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A question that changed my life: ‘Are you practising as a barrister yet?’

Rewind to 2012, I had just been selected to be the sixth form's barrister for a national competition. I won all of the cases that I took part in, and after that moment, I did not want to do anything else. I wanted to be a barrister.

However, like so many, I was led to believe that a career at the bar was impossible unless I studied at Oxford or Cambridge University. So, what did I do? I worked really hard to get the grades I needed to apply to Oxford University. When I was later invited for an interview at Oxford University, I began to think that this was just another step on the journey. I really took in and enjoyed the days that I spent there for the interviews and I was hopeful that I would receive an offer. Just over a month later, I received ‘that letter’…

‘We regret to inform you that you have been unsuccessful in obtaining a place...’

I was crushed, and I instantly cried. I cried because that meant the end of my dream. If I didn’t go to Oxbridge, I couldn’t be a barrister, could I?

On this basis, I went to University but never pursued a career at the bar. I did not join the bar society or the law society, and I did not apply for a single legal internship or mini-pupillage. Instead, I focused predominantly on building my different business ideas. But the dream never died, and, in the summer of 2017, my old sixth-form law teacher reminded me of that dream. He sent me an email simply asking, 'are you practising as a barrister yet?'

'As much as I would love to say yes, I don’t think that option is available to me,' I responded, before going on to explain my reasons.

He then encouraged me to apply for the Government Legal Department pupillage programme and advised me that although my experience is non-legal, my various experiences might still be valued. On this basis, I trusted my old teacher and put my first application in for pupillage -- the final stage of practical training required to become a barrister in the UK. I progressed through the various stages, and I was surprised at the end of the process to be offered a pupillage with the Government Legal Department to commence in September 2019. I was shocked. I was surprised because my story didn’t look like all of the barristers that I was told of. I didn’t have Oxford, Cambridge, any mini-pupillages or an Inns scholarship on my CV.

While I had spent some years on a detour pursuing other ventures, the unique experiences I sought in that time actually better prepared me for a career at the Bar. To any aspiring barristers that might be reading this, your story does not have to look identical to all of the barristers that have come before you.

Why do your experiences suggest that you would be a great barrister? That is the question you should seek to answer, rather than merely trying to recreate someone else’s experiences. Remember that your unique selling point is your strongest selling point


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