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Tuesday, 27 November 2007


Lord Neuberger has published his report and you can find it here.

Lots of proposals about the BVC and imposing a particular standard on all BVC providers. A suggestion that pupillage selection should be made by test rather than interview. Lots of support for getting out to schools (and I would support making all Chambers publish the steps they have taken to become involved in the community). An acknowledgment that if we want the brightest and the best (not always the same thing) to come to the Bar then we have to spread the net wider.

Neuberger also makes the point that the grading standards on the BVC (or at least some of them) offer little help to Chambers or the graduate. So, a hat tip to my anonymous correspondent who made the same point a while ago. Let no one say that this blog does not have its finger on the pulse of the profession.

Feel free to comment. In the meantime, what do we think (pace Anya in a comment below) of a pupil being told that they 'lack refinement'? Am I the only person cringing?


Troubled barrister said...

The only good thing I have to say about that comment is at least Anya was told it directly to her face. Since this person said it to Anya directly it unfortunately means this person doesn't realise what a prat he sounds like. I dearly hope this isnt a Pupil Supervisor.

What does the person exactly mean? It is as abstract as saying X won’t fit into Chambers. If the knives are out for a pupil people will use such baseless terminology.

I have personal experience of this. In my first Chambers someone showed me my pupillage report (he shouldn’t of done and I shouldn’t have looked but I couldn’t resist looking in Pandora's Box). I still have it:

TB has received much praise from solicitors and clerks for my work in my second six, TB also received a lot of praise for the standard of paperwork that he has done for other member of Chambers. TB is undoubtedly the better lawyer than the other pupil. However, there have been comments about TB's tardiness and not looking smart enough. There also is a fear that TB wouldn’t fit into Chambers and it is for that reason why the recommendation is TB should not be offered tenancy.

Needless to say when I was shown it I was deeply hurt; a years worht of hard work was explored in only 200 words. I upset the person who wrote this report on me (for the most trivial if reasons) and ever since she tried in any which way to scupper my chances of tenancy. Three years later this person turned around and said to me "I am so glad I voted for you being a tenant." A person on the pupillage committee (who is now a very good friend of mine) said to me if I had played the game properly I should have been a “shoe in”. He also told me if I interacted with other members of Chambers in the same way I did when a tenant I would have not have had a problem getting tenancy.

The Anya comments I find vulgar. It is symptomatic of in my experience how too many Barristers judge pupils on how well they get on with other members of Chambers ("brown nose") and not how good a Barrister they might become. A comment that once got back to about a pupil was this person was brilliant “at playing the game.”

There is more than one style in being able to interact well with your clients. Establishing a rapport with you client is so important and I certainly don’t think you will establish this if you remain aloof; the aloof style is the one style not to have.

Phew my rant over.

Simon Myerson said...


Entirely agree. I think that this issue is about the need of some barristers to feel comfortable socially. Either they are simply incapable of surviving in the unsheltered world which lies outside the doors of their school, college and Inn, or - having aspired and perspired to achieve a particular 'position' - they cannot cope with seeing all their effort negatived by someone who achieves the same 'position' without equivalent aspiration and perspiration.

However good such people are (and the odds are that it's not that good) I believe the profession is better off without them. Even if they are a genuine star they put off good entrants to the profession - so produce an ultimate losing position for us all.

Moreover, it is simply a horrible thing to say. I completely agree with you that what marks such comments out is their abstraction - it is impossible to remedy anything based on such a comment and the comment is not meant to afford a chance of a remedy. So the person who said it is a shit. If by any chance they are reading this they should go and apologise.

Anonymous said...

Please excuse the possible rudeness of my question, but i need to know if i am going to commit myself to a considerable amount of debt whether the pecuniary interests at the end of it will be worth it. I want, more than anything, to become a barrister but with all the research i have done i am yet to find any information on what one is paid.
I am of course aware of the autonomous you get paid when you work and not when you don't nature of the profession.

Just how much will i make as a Barrister in and around Leeds (where i would like to live)?

Anya said...

I am truly cheered that there are at least two barristers out there who don't think the person who said that to me was right to do so. Certainly I have never in my life been pulled up on my behaviour/communication skills and had previously prided myself on my ability to relate to others. I have now been made to feel like a liability in social situations and am afraid to interact with other members of chambers in case they too see that I am "unrefined". To be frank I did find the person who said this to me, who is a Very Important Person in relation to my tenancy decision, rather pompous when I first met him...but he can be, he has tenancy. I have had a different upbringing to those in chambers and although it is "their problem" if they can't relate to that, realistically it is MY problem. I DO want tenancy at this chambers because I don't feel that it is the only chambers like this, I did a mini here and thought it was a nicer chambers than others, so who knows what lies behind the doors of other chambers? Indeed, a good friend of mine has been subject to blatant racist insults by her pupil master elsewhere...like me, she is loathe to do anything to imperil her tenancy prospects by causing a fuss. Chambers hold all the cards -that is the reality and we have no choice but to accept it in our own interests. Thank you both so much for your support, it is very much appreciated.

Simon Myerson said...


I am sure you are best placed to decide whether Chambers is nice or not, but I would have thought that if you are right on this, there would be someone exercising authority (real or via their personality) to whom you could complain about this.

As for your friend - if she would like to contact me direct (i.e. not via the site) I shall do my level best to ensure that whoever insulted her has no say in her tenancy decision and is treated appropriately by the BSB. Racism is unacceptable. Period. When my Dad went to the Bar in 1953 there was only one set in Leeds who would take a Jew. The lesson of those times - for me - is that sucking up to the antisemites doesn't work and insisting on equal treatment does.

That needs the victims to come forward. At least if your frined contacts me she will have told someone and I won't do anything without her ok. Please ask her.

Troubled barrister said...

Anon it is hard to give you a proper answer to this question since remuneration will largely depend on both the area of law you wish to specialise in and what Chambers you join (see SM's post on what type of law should I do).

All I can say is I am in a junior tenant in a civil common law set of Chambers and find my solicitor friends working in magic circle firms earn considerably less than I do. I wouldnt have thought there would be many half decent sets where a tenant fresh out of pupillage isnt earning at least 40k per year.

Anya dont be too worried about interacting with tenants during pupillage. In pupillage I became utterly paranoid that everything I said to tenants might damage my prospects of tenancy; after becoming a tenant I learnt the truth is what you perceive you said as being significant a pupil is very seldom in reality significant. I became too introverted as a result and it damaged my prospects of tenancy.

This "very important person" sounds like an absolute idiot. You might find in reality he isnt as important as you think he is or he thinks he is. The lady who tried to scupper my chances of tenancy thought she was very important and at the time of my pupillage I thought she was important, subsequently I learned many of the more influential members of chambers disregarded everything she said about me as being baseless.

Easier said than done I know, but dont let morons get to you. What is refined or unrefined? If the Bar is to survive it is vital we arent seen as some kind of elitist old boys club. You may well come to the conclusion this is not the right set for you and with this behaviour it might be an idea to start looking around for other sets to do your second six. You may come to another conclusion that you should try to get tenancy at this set and try to move as quickly as possible after. Unfortunately, you are right he is in the position of power over you and is clearly abusing that position (this makes it all the worse). The fact he is a tenant does not excuse his actions in any way and it is his problem and not your problem. You will be amazed how this persons attitude to you will likely change if you get tenancy.

A pupil master being racist is clearly an even bigger idiot, I can sympathise with your friend for not wanting to rock the boat. I wont lie and pretend if she complains about it will certainly have no effect on her tenancy prospects, it may do but it may not. Does your friend though want to be in a set which has that type of person as a pupil master? Such things cant be allowed to go unchallenged.

Try not to forget what life was like as a pupil once you are a tenant.

Anya said...

I must admit I do feel a little resentful and fear that IF I were to be awarded tenancy I might carry that resentment with me even as a tenant...but if I were to be awarded tenancy and then sought it somewhere else instead that would be both an enormous and perhaps stupid risk and I worry that I might be blacklisted not just by my set but by others too...As for the racism, the situation is complicated by the fact that the master involved has a son-in-law of the same race as my friend and by all accounts gets on extremely well with him, such that she might not be taken seriously if she complained but she feels uncomfortable at the way in which her master seems to consider all of her actions, positive and negative, as referable to her race. She has struggled long and hard to get a pupillage and certainly doesn't want to rock the boat, though in the event of her not getting tenancy you never know...

As for not forgetting what life was like as a pupil - I will NEVER forget, though I think my propensity to empathise with people is part of what my master sees as my problem - no doubt associating with the pupils too closely next year would be viewed as inappropriate behaviour on my part...

Troubled barrister said...

About applying elsewhere - all I can say is I was unhappy and rather than moaning applied elsewhere, it was undoubtably the best decision I have ever made (much better than bitching to other members of chambers about being unhappy). I think you are just plain wrong in thinking you will be black listed/shunned, I still have many good friends in my old set. The old days have gone where barristers were expected to be in one set for the rest of their life.