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Feel free to get in touch. I don't promise to respond, but I will try.
The email address is simon dot myerson at netserv dot net (symbols eliminated to protect against spam - you need to insert them appropriately).
We should celebrate the independent Bar. The consultancy element of the profession means that Barristers are objective and impartial and the Bar gives any solicitor access to expertise.
However, this blog is for aspirants and if it persuades people to think about reality before they part with their cash then I will feel I have achieved something. This is the reality:
1. It costs about £15,000 to do the BPTC. There are about 3,000 people competing for about 400 pupillages. In my best estimate, half of those people have no chance and are deluding themselves. That makes everyone else’s chance about 1 in 4. That means that 3 out of every 4 decent candidates will not get a pupillage and will have spent their money for nothing.
That is a reason to think about your career. You are subject to the inexorable laws of supply and demand. It isn’t as if there are huge swathes of legal work being left undone because of a lack of person power. On the contrary, plenty of barristers (and solicitors too) are not working at full capacity. I hope all of you get a place in Chambers and I am always happy when I get an email to say you have. But even those who are well qualified to fulfil their dream of becoming a barrister and who would make a success of it are unlikely to make it.
I am genuinely sorry about that and I think the balance is excessively in favour of the providers, who are commercial enterprises. But you should know what the realities are before you embark on the BPTC. You can do that – all of you. It enables you to make a sensible decision. If you decide to go for it and fail then it may be your own fault (if you overestimate your own abilities and prospects) or no one’s fault (because 3 out of 4 will fail, excluding the no-hopers). But that is your choice and sometimes you just have to swallow hard and move on.
2. Current policy means that within 5 years, barristers doing government-funded work full-time will be earning about 33% as much as those succeeding in privately paying work. The obvious risk is that criminal and family work will no longer attract the best of the profession. This should be a concern, given that it is precisely those areas which have most impact on the general public.What is being risked is innocent people being locked up, guilty ones walking away and unjust solutions to the family crisis that bedevils this country.
3. No political party will make this an issue, whether we are in recession or not. It is easier for them to go on about lawyers' earnings, for which 80 hour weeks are the price. In exchange the State gets dedicated work and a sense of vocation for about 1 millionth of the cost of a missile system which doesn't work. That is a choice I make: but the suggestion that I do it by picking the taxpayer's pocket whilst sipping wine on a sun-lounger is wilfully malign.
4. Our concerns are dismissed as special pleading, and, worse, successive governments and Home Secretaries have attacked judicial decisions on the basis that they aren't favourable enough. This disregard of the rule of law imperils us all, but it does not prevent the most cynical exploitation of the legal profession(s). So you should not expect to be popular or a massively well-paid as some of you may think, even if you make it.
On the other hand: it's a wonderful, enjoyable, fulfilling and companiable job. I understand why people want to do it: I want to do it. So good luck and don't whinge - whether you succeed and then find the grass is a sort of sickly yellow rather than green, or whether you end up doing something else.
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