can always think about that after your pupillage.
Unimog
Posted - 08 February 2018 11:00
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Horan, Erskine, exA&0 and Ashursts, and some Australian firm before that (Allens?).
consultantx
Posted - 08 February 2018 12:01
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Congratulations - getting pupillage in a good set is a great achievement and I'm not surprised you're going to go for it. Yes, it'll be tough and your hours might not seem much better than at a law firm (at least to start with), but I think the crucial difference will be that you are doing it for yourself and - when you have some years' experience as a baz under your belt - you will be able to control when and where you work much more.

Best of luck.
mctc890
Posted - 08 February 2018 13:18
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Cheers thanks.
mctc890
Posted - 26 February 2018 14:19
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I wanted to say thanks to everyone again for the advice, it was much appreciated. I decided to accept the offer last week. Fyi it’s not quite an South S/Erkine, but still very happy with the offer. Thanks again!
Used Psychology
Posted - 26 February 2018 14:29
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Excellent. Now we can ask thekey question.

How tall are you?
mctc890
Posted - 26 February 2018 14:31
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Ha, I’ll answer that. 6ft 2
Used Psychology
Posted - 26 February 2018 14:35
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Good. We need fewer midgets in the profession.

Not naming any names you understand.