40 year old mate wants to leave job and retrain as barrister

Very good public speaker. Quick on his feet. Bright. Bored of his job (in the arts). Would be happy at the criminal bar. But wonders if his chances of pupillage are less than zero, and if it’s worth sinking money and time into. Thoughts?

Depends on his background and how he can spin it to make a moderately compelling rationale argument as to why he wants to go to the Bar.

is he loaded? As going to the criminal bar aged 40 without a substantial money behind you is a recipe for disaster.

Unless he's got a functioning time machine, is he mad? 

Wonder what percentage of people going to the criminal bar actually remain as criminal barristers. My m7 didn’t - now very successful in civil work.

What is his career experience to date? what is his academic story (law/non-law?) Has he got a considerable float of cash so that he is not compromised in what really is going to have to be a game of patience at a time when he might otherwise want instant gratification (40s is a time when you finally start to see the prospect of income and direction of travel ahead).   Is he a patient man who will recognize that in a few years, if he has had all the luck in the world and got a platform of a tenancy in a half decent set, he knows very little and needs to spend a decade building trusted relationships with clients (law firms in particular)?   Does he handle set backs with resilience? The journey is really just like running naked while the world shoot at your cock with a paintball gun, and it's a question of how long you can say "never mind, it's just a testicle". After that, when he's finally landed properly, will he have an appetite to keep working into later life to make that late investment worthwhile? 

If any of these questions cannot be answered positively then it's a no from me, Brenda.

It's usually at this point that people say "George Carman QC" but I'd like to point out that although he really only emerged from the roulette table in his 50s he had been a jobbing common law barrister prior to that.  

Very good public speaker. - sadly one of the least relevant attributes for success

Bored of his job (in the arts) - what bores him?  How does that stack up against the Traffic List in Highbury Corner on a Thursday in November when the overdraft is clanging and the five years of prior graft have yet to pay off through something meaningful in the Crown Court.

 

It is a much easier play particularly for Drs and Nurses have made the transition extremely successfully. I have no evidence for this but I’m pretty sure there is no profession apart from Solicitors that make the career change .

also plenty of surveyors, pharmacists, investment bankers (Littleton has 3) and chartered accountants, one of whom took silk in 6 years ! Yes you read that correctly 6 years.

It is a much easier play particularly for Drs and Nurses have made the transition extremely successfully. I have no evidence for this but I’m pretty sure there is no profession apart from Solicitors that make the career change .

 

what?

Muttley , is that right about Carman? Didn’t he start doing crime and PI in a northern set, then concentrated on complex crime . A decade in or so moved to what is now 20 Essex Street , doing commercial,shipping and insurance work , and got luck with a few random defamation briefs as a second junior and went on from there ?

Muttley there are loads of former nurses and Drs now at leading PI, clin neg , prof neg, product liability and professional discipline sets . I was doing what was then the BVC with three on my course.

Yes, sorry ebit, I just didn't follow the wording.

 

Good friend of mine was a doctor, did BVC with me, went into med neg and became a coroner. He was the youngest coroner ever appointed.   That's why I asked my first question (career experience to date) as that could make it an expedited journey or just a mid life crisis career dump.

What is his career experience to date?
-working way up media org

what is his academic story (law/non-law?)

-Non-law. I imagine he’d have a compelling CV, though. Not a household name by any means, but a published author in his sphere, plenty of tv appearances, etc

Has he got a considerable float of cash so that he is not compromised in what really is going to have to be a game of patience at a time when he might otherwise want instant gratification)

-no, but supportive spouse and he’ll be ok with not much cash. He wouldn’t be stepping away from a huge salary. He’s more just concerned not to sink too much money and time into the course and then not get any interviews.

-thank you all for your really helpful insights. I’ve relayed them. He’s grateful. 

tbf Carman took silk in 1971 based on a more than capable N Circuit practice as you say. but it was crime and other common law stuff until his big break in 79 re Jeremy Thorpe. Thereafter he was everyone's go-to advocate for the unwinnable, whether defamation or crime.

He got a third class degree at uni.  He was called in 53 and got a pupillage at 1 Harcourt but not taken on. He went to a set in Manchester where he did crime and personal injury work. When he took silk he moved sets to one where he could practice on the N CIrcuit (Byron St) and London, at 5 Essex court.  it was in fact his work on the Battersea Fun Fair accident, defending the owner, that caused David Napley to think he'd spotted a giant in sheep's clothing and he instructed him to represent Thorpe.  

Oh and a huge amount of sets are culling the amount of criminal pupillages , there isn’t enough work around at the bottom end , or more accurately too many chasing not quite enough work.

From what you say I don’t think he is financially set up for it , unless he gets into one of the very, very grand “top” criminal sets who mostly do nothing but heavy duty/ chunks of private work , he / she will struggle on grossing 20-30 k in the first 3-5 years ?

agree with that and you have to consider why one of the grand sets would be interested in someone in that situation. As ebit says the work is thin.  Too many senior people are doing work below them which makes it even worse for the juniors who are already starved of knockabout action.  Basically everyone's trying to do double the stuff because it's half the rate it used to be and half the cases are effective because the system is like a collapsing garden shed.  The idea of putting another competing junior in who has not got the length of future practice to develop into a strong senior junior or silk who would generate junior instructions just won't be attractive. Turkeys / Christmas etc. By the time he is 50 he will be as experienced as someone who has just clicked 30.   the "life experience" won't be a differentiator save in the rarest of occasions as the calibre of work won't need to take advantage much of that.  By the time he's 60 he will be out of touch with colleagues operating at a similar level (who will have young families, silk to pursue etc), the same age as some of the circuit bench but older than others and yet two or three decades' less knowledgeable than them on the narrow issues of importance to them.   Good career change for dinner party chit chat bad career change for career.  

Isn’t there a roffer who did something like this? He was an actor then a barrister. Can’t think who it is but he’s pretty regular on here. 

You’d think this is a young person’s game, running up and down the country in Magistrates Courts

What Muttley said. Much easier sell if he were a former investment banker ( Littleton have 3) or a architect or surveyor , or chartered accountant. One former chartered accountant at a leading commercial set took silk in 7 years, yes seven . Last time I looked a few of the construction sets had former surveyors and architects among them. Hardwicke have a few career changers .

This is basically the worst idea I've ever heard.  Peanuts at the junior criminal bar if you're lucky.  

The only person I know who’s successful changed career to wig jockey was a doctor. We were at uni together and she was a gynae reg for a very short time before retraining. Seems to be doing well in negligence work. 

that awful chap who wants to marry me in Portsmouth told me he was thinking about going into the law, but that he would be a barrister rather than a solicitor as he is good ar arguing.  what a cretin

I would have more positivity in my water if you said the move was in the direction of public law / media regulation etc, though that is rammed with very strong practitioners all circling round the OfCom/post Leveson trough who have decades of JR and public law experience under their belts - Blackstone and 11 KBW etc.

Judy Carter16 Feb 21 18:30

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that awful chap who wants to marry me in Portsmouth told me he was thinking about going into the law, but that he would be a barrister rather than a solicitor as he is good ar arguing.  what a cretin

 

 

 

 

heh. so much of this heh but esp the final judgement.

If you're a banker or doctor, sure.

If you're "a good public speaker" or, hilariously,  "good at arguing", not so much.

I thought about doing criminal work in the last year of my degree and on the BVC. My view was coloured by noting a 9 month multi handed drug trial at Kingston Crown Court . Our client was number 1 on the indictment, there were 6 other co defendants all of who had at least a senior silk , a senior junior and often a mid level junior . 
 

it was a two year under cover operation by Customs and Scotland Yard , issues around PII, illegal and legal phone taps ,co defendants being released shortly after being remanded( suspected security services bids), officers giving evidence by screens ,and code names being used . Tens of millions of pounds of gear ( mostly not in possession ) Explanations as to why defendants with mostly modest incomes had 24 hour chauffeurs, Bentley mostly , and millions of pounds in on and off shore cash and assets . It was like something from a movie .

i was set , this is what I wanted to do, crime . Derrr!! 

It also strikes me as a bit odd to have established himself in the arts (no mean feat at all given the cutthroat nature of the arts world) the to give that up for an entry level position/ junior role again. 

heh. Snap ebit.  I went to (then) 36 Essex St and did a mini pupillage with Michael Bowes and Nicholas Purnell QC on the Blue Arrow prosecution in Chichester Rents. I thought, right, I will have me some of this.   Then when I was a pupil at that set they were representing Larry Trachtenberg in the Maxwell trial and as I finished pupillage there was a devilling role in that matter and all this perpetuated the myth of the goal.  Then I woke up and someone was smacking me with a train ticket and brief in Tottenham mags and a shoplifting trial in Croydon combined.  

Best bet is to do media/music  , entertainment,and  publishing work as a solicitor. See judge jules. 
I remember when it was reported that he wanted to become a solicitor in the legal rags, there was howls of derision from loads of people . “ he is a top DJ and record producer, how can he live on a trainee salary !!”

My former pupil master retired recently. He was called in 1984. He said "I never advise anyone to start at the criminal bar now. After about 10 years of fun at the start it went down hill fast in the 90s and kept going downhill ever since, accelerating in the last 5. Even the judges hate it".  His wife is one so he is speaking from double knowledge points. Sad to hear him say that.

Don’s mate needs his head examining.

Assuming he slogs away and passes all his exams, what Tenancy Committee would possibly take on someone in their early 40’s to do Mags court rubbish?

Guarantee of a life of misery and penury I’m afraid.

Heh at muttley. The counsel were all very generous with their time . They never seemed to stop complaining that this trial ( it was the second , the first having been a hung jury) was killing their practice, notwithstanding the money was incredible even on Legal aid rates. Apparently other defendants were paying privately and silks were 30k plus retainers a month .

the first junior about 15 years call with a huge brain , said “ it’s taken 15 years to be briefed on a case like this , there’s nothing not to like save for the bit about its killing his practice.. I don’t expect to see a trial like this for another ten years at least and that’s if I’m lucky 

I did a fair bit of crimbo work in the  80’s. It was great fun, and for Counsel pretty easy work on decent fees.  Very straightforward evidence as no tape recordings of interviews (until 1986) no CCTV or mobile phone evidence to have to pore over etc.

Enough time to have lunch at a nearby pub with counsel.
 

Judges started at 10.30 and rose at 4 sharp.
 

Listening now to what they have to do in terms of the vast amount of prep and paperwork (often overnight) before and during a trial, for an absolute pittance, it’s shocking.

Good plan, provided ultimate plan is get pupillage, spend max a year knocking about the courts then switch to a US law firm on reg / fin crime / investigations space, work nuts off for 200k for 5 years, slide into industry on a cushty job.

If he actually wants to be an advocate, in the criminal courts, tell him to do a mini-pupillage at an average criminal set. If he still wants to, despite what they will all tell him, he's either a vocation type or insane.

Twelve that which you suggest is going to be very difficult , even for those in their 30s at solid sets I would suggest.

Surely OP's mate would be better off going into politics if they like the sound of their own voice, or just getting head down and getting into a decent job in the arts - head of a broadcaster, gallery etc. Those are ace jobs in my view. 

Being a criminal barrister sounds like hell on wheels these days from what my closest mate from school (who used to be one but has run a mile and is most definitely coming back) tells me. And they really enjoyed it and were good about it. But there were long term issues with it as a career before Chris Grayling and those reforms showed up and after them it just sounds grim. 

If OP's mate wants something challenging and uncertain why not add worthwhile to the mix and retrain as a counsellor, social worker, teacher - which I view as more worthy and less chancy pursuits than the criminal bar, for all that I do rate those criminal barristers I've met, their ethics (stop sreportmei’mracisting), the whole system (as it used to be?)

One former chartered accountant at a leading commercial set took silk in 7 years, yes seven .

Henry King QC? Great guy, knows how to really dissect a dull banking case.

"How does that stack up against the Traffic List in Highbury Corner on a Thursday in November when the overdraft is clanging and the five years of prior graft have yet to pay off through something meaningful in the Crown Court."

That sounds pretty good actually, apart from the overdraft.

Criminal bar is ace, apart from pay. It's a question of money. If he has money and wants to do it, he should. If he depends on income from a job to live, he shouldn't. 

Imagine how little self-respect and khuntishness you’d need to say something like this: 

Rajiv Menon QC told the inquiry that Abdallah was "not involved in any way" in the attack. He did not groom or radicalise Salman Abedi," he said.He had no knowledge whatsoever of the planning and preparation of the terrorist attack at Manchester Arena.”

Imagine being so desperate for money you’d stand in front of bereaved family and say shit like that. 

Crypto bazza's do much worse. Don' think the money could have been that great just part of the job. Remember the horrible case of that woman who killed herself after being cross examined over abuse she suffered as a child.

Henry King was 19 years call.

CW, Richard Boulton , One Essex Court

Crypto mate, you have kinda missed the point. He said that he doesn't or may not believe it. Go into any criminal court and you will hear counsel say " My client tells me that, bla, bla, bla" That is what I suspect happened here as it happens thousands of times every week in the criminal courts.

Don, your friend may find the following of interest, including both the links within the articles and the comments beneath them:

https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/landmark-report-paints-bleak-picture-of-criminal-legal-aid/5107421.article

https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/practice/young-legal-aid-lawyer-shares-pain-over-redundancy/5070734.article  

While clearly solicitor-focused, there are extensive references to the criminal bar, and much of the analysis is equally applicable.

I dunno. Not my industry. I think company law or tax law is one thing but doing this is quite another. Just imagine your child is blown up by some khunt then some wig jockey basically laughs in your face with that pack of lies. 

Crpto , indeed but they are just mouth pieces they don't have to believe what they are being told by their client. it goes back to" My client tells me"

Crypto - everyone is entitled to legal representation. Thankfully even terrorists (I say thankfully because, if we made some sort of an exception to a right to be represented, gradually every offence would be attempted to be slotted into that category).

The QC was just ensuring his client's case was put before the relevant tribunal. It is up to that tribunal then to either accept or reject the QC's client's story. 

It's not like QC is devising some sort of web of lies that is calculated to be the most likely to deceive the jury.

Sure I know that and agree with the principal but it just isn’t something I find easy to accept. Same with those going overboard to defend paedos etc. If it’s all a game I think I’d rather play the company law rules - then it doesn’t really matter. 

It’s not a game. It’s a person’s human rights. Fair trials require advocates. One to present the prosecution case and one to defend the defendant’s rights. The obligation of the defence counsel is to represent the client’s interests to the best of his ability,  testing the voracity if the case against him. Any shortcut or failure in that process invite convictions on flimsy evidence. That is not in the interests of the society the system serves. 

I used to have those concerns as a student, but having spent a little time in criminal law (mostly as para, many years ago, before I moved to City type stuff), I no longer have them and would have no problem representing anyone (though that's not what I do).

I think this stems from a misconception that lawyers help their clients to "get off", and their involvement leads to  people who are "in fact guilty" being acquitted.

But it's not the job of the criminal barrister to ensure the client "gets off". It's their job to put their client's story across to the court/jury, in a way that is permitted by the rules.  Provided the procedural rules were adhered to, the jury's verdict is quite definitive - the person really is not guilty in the eyes of the law, and the fact that he may have in fact "done it" is not relevant. It should never matter what the allegation is. 

He'd have to be loaded and doing it for the love. Even then if I was that loaded and really wanted to criminal baz I'd think about shelling out for US law school and go there instead.

It’s usually well before this point that someone makes a lame “ONG you know Laz?” joke. Surprised and happy that it hasn’t happened yet.

As for the question asked in the OP, I think muttley has covered the issues well in his first post. Criminal bar famously a hard road. If your mate has a story to tell and good academics, and is dogged, he can probably bash down the door to a square one opportunity, but does he have the desire to stick it out from there on in?

The cash float point is a good one. I get loads of stick on here, mostly from idiots and strutter*, about my plans but one thing I have done well is build up a pot of cash that, while it won’t let me retire, will easily float me through a permanent career change.

* this is me being nice to you m88

Battersea Funfair accident! That merited a quick google detour. I had read of it before, but forgotten. I used to know Battersea Park well in my capacity as a jogger, yes that’s a j not a d, and at the time had no clue there’d ever been a funfair. 

The accident more or less contemporaneous with the iconic Summerland fire on the Isle of Man.

I suspect the case that Carman defended successfully would never have been brought had not the victims been children, raising public emotion. Not a natural case for manslaughter.

For all that, I think the age thing is over egged above.

Yeah he’ll be sixty and have the same level of experience as a peer who’s 40, but so what? I will be in the same situation I expect. Age in that sense is just a number and it’s not like barristers all retire at sixty. If he were really successful, Silk would not be beyond him on age grounds. The issues really are (1) will he get his shot (I suspect so tbh if he works hard enough) and (2) is he ready for, and will he really enjoy, the hard road and, at first, the very limited reward. The latter, as addressed in Muttley’s first, seems like a towering question to me.

But age alone? Pfft. I’d tell a 70yo to pursue a legal career if they really wanted to. Law is one of the least atheist professions, although ageism is on the wane generally.

Laz within the context of the OPs thread the age thing is not over egged by any means, indeed posts on here have probably underplayed the issue .

it would be far lesser of an issue if the OPs mate was say an investment banker looking to go to a set like 3VB, or a Dr/Nurse looking to join sergeants inn chambers or similar. As others have said if he has plenty of cash a small/no mortgage and doesn’t mind earning anything for at least five years , then go for it. If he needs a moderate and reasonable income as he /she has normal essential living costs , they would be mad to do it .

Agreed with crypto. Often procedural ruses used that are nothing to do with the guilt or innocence of the party. Other countries seem to do just fine without our bizarre system. 

Actually there was one other person I’ve come across who’s done this. She was in her 40s and had been a midwife (or maybe a nurse) and retrained. She had a very slow first few years and I think relied on her husband’s income (and maybe some Locum midwife shifts). Can’t remember her name now to look her up. 

Oh and laz 15 years in he will still be traversing the country at very short notice having been briefed 7.00 the night before for a 2 day trial in Nottingham. That’s exhausting for a 30 year old let alone someone in his 50s....  The age thing is very important 

ebitda the issues you raise are valid and I do not dispute them in substance but they are not specifically age issues

a 60 yo can still do a demanding job if he wants ti

a 40-odd year old can earn a low salary if he’s willing to

these are issues of attitude not age

Laz I sensed that the OPs mate was not a high earner , something about he and his other half not needing a lot to live on. Well how does 20k year one grab you ?

yes you can work hard at 60 and many people do . But it is very different being a partner at 60 blozzing docs for 10 hours a day to travelling round the country at no notice , and preparing for trials the night before the first day .

yeah agreed, the latter sounds miles more fun and invigorating

Q for ebit. If you love barristers so much why aren't you still doing it?

 

"Law is one of the least atheist professions" - thank God for that.

 

Laz, I am sure you are fit and well and will remain so for many decades to come, but what Ebit says about the draining nature of the first train across the country to a 10.30 hearing at Norwich Crown Court, Cromer Mags etc should not be underestimated when it is coupled with the fact that the brief came into the pigeon hole at 6pm the evening before, causing dinner to be had on the hoof while working through papers and then snatching a short night of restless sleep before making sure you don't miss the train out of Liverpool St at 6.30am, then the adrenal moment of taking instructions in the cells under pressure before appearing before a grumbling recorder who you hate and it is mutual.  Then train back and do it all again on a loop.

This is tiring in your 20s. By your 50s you can deliver that if required and your dogged resilience is strong but don't have endless energy for this as a rhythmic way of working. But that rhythm is the reality of junior work at the criminal bar. I think age is a consideration.  It's not what you want to be doing 50-65.  

he'd be better off thinking about media law with that background

he should do a mini pupe at 5RB or somewhere like that

Nick Purnell QC and Henry King QC both excellent people, btw

Dear lawyers and legal commentariat,

Surpise! I am the person in question here. 

Firstly, thank you very much for your wise words and for the time you spent responding to OP's post. You've given me a lot of food for thought (and a somewhat sleepless night). 

Secondly, for anyone interested in 'taking things to the next level', I wonder if some clarifications and further context might be useful:

- OP is correct in his assertion that criminal law is appealing but I am not exclusively interested in that area, though it is fair to say that I am more interested in public, criminal, media etc than the more straight-up commercial end of practice. So that may change the dynamic of this conversation ever so slightly, though I imagine those who think I have lost my mind would say the same again.

- OP neglected to mention that - BOMBSHELL! -  I have two small children - 4 and 2 years of age. By the time I had gone through GDL, BPC, and if I were then lucky enough to secure pupillage, I would be 42, they would be 6 and 4 and therefore still very time-consuming and high maintenance. I imagine that those who found the original proposition toe-curling now have severe cramp tearing into their calf muscles. 

- I work at a leading arts institution. I currently earn c. 45,000. In five years time that might be c. 55,000. Arts jobs are quite poorly paid unless you are at the very top. Also, as fun and interesting as the arts world may appear from afar, it also has the capacity to be both highly stressful and mundane. It may sound glam but just because you like chocolate doesn't mean you want to work at Cadbury's. Having said that, the public sector, where I have spent the bulk of my career, is excellent in upholding work-life balance. But the fact is, my heart just isn't in it anymore. 

- My partner is an academic at a leading University. She earns c. 45,000 and has good prospects for promotion in the coming years. Again, promotion in her field means c. 55,000. So at present we are on 90,000 joint income before tax. 

- We have savings that, frankly, were an unexpected windfall. They would cover the courses and living costs while I returned to study and could help subsidise enough to take the edge off the penury for the first two years or so. 

- On money: OP is right that it's not really about that. I mean, of course it is to a certain extent, ultimately, and I don't want to be disingenuous by suggesting I don't need any - of course I do; we live in a small house in South East London and have two kids. But we're not flash and we committed long ago to prioritising job satisfaction and intellectual stimulation over money-making. Given I have to spend the next 28 or so years working, I want to explore options for careers that are satisfying, no matter how stressful or poorly remunerated at first. The thought of staying where I am, or even jumping around in the arts, is increasingly unappealing. To the poster who suggested I head up a museum or run a broadcaster - well my skillset and experience are unlikely to take me there any time soon. And, in the short term, I am coming to a bit of a crossroads - there's an opportunity to move up the ranks a bit where I am which definitely has some benefits but, ultimately, just moves me deeper into something I'm not that fussed about. 

Those who have flagged this entire notion as symptomatic of a brewing mid-life crisis may have hit on something. I'd be lying if I said it was easy to disentangle some of the emotional threads and pinpoint exactly why/where the creeping dissatisfaction was gaining ground. Nevertheless, I have long been interested in this area, way before the hairline started to retreat, so to that end I am still keen to explore it. 

Main Fears:

- Doing all the study and then not securing pupillage - yes, I've read the horrific stats - and being on the outside of both my former profession and the legal profession

- Impact on family life of life as a junior barrister in whichever area of law I ended up in. The family could withstand it for a while but probably not 10 years. 

- That it will be a very long time before the work gets interesting or the power dynamic shifts sufficiently for me to be able to dictate what kind of work I take on.  

Not-fears:

- Being junior again. I'm not worried by this drop in status per se as long as there is light at the end of the tunnel and there are genuine prospects for progression. I realise that much of this would be down to me and what I make of it, how I build relationships with clients and clerks etc.

- Being relatively broke: again, if there is light at the end of the tunnel and things start to pick up after a few years then that's ok. Someone suggested 15 years which was a little terrifying! I wonder how long it would take to get back onto the c. 45,000 I am on now which allows us to live perfectly well (and that's with two kids in nursery with exorbitant nursery costs). We're more Cornwall than Curacao, more Volkswagen Golf than sports car, more Sainsbury's reduced aisle than Fortnums. You get the (smug and worthy) picture.

Finally - I wondered what your thoughts were on the pandemic actually shifting working culture a bit to see more barrister work done over video link, rather than travelling to Notts for a 30 mins hearing? A barrister I talked to suggested that they expected to see much more of that happening now. They also suggested that some ground is being made on the well-being front i.e. judges being told not to email barristers after hours or on weekends. 

Right, that was a biggie, and probably great reading for anyone wanting to slide into an early afternoon nap (mandatory in the public sector arts world). 

You've all been great so far and thanks for letting me romp in your 'safe space'. I have ordered myself a paintball gun so I can shoot myself in the testicles before anyone else has the chance to. I'm drawing up designs for a time machine. I've always been too large in the thigh for skinny jeans, though, so no problems there. If you'e got the energy, your continued engagement would be much appreciated. No insult too small! 

Thanks. 

why are you looking at barristering rather than eg business affairs for your sector of the Arts? even remaining "in the arts" (which is itself a ludicrously broad brush description), if you go legal in the world that you have experience, knowledge of and contacts within, you will exceed the £45k threshhold. YOu're probably also in a good position for the paid NEDs down the line. Theatre lawyers, for eg, are highly specialised and earn £$£ because nobody else understands it, art lawyers are in increasing demand with repatriations / sales of fakes and complex loan arrangements and much of that has crossover with straight museum curation. "arts" of a musical nature may get you so far with classical organisations / the BBC

 

There's nothing in your post which says why barristering is for you, or even why law is for you. 

If only you could job swap with a crim barrister. There must be a few who would rather opine on Monet on R4 than defend another junkie at Highbury Corner 

Personally, I think you'd be crackers to go into barristing with two small kids. Uncertainty of income at this stage sounds like a recipe for massive stress. But that is my p.o.v.

I get the arts and money point. (I have worked in trades allied to the arts, dear boy...) And I doubt it's going to get easier.

As escaped says, nothing says why you want to do barristing. You could almost replace barrister with Solicitor/Accountant/Insurance/Quantity Surveyor etc.

Does your organisation have in-house counsel? tame solicitors? could you follow one of them around for a week.

Also, most courts are open, so have you trotted down to the local Mags/High Court etc? and watched. Frankly, it's not a spectator sport, so the cynic in me says go the solicitor route and do am-dram on the side. It's more Graham Gooch than David Gower, but if the sight of a day of front defensives punctuated by a few snicks off the legs for quick singles is enough for you, then fair enough.

Then get a week following a barrister round.

Then work out how you are going survive on your wife's salary alone (less your training fees and expenses) for 2-3 years. How long it takes to get onto a good salary is huge imponderable - you will be self employed. Get a lucky break and some good instructing solicitors who like you, and you could be getting there more quickly (but bear in mind sols never pay until their clients pay them...)

Good points @escaped. 

'There's nothing in your post which says why barristering is for you, or even why law is for you.'

Funnily enough I had a paragraph on this that I deleted because it read like a list of cliches. Which isn't to say I don't believe them but it's hard to be specific until I have had a bit more experience of the field. Anyway, it went something like this:

I think barristering would be a unique synthesis of my talents and aptitudes. I am a very adept editor and analyst and I am fascinated by argumentation. My entire career has been spent exploring character, narrative, empathy and society. I think I would bring an interesting perspective and understanding, particularly in a criminal setting. 

And (here come the cliches), the world is an already deeply iniquitous place. That is set to get worse. Doing what I currently do in the face of such extremity feels futile and pointless. Yes, I could go off and work for a charity but I don't think that's where I would be best placed to make a change. I am excellent with people. Not just good but really, really excellent. Perversely, I am also wedded to stress and find that I perform best in extreme circumstances.  If I believe all these things about myself and believe that, fundamentally the law is an extraordinary discipline and needs to be exercised to the best of our abilities for society to function, then doesn't it amount to a borderline ethical dereliction of duty not to pursue it? I suppose that's sitting squarely in the 'vocation' camp. 

Like I say, I didn't want to trot out platitudinous ramblings but you've rightly forced my hand! 

If I had asked you the same question before you started out, what would you have said? 

[email protected]'s continuum of benign, light commentary on the boss-level and judiciary

"Nick Purnell QC and Henry King QC both excellent people, btw"

Also in this series

Mr Justice Smith was certainly judicial in his decisions on R v Mr Brightside

Sir David Collins is very good at existing.

Makepeace LJ is far from a monster.

I think barristering would be a unique synthesis of my talents and aptitudes. I am a very adept editor and analyst and I am fascinated by argumentation. My entire career has been spent exploring character, narrative, empathy and society. I think I would bring an interesting perspective and understanding, particularly in a criminal setting. 

And (here come the cliches), the world is an already deeply iniquitous place. That is set to get worse. Doing what I currently do in the face of such extremity feels futile and pointless. Yes, I could go off and work for a charity but I don't think that's where I would be best placed to make a change. I am excellent with people. Not just good but really, really excellent. Perversely, I am also wedded to stress and find that I perform best in extreme circumstances.  If I believe all these things about myself and believe that, fundamentally the law is an extraordinary discipline and needs to be exercised to the best of our abilities for society to function, then doesn't it amount to a borderline ethical dereliction of duty not to pursue it? I suppose that's sitting squarely in the 'vocation' camp. 

 

 

This just reads like a list of platitudinous ramblings awash with cliches

Yep, got some court visits lined up with a friend of about 7 years call.

 

 

Which is why I deleted it, to spare you. I've asked a few barristers why they got into it. Most said they thought they'd give it a crack. Why do we try anything? 

the danger of the court visits is you will see what you like and won't be able to see what really gets you down when your in the midst of it.   You will enjoy effective hearings but I hope you get to see cases which are not effective because the CPS has failed to meet its disclosure obligations and has nothing to say about that and the judge is so cross that he or she even bollocks you even though you have nothing to do with anything, where the prison service or G4 has failed to deliver the defendant to the right court on time for the trial, where the jury are so despairing of the impact on their lives that they stop turning up on time and the case has to be retried, where the court building has to be evacuated because it is discharging sewage into the main hall due to a broken pipe or the court itself has a large pool of stagnant water and a dead bird in it from a hole in the roof, where it is either far too hot or freezing cold such that the provisions of the Factories Act prohibit occupation, where a crack whore is berating the lady in the cafeteria and the violent extraction of her causes disruption of the hearings in all four courts, where you manage to get an acquittal of a scrote who deserves to be convicted but the CPS sent such a shit lawyer to manage the case that it is a doddle for you to unpick the matter at half time, and you turn up the next day and it's the same teenager who delights in yesterday's acquittal and asks you to work your magic one more time but he steals your phone.

well given I started in the arts and realised pretty quickly that I was the only one without a private income, I went to law for the security of a salary and once qualified moved to a sector that interested me. 

The problem now is that most barristers wouldn't get into their own sets. (If you want to terrify yourself, look at the juniors of say Atkins - Oxbridge (both sides), a few prizes, and bag of scholarships).

Go to a few trials, follow a few lawyers around (ask first...) and see what you think. TBH, you'd probably change the world more by joining an NGO

(Synthesis of talents - what talents? why? show an example? What do you think a barrister does? how does he do it? what kind of tea does he drink? what is the colour of the door of the middle temple boathouse? You'll need to be able to answer most of those).

I would use the fact the the arts are no stranger to precarious livings - if you were a middle manager for British Spaz plc and giving up a career that's paid you a steady salary from day until now, that would be a harder sell IMO. If you can show that you have done the self-employed consultant route, that would help (again, IMO)

Muttley - this sounds genuinely exciting but I understand it might start to wear you down by Wednesday. 

 

I would also emphasise that being great at talking to the cloisonne enamels curator at the V&A / the fixer for the orchestra / the choreographer for the musical is quite possibly not transferrable to being great at communicating iwth juries / the type of clients m'learned friend muttley describes above. Decades in the arts (depending on what exactly it is you do) is actually quite effective at insulating a person from reality.

Thanks, Escaped. 

Thanks to you too, Camenbert - planning to get as much of a sense as I can of all these things before setting fire to 10k for a GDL.  

I am the enamels curator at the V&A! Not really. And I agree that the arts can be a total bubble. 

oh my dear, we would talk if only that were the case! 

(also - what about charity law? are you involved in teh funding / fundraising side and would therefore have transferrable skillz from that?)

@Escaped. No, I'm not. More at the curation end with a quite ecclectic CV involving, amongst other things, film production and international cultural relations. 

Midlifecry

As a general rule for at least the first 7-8 years you will be doing low-level crime - nothing glamorous really about the work and definitely not the clients  - who will be generally 'low-life' recidivists of long-standing, mostly with drug or mental problems, who will have no interest in discussing narrative, empathy or society with you.

You most definitely won't be able to 'fix' them or their chaotic lives.

Their main concern will be can you give them a packet of fags, or a couple of quid for their bus fare home.

Even if moderately successful you will have to give up virtually every evening prepping  cases for the next day, and definitely at least 50% of every weekend.

When at Court you will spend literally hours and hours hanging around, waiting for various folks to turn up, knowing that you won't be paid for it. You will be far too knackered to enjoy your young children.

I genuinely would not wish it on anyone...

 

 

Thought about employment work?  A barrister mate does that - a few hours' a day doing direct access work for disgruntled employees (so there's your tick in the "resolving iniquities" box), maybe the odd bit of tribunal work if they can't avoid it.  Sounds dull as dishwater to me, but earns a very comfortable living for half the effort I have to put in.

Getting tenancy in the first place might still be a huge issue but the sort of work that he now does doesn't seem to require vast years of knowledge, experience or contacts.  His BD is largely playing the online SEO game.  It might not be your (or my) idea of what being a barrister is but it pays the bills and he gets to spend a lot of time with his kids and on the 'life' bit of work/life balance.

TBH you could probably do most of what he does through the solicitor route, but his regulator seems to be less of a hassle to deal with than ours.

I also ran a boutique hotel in Buenos Aires and played 'Gringo 3' in an episode of a Colombian telenovela in the early 2000s. Both these things are true.

Thanks Marshall and Delta. Marshall, you've hit on my main worry about the kids who I get to spend loads of time with now. And 8 years is a long time. 

'His BD is largely playing the online SEO game' ??

 

Criminal bar is a bad idea for the reasons set out in this thread. 

If you could get pupillage at any other sort of set I reckon you’d be fine.  Lifestyle at the non-criminal junior bar is no worse than any other profession.  However as you identify getting pupillage is a big if.  One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is your academics. These are important at the bar. At our set they are the first thing we look at, no matter if the applicant is 22 or 42.  Oxbridge and/or first class degrees are a huge help, no matter what anyone says. If you don’t have a high 2.1 at least I wouldn’t bother I am afraid.  

It’s a very conservative profession and you might find that you have to spell out the benefits of having had a previous career to people who came to the bar at 23 after jurisprudence and the bvl at Oxford and think that’s the way to do it.  It’s also quite a macho and money-driven profession, and male assessors may see a male career changer as a ‘failure’ (obviously not the case but the idea that money/status =success is prevalent at the bar).  I think there could be cultural barriers in the profession for a career changer in their 40s.

I think in your position you may need to be open to training contracts as well. You could do the GDL and apply for pupillage/inn scholarships at the same time. If you don’t get pupillage or a major inn scholarship do not do the BPTC.  Just don’t.  It’s very expensive and only valuable as a stepping stone to pupillage.  If you don’t get pupillage on your first run (or at least you don’t get final stage interviews, shortlisted etc) then I would take that as your answer. At 21 you might be able to do a masters and come back a year later a better candidate but at 42 really your CV is what it is and if you don’t get interest one year I wouldn’t place too much hope in the next year being different.

I think at that stage I would focus on training contracts instead and either do the LPC or get work in a legal advice clinic or as a paralegal while looking for a firm to give you a TC and pay for the GDL.

If I was in you and your wife’s position I think I would be looking at moving out of the SE for a better quality of life but staying in your current field.

 

midlifecry17 Feb 21 12:34

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Muttley - this sounds genuinely exciting but I understand it might start to wear you down by Wednesday. 

 

 

 

You see? I said you will only see what you like to see

Thanks Deadcelebrity,

I have high 2:1 in Modern Langs from Leeds + MA Distinction (not law), also from Leeds.

I had been wondering about the timeframe on finding out about pupillage vs. enrolling on BPTC and whether you find out in time to cut losses. 

I had been labouring under the naive illusion that coming to law later might be a USP but can see on this thread the consensus is that probably only holds if you have a decent set of transferable skills e.g. investment banking

 

 

If you really think this could be the thing for ;you and are currently in a slump, the only way you will avoid the rest of your life thinking "if only" is to give it a try.  If it does not work out you will know that and you may find yourself far far happier where you were (I did - for 15 years I told myself I should have been an academic.  Went back to uni with a view to living that dream, hated most things about it, realised all the things I liked about being a lawyer, and are now very content with my profession).

Also, plenty of barristers/students/etc have young children.  I imagine you will be in a far more stable financial position than them.  

   

- OP neglected to mention that - BOMBSHELL! -  I have two small children - 4 and 2 years of age. By the time I had gone through GDL, BPC, and if I were then lucky enough to secure pupillage, I would be 42, they would be 6 and 4 and therefore still very time-consuming and high maintenance. I imagine that those who found the original proposition toe-curling now have severe cramp tearing into their calf muscles. 

 

---I've changed career in a fundamental sense 3 times with a couple of twiddles on top of that. Including into and out of 'the arts' although that's a broad church term obviously. I'm early 40s with two kids who are one year older than yours. We also live in a house in SE London! No way would I tackle a major change right now. 

I v much take your Cadbury's chocolate point, but I think you need to be at least medium term and hard headed about any switches you make. 

I also have had a small windfall, when I was 20. I spent it fairly but not crazily carelessly. I would spend it very differently now. 

I know find myself - partly by dumb luck, partly by work, partly by semi planning in something that I find very stressful at times but very enjoyable. My heart is in it, and there is a difference between heart in it and not in it, for me at least. 

I am now in charge of a tiny and v wobbly organisation - hence my post earlier about getting to the top. My experience has been that being the one making the ultimate call on something is generally far more satisfying and often easier than being one of many in an ecosystem of many moving parts. It also occurred to me that it might help with the money side. We're Sainsbos not Ocado also, and we could easily afford Ocado. But you need to be able to afford Sainsbos right? Not be prowling the aisles in Aldi end of day. 

Basically I get your motivations and frustrations, you clearly have ability; stay in research phase for now. The criminal bar does not to me look like it ticks that many boxes for you, and that's even if you can get in and make a go of it, where the odds look pretty grim. I get your point about virtual hearings etc - v logical - but when I first brushed up (oo er) against the legal profession - and found this site - back in 2007 people were of course seeing all that as the near future then. The legal professions move at glacial speed in lots of ways and they're of course far from unique in that. 

To put it crudely - is now really the time to train as a black cab driver, ie a job which is under metamorphic pressure of what looks to be an unhelpful kind?

 

And finally...I am picking up a bit of change the world vibe. People sneer at this, but it's a core part of my current job satisfaction (I know this makes me sound like a tit but I've done enough time in jobs I hated to know and appreciate the difference). I fail to see how being a criminal barrister can do this beyond the undoubtedly important difference you could make to your clients. That in turn cuts both ways - my ex crim barrister mate would take professional pride in how she'd got people off she was pretty sure were guilty - and will never rise to the macro. What about third sector work relating to the arts? You could then bridge into third sector more broadly. 

 

Finally finally (I lied) - what actually motivates and rewards you? Start with that, then think about particular sectors/jobs etc

If you want to do public or media work, that definitely makes more sense . Pupillage awards are 55-65k, most of which is tax free. However, do take a look at he CV's of the ten most junior tenants at these sets do establish on paper if you are likely to meet their academic criteria, which is the first hurdle for a pupillage and even for a mini-pupillage. You say nothing of your Uni degree(s) classifications, etc?

Midlife - go to the link below, and then click on the link within that doc (under para 23)  to the North East Women's Circuit responses to the Extended Hours proposal from HMCTS last summer.

There are about 30 pages of 'Testimonials' from real-life young barristers that will explain the problems much better than anyone on here can

 

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/939441/Public_Sector_Equality_Duty_statement.pdf

OP, try and get a few unassesed mini pupillages with your background in a media /defamation/sports set, and put yourself in the shop window. Meanwhile do the GDL, and get a Distinction, and with that in hand , your CV will be so much stronger for the purposes of obtaining assesed mini pupillages , and applying for pupillages proper so to speak.

 

Dead celebrity hits the nail on the head perfectly .

Yeah unfortunately I think skills from another career are only an advantage if they give you industry knowledge that would be directly helpful in a particular area of law. I did pupillage in my late 20s after doing a different, very respectable, job. I felt that I had to justify my being an older candidate (and I did feel old even at that age) rather than this experience being an advantage in applications.

At my set we would be very unlikely to interview someone with a 2.1 from Leeds. I am aware this is ridiculous, but we get so many applications that the 30-40 we interview in practice all have firsts from Oxbridge and the top end of the Russell Group.  However, this is a snooty commercial set so not everywhere will be quite so extreme.

Most pupillages are given out a year in advance so you don’t need to start the BPTC until you have pupillage. Most good candidates have pupillage before doing the BPTC.  You may have to apply for BPTC before you know the answer on pupillage but you obviously don’t need to pay your money for the course until it starts, so you can just not take up the place.

Have you applied for mini pupillages? You should do 3 to 5 of these before the GDL.  Also apply for high court marshalling. You should also apply for an inn scholarship for the GDL. How you do on that may also give an indication of whether you are a viable candidate.

If you can get in to a media or public set , your finances will be taken care of, not least of all the better sets offer no/reduced rent for the first year or two, in addition to interest free loans of 50k plus loans for 12 months, advanced monthly and set off against any receipts in your first year.

There is no way you can make this pay with a wife and two kids living in London. None. Lets be bold and say you grossed 40k in your first year, just how much of that do you think you will receive in cash?