Junior commercial-chancery barrister Timothy Sherwin tells us about day-to-day life at the Bar, and provides some tips for want-to-be barristers.
What I do
I am a “commercial-chancery barrister”. What that means is that I provide advisory and advocacy services to a huge range of businesses and private clients. All my work is connected to litigation, so my focus is on disputes between two or more parties.
My day-to-day job involves two key aspects: reading and drafting documents; and appearing in court.
The bulk of my time is spent writing different legal documents. For all of these documents, I have to read and understand very large amounts of information. The great attractions of this work are the variety and the intellectual challenge. Each case is different from the last one, containing its own background and fact-pattern; and each case contains knotty issues to unravel, and to explain clearly and concisely to my clients. It’s hard, but rewarding.
I also spend time in court trying to persuade judges. When I am in front of a judge my job is simple: I have to put my client’s case forward as simply and attractively as I can. This means that I have to be fully prepared. There is no feeling like winning in court, so I am always motivated to put in a lot of work.
Tips for aspiring barristers
1. Don’t panic
There are lots of people applying to the Bar, and the numbers look daunting. Don’t panic, though. Interviewers are looking for highly-motivated candidates with the right skills. If you think that’s you, apply!
2. Be realistic
That said, you have to be realistic. If you aren’t sure whether you have what it takes, get some impartial advice from a tutor or careers consultant. Being able to take objective criticism is important across the professions, and it can help you to identify and work on areas for improvement.
3. Do your research
There are lots of different areas of law and sets of chambers. Check them out online and use the legal directories to get some information on their specialisms. Then apply for mini-pupillages. These are short periods of work-experience in chambers, which will be advertised on chambers’ websites. They’re great both for teaching you about an area of the legal world, and for showing your commitment to the Bar to a future interviewer.
4. Check and double-check
When you’re applying for pupillage (the year-long training period), make sure your applications are flawless. Re-read them, get your friends, family and careers consultants to read them, and then double-check. Being a barrister is about accuracy, so you should make sure there are no mistakes. Barristers also spend their time persuading people, so your application should be persuasive. Think: is everything I’ve written making a good point and supported by evidence? If not, start again, and consider how best to persuade your reader that you’re the ideal candidate.
The LSE Careers website has more information, resources and events on the legal sector.
Don’t miss Careers at the Bar 2016, taking place on Tuesday 26 January at 6pm. The event is your chance to meet top London chambers and learn first hand what a career at the Bar is like and what organisations are looking for in their recruitment.