OLPAS · Routes to the Bar

Filling In the Form


"We ned to do something about excessive admin...I want you to fill out one of these forms every time you think you're doing some."

Inspired by @MTStudents‘ event last night, for the first time in ages I want to write about pupillage and how to get it.

For those who missed it, the ‘speed dating’ event allowed you up to 8 visits to barristers, each lasting 10 minutes. Each visit allowed you to ask anything you wanted. That has the distinct advantage that no one barrister need unduly influence any one applicant – a real help to those of us who occasionally wonder if we are pushing our prejudices too hard.

Most of my guinea pigs (you know who you are and thank you) wanted help filling in the Pupillage Gateway form, particularly the dreaded Section 8. This allows you:

  1. 150 words to say why you want to be a barrister.
  2. 200 words about areas of practice
  3. 200 words about your choice of chambers
  4. 200 words about why you will make a good barrister (not a morals question)
  5. 200 words about experiences and skills

We can argue about the questions (and don’t get me started), but there they are. Proprietary forms don’t seem that much better.

I acknowledge that each Chambers should by now be publishing a competency framework to help you fill in the application. If Barristers are allowed that when they apply to sit, then why aren’t we offering it to pupils? Essex Court comes near, although the website lacks the ways you can demonstrate what they want. Brick Court better still. But most Chambers are still confining themselves to vague statements of what they expect. Amazingly, this includes things like “intellectual ability”, “commitment to the Bar”, and “passion for justice”.

No shit Sherlock.

Anyhoo, there is some general advice I can offer.

First, you are trying to show 3 things. One: I know what your job is, because I’ve done the research. Two: I can do your job and these are the ways I have shown the necessary qualities already. Three: I am a nice person and happy to take one for the team.

That requires a level of abstraction. You need to ask what – for example – commercial law requires. Walk yourself through what barristers do in a commercial case (if you don’t know then do a mini). Then, don’t think about drafting pleadings – you can’t do that. Think about what qualities are necessary to draft pleadings.  Intellect is fairly obvious. Tenacity. Attention to detail. And so forth. Then you can ask yourself where, in your life to date, you have demonstrated those qualities. In doing so you will have thought logically about what the job is and what you can offer to demonstrate that you can do it.

Secondly, it may help to divide your thoughts into 2 columns – “driver” and “result”. That allows you to distinguish between why you want to do something and what that drive results in. Given that you are being asked at least 2 such questions (1 and 3 above), it is important to know what your motivation is.

Thirdly, be your own most rigorous editor. That really shows – it means you don’t repeat yourself, it means you express yourself concisely and it means you don’t repeat yourself.

Fourthly, take the time required. I have just completed a selection exercise that required me to write 2000 odd words in total. It took me over 7 hours.

Fifthly, make sure your CV tells the reader what they need to know about you. Ask yourself what questions will be asked. If you are a late entrant, what did you do in the meantime? I would, personally, compile my CV to answer those questions in the order in which they are likely to arise for you. I would not, personally, worry about formatting or font.

Sixthly, don’t be crass. This should be caught in the editing but if you have talked about ‘ordinary people’ you’re dropping a clanger (and I add that my guinea pig had already spotted that for themselves – well done). You have to be able to criticise yourself. Equally, don’t say that the BPTC has shown you that advocacy is your strength. It hasn’t. Because the BPTC course is not fit for purpose and no one believes you learn anything of use from it (providers please feel free to comment).

Finally, proofread and proofread again.

I still think question 4 is odd, but it essentially means that you can answer question 1 in 550 words and divide the result. However, for question 1 please do not say, “because I’m good at arguing”, or “because I have a passion for justice”. Such unevidenced statements are  no help to you or anyone else, and being good at arguing isn’t a help anyway. I have, previously, answered this question in a post. I provided the 150 word answer in a comment. But that was in 2008 – a lifetime for most of the readers I am now aiming at – so it is reproduced below:

Even though the lack of security is risky, I like working for myself, being at the sharp end and being judged on how well I do paperwork and advocacy, rather than politics. That gives me control over my maximally flexible and varied life, which is always interesting. I enjoy the camaraderie of my colleagues and the strategic and tactical challenge of coming up against them. When I represent those who need it, rather than judging them when that isn’t my job, I feel that what I do is genuinely of use to society. Despite rumours to the contrary, I can’t do this in any other profession and, what’s more, there is the possibility of a career change at 50.
I don’t do it for the money, the moral glamour or so that I am perceived as important.

Good luck.

PS: Anyone spot the deliberate mistake? Proofread – remember.

Life at the Bar · Routes to the Bar · The Future

Responding to the Consultation


It has been a busy few days…

Herewith my response to the BSB Consultation. I hope it helps to clarify your own views. If you would like to borrow any of it, please feel free.

Name:                        Simon Myerson QC

Contact details:          simon.myerson@me.com

I am not responding on behalf of an organisation.

I am content for my position to be made public. Indeed, I am publishing it.

I have answered the questions below.

 

Introduction

  1. I am submitting this response in my own name, rather than via my Chambers or Circuit. I am doing so because I am one of the few barristers left who maintains a fully mixed civil and criminal practice (virtually 50:50) in Silk. I hope, therefore, that my experience may be of some assistance.
  1. I have also served on the BSB’s sub-committees for many years and I understand, I think, the way it works. I know the people involved and I trust them to do a proper job regulating our profession. I do not subscribe to conspiracy theories and I do not regard the BSB as a Regulator owned by the Bar, although I believe it regards itself as one sensitive to professional concerns, and that it should so regard itself.
  1. I regard the timing of this consultation as unfortunate. In my view it would have been both straightforward and wise for the BSB to explain the timing. It appears to be a reaction to the recent ‘industrial’ action. That, of course, does not provide any basis whatever for dismissing the proposals – it is axiomatic that new problems arise from new situations. However, the action was taken by the Bar as a result of a quite unprecedented attack on justice, on fees and on the Government’s relationship with the Bar, which had previously been marked by at least some willingness to listen on the part of the former. That much was, surely, apparent to the BSB. As such, out of simple self-interest a little more explanation was warranted.

Current Position and need for change

  1. Currently, the return of instructions involves a balancing of the following factors: client confidence in the barrister; the duty to the Court not to advance a case the barrister knows to be false; the interests of justice as expressed by the Court; payment. However, the latter is normally treated as a termination of the retainer, rather than as a return. Hence, another barrister will be briefed afresh, rather than picking up an existing case.
  1. In the context of publicly funded work a return is not treated as a termination of a retainer. My experience during the recent action included advising members of my circuit who had been compelled to return work when a conflict arose. It was clear that, in those circumstances, the LAB would not pay a further brief fee and that, in consequence, there could not be a new “instructed advocate”. Had it been the position that there was a new instructed advocate, I would not have regarded the work as a return. Rather it would have been a new set of instructions, to a new instructed advocate.
  1. The current guidance therefore permits counsel to treat their instructions as terminated by a unilateral variation in payment terms. That is also consistent with the normal contractual position.
  1. Paragraph 8 of the consultation assumes the existence of a presumption that the guidance is based on decisions as to fees being made by the client. I am not convinced that such a presumption exists. Nowadays, civil work can be funded by third parties and some of my cases are so funded. I have always taken the view that unilateral changes to funding arrangements would terminate my retainer at my option and I have said so to the clients and solicitors involved. It is not my job to ensure that the actual client is properly covered for fees by those who fund him – it is my job to deal with his case. The client is responsible for ensuring that payment can be made. That is so both in cases where the third-party funder takes a cut of any damages, and in cases where they do not (for example, CFAs without ATE Insurance).
  1. Any civil case involving a third-party funder is, in these times when the government no longer regards it as a duty to ensure access to justice via state aid, likely to be with a commercial organisation. It would normally, although not always, involve a no-win no-fee type arrangement. In every such case the barrister now has the right to propose terms of engagement. Solicitors have recently asserted that they will not agree various versions of standard terms, particularly as regards personal injury work. That has led to negotiation with different barristers and different sets of Chambers taking different views about different solicitors. If agreement cannot be reached then the barrister does not accept instructions from that firm/funder.
  1. The difference insofar as legal aid is concerned is that the funder holds a monopoly position. Save, perhaps, for a fortunate few, doing criminal defence work means doing publicly funded work. That has a double impact: it means that clients have no influence over fees and it means that there is no work save at the rates the government are prepared to pay.
  1. The purpose of the above analysis, which differs relatively little from the BSB’s save for questions of emphasis, is to reframe the balancing exercise referred to in paragraph 10 of the consultation. I believe that the balance in the consultation is inaccurately identified. The decision made by the third-party funder will not simply address the single case, which is the basis of the exercise in the consultation. It will address all similar cases, at least. That means that every client represented by the barrister at the time the decision is made will be affected.
  1. Because a huge number of those practising at the criminal bar now live on a financial edge, this multiple effect is an important consideration, to which I cannot find reference in the consultation. It is far from an exaggeration to say that the effect of requiring barristers to carry on regardless may be to remove that barrister’s services for every other client. But even that doomsday scenario is not the main point. All the published research suggests that a demoralised, disregarded workforce performs sub-optimally. Barristers at the publicly funded bar do not feel valued. Their Instructing Solicitors – defence or prosecution – are under severe pressures. Mistakes, misjudgments and even legitimate differences of opinion are not quietly resolved, Rather they become flashpoints as the time and money required to resolve them is unavailable. In those circumstances, unilateral changes in remuneration – always downwards – add disproportionately to the pressures and disproportionately impede performance.
  1. It seems to me therefore that the analysis in the consultation is incomplete. To the ‘considerations’ that the consultation addresses I would add:
    1. The effect on the barrister as an individual;
    2. The effect on other clients to whom the barrister, at that time, owes similar obligations.
  1. I also believe the analysis is insufficiently rigorous. It correctly identifies the fact that, in a publicly funded case, the client has no responsibility for the unilateral alteration of terms. However it fails thereafter to address the issues of how that situation is dealt with in private civil work. That means that a contractual solution is simply not contemplated. Moreover, in my opinion, the consultation does not sufficiently acknowledge or deal with the monopoly position of the government.
  1. Both these matters are important. In a non-monopoly situation, the obvious answer would be that an alteration to the terms of the contract would have to be agreed with the client, or at least be one which was directly explained fully to the client by the funder and which could be challenged at the instance of the client. Equally, in a non-monopoly situation, a client who wanted to retain the services of the barrister and solicitor could seek another funder, perhaps with a stay from the Court whilst this was done.
  1. In the consultation, neither step is contemplated. I believe that to be wrong: in a civil case there would normally be no question of the funder for one side owing a duty to the other side. In publicly funded criminal work (and perhaps in family work as well, about which I lack sufficient expertise to speak) the government does owe a duty to the victim to ensure that the trial is quickly and fairly heard.
  1. Accordingly, the effect of the analysis within the consultation is the unstated one of making the barrister responsible for the bad faith of the funder. I use the word bad faith advisedly and base it upon the recent consultations run by theMoJ. It seems to me that bad faith is evidenced by the following, and that consideration of all those matters together makes bad faith the only conclusion that can properly be drawn about the reasoning behind the consultation:
    1. The stated aim of the consultation was to meet Treasury targets for the coming year. The deal just done makes no alteration to fees in most cases and halves the cuts to solicitors’ fees. Therefore, either the stated aim of the consultation was false, or the figures on which it was based are unreliable.
    2. The MoJ has not indicated which alternative is correct. Indeed, although it is the funder owing the obligation to the client, it has not said anything.
    3. The Bar Council’s own analysis suggests the figures were wrong. That is based on statistical evidence by Prof Chalkley, made available to the Ministry. The Ministry, of course, could always have obtained its own statistical evidence.
    4. Therefore, either the Ministry has ignored the statistics or it has internally acknowledged them to be accurate but failed to say so. That latter alternative is, patently, the very epitome of bad faith.
    5. The impact assessments prepared by the MoJ have been rigorously scrutinised and criticised by the Bar. That criticism is, in my view, compelling. Tellingly, the MoJ has simply not dealt with the criticism. Instead, it has ignored it.
    6. One is left, therefore, with the unpleasant but seemingly accurate view that the MoJ is doing this because it lacks the facility to acknowledge that its initial plans were unnecessary. That, in turn, suggests that the plans had no rational basis but were persisted with in any event. When one factors in the absolute refusal to engage with the substantive arguments in any meaningful way, one is left with an explanation of bad faith, and nothing else.
  1. Accordingly, the proposal in the consultation is that the Bar takes responsibility for the bad-faith acts of a monopoly funder about which it can do nothing. I do not accept that using the Handbook to impose that responsibility is necessarily lawful. But, on the assumption that it is (again, I leave that issue to others), it is a bad idea. It is not the function of professional rules to make individually employed citizens responsible for the acts of government. The Bar cannot make the government act in good faith. Consequently, it will always be at risk of having to bear the financial burden of others simply at the whim of government. That cannot be right. In my view, if that result is what the BSB wants (and I profoundly hope it is not) then it ought to seek legislation to enact it.
  1. Moreover, by failing to recognise the real effect of the proposals, the consultation inaccurately states the balancing exercise to be performed. Viewed in the light of the government’s behaviour, the proposals require the Bar – at its own expense – to cover up the real consequences of governmental bad faith. Given the barrister’s obligation to promote the interests of the rule of law, access to justice, and the administration of justice, I would have expected that all matters pertinent to those obligations would have been considered. That seems not to have been the case.
  1. Finally, the proposals fail to consider the role of other organisations and bodies with equivalent obligations to promote the interests of the rule of law, access to justice, and the administration of justice, particularly the Courts. It is, I think, a mistake not to do so. For example, it may be possible to reach an agreement with a client that, in the event of a unilateral change of terms, the barrister would forthwith seek a stay of the case from the Court. The Court’s decision, if a refusal would lead to an absence of representation, might be affected by that agreement.

Proposed Amendments

  1. I accept that the issue is one of weighing competing factors. As I have said, it seems to me that the various competing factors referred to in paragraph 13 of the consultation have not been fully or accurately identified or weighed.
  1. I do not believe that any change is required. However, on the basis that additional clarity is necessary, it seems to me that the various factors should be properly set out and should include:
    1. Whether, in view of the profession as represented by the Bar Council, the changes to remuneration are justified by the express purposes of the alterations.
    2. Whether those expressed purposes can be met, from the same departmental/organisational budget, but in another way.
    3. The effect on other clients of the barrister, taking into account the barrister’s own circumstances.
    4. The effect of any terms agreed between barrister and client about what would happen if such alterations were made.
  1. I have not attempted to draft the relevant guidance, because I know my limitations. However, I do want to address paragraphs .6 and .7 of the proposed new guidance.
  1. .6 imposes an obligation which I do not think a barrister has, or ought to have, namely to consider prejudice caused to witnesses for the other side. In some ways, it is a barrister’s duty to cause prejudice to witnesses for the other side, albeit that we must do so properly. But there is no current obligation, for example, to consider the prejudice to prosecution witnesses when a defendant seeks an adjournment. That is a matter for the Court. It may very well be in the interest of the criminal client to seek a course which prejudices the other side’s witnesses and I do not presently see how obliging a barrister to consider that as a reason for doing or not doing anything is consonant with the central obligation to the client.
  1. Moreover, in the protocols agreed for the recent days of action the same position was addressed in what I believe was a better way. Barristers were obliged to consider issues of vulnerability on the basis that vulnerability was an issue that went to the Courts’ obligation to ensure justice. That had the advantage of leaving the responsibility where it properly lies – contrast to paragraph 16c of the consultation, which I believe to be wrong.
  1. If that protocol position were adopted in the context of this consultation, one could add to paragraph 21 above:
    • The vulnerability of any witness and the effect on the administration of justice of any course the barrister adopts.
  1. The difference between that and the protocol is that vulnerability is not an automatic reason to continue but a factor to take into account, amongst others.
  1. To an extent, .7 recognises the effect on the individual. It may be that this was always intended and that the consultation did not address it because it was intended to keep it as short as possible. However, it seems to me that including any means of redress the barrister has is more likely to cause confusion than clarity and comes close to the type of micro-regulation I understood the BSB to wish to avoid.
  1. What is prejudice? Is it monetary only? Does it include morale? Does effective redress mean a group judicial review, or individual negotiation with a manager? How is effective to be judged? Judicial review is famously not concerned with merits but with a decision being unjustifiable/unreasonable/unlawful. Does effective include a reference to the barrister’s own pocket/state of mind/health? What is redress? Is it monetary compensation? If so does it include the prospect of irreversible financial damage before the redress is given (something the big banks are currently resisting with all their might in the interest swap cases and therefore something which, it can be reasonably predicted, the government would also resist)?
  1. All these questions are unanswered and I would not expect the BSB to answer them, or to be able to answer them. Rather, it seems to me to show the futility of attempting to micro-regulate these matters. I believe that paragraph 21 above deals more effectively with these issues.

A Further Point

  1. Many at the Bar take the view that this consultation is aimed at VHCC cases. This analysis may be wrong because if a barrister were now to accept a previously declined VHCC case, or a VHCC case which would have been declined had it been offered in the last few months but can now be taken, it seems to me unclear whether the approach to any change to remuneration would be determined by the rules in force at the time the case is accepted, or those in force when the change to terms is proposed. I would welcome an assurance that these proposed changes are not to be made retrospective, and will only apply to cases accepted after the changes come into force.
  1. Whether current fears are right or not, they illustrate an important point about the reality in which the BSB must operate. That is that barristers doing publicly funded work do not trust the government.
  1. That being so, and without debating the merits or otherwise of that view, which has no place here, it seems to me that this guidance might ultimately be affected by the law of unintended consequences. The unintended consequence is that barristers will not accept publicly funded work if there is any issue about a unilateral change to fees. Such changes are, of course, customarily announced after public spending rounds. That would have the unhappy consequence that citizens charged with criminal offences at certain times of year would find it difficult to obtain representation.
  1. Moreover, should the current mistrust progress, it may be that barristers would rather delay the acceptance of new instructions than take a risk. That would produce the unintended effect that a refusal to take work would be triggered not by an announcement of a change in fees, but by the fear that such an announcement might be made in the foreseeable future. Both of those scenarios would lead to clients being unrepresented when they may otherwise have had representation without bother.
  1. If the changes are going to apply to all cases held at the date upon which the changes come into force, I predict that the changes will act as another reason to refuse, especially, VHCC cases. That is because those cases are customarily very lengthy in terms of trial and lead up to trial, and are therefore more vulnerable to fee changes. Any barrister defending a VHCC case originating in 2009 (and there will be many) will have already seen 2 or 3 such changes. Moreover, such cases represent a large investment of time for a barrister and they may well decide to focus on smaller cases, which may not pay as well now, but may pay better by the end of the process. Finally, the deal announced last Wednesday strongly suggests another change to VHCC rates, thereby increasing the risk.
  1. As most barristers feel that the current rates offered for VHCC work are unattractive, it seems to me a moot point as to whether the BSB wishes to introduce a further reason to refuse that work, which cannot be done by anyone save the highly skilled barristers who currently do it, as the recent refusal to do VHCCs has made clear. That is, of course, also a matter concerning the administration of justice and access to justice.

Conclusion

  1. I recognise that the BSB’s concerns are to ensure that the Handbook represents a professional way to behave in the light of changing circumstances. I entirely acquit the BSB of accusations of seeking to do the government’s work. I have read Baroness Deech’s speech in the House of Lords about the proposed cuts and I recognise the real passion and belief that informed what she said. It seems to me that, even were that only a personal view, it would be incompatible with her continuing chairmanship if the BSB were really a government agency
  1. However, in my view these proposals do not deal with all the issues surrounding unilateral changes to fees by a monopoly supplier, which acts in bad faith and is unaccountable in a private law action. Because of that, the balancing exercise proposed is so skewed as to lead to the wrong result in practice. Further, in principle I do not believe that such enormous changes to the obligations of individual citizens should be effected through the medium of their professional rules.
  1. It is a cliché that if something is not broken it should not be fixed. But it is true for all that. Recent events have shown that the Bar is both able and desirous of dealing with exceptional problems in exceptional circumstances by means of protocols, which are rigorously observed. The absence, as I understand it, of any professional complaint by a member of the Judiciary, supports that thesis. The BSB should only act if it can do so in the certain knowledge that action will improve matters and is necessary. In my view, neither criterion is satisfied here and the BSB should leave the current guidance as it is.
Life at the Bar · Routes to the Bar · The Future · Uncategorized

Opportunity Knocks. Opportunity Lost?


690PH7I7NN7C6_11PLHU9_PH_P_LSThe CBA has now published its survey. I regard it, sadly, as an opportunity lost and I want to suggest a way of answering it that may avoid meltdown. 

Before that, I do want it to be clear that my disagreement with the CBA is only about strategy. We all agree that doing nothing is not an alternative. There are, I think, 3 categories of criminal practitioner insofar as these proposals are concerned. There are those who truly cannot afford these cuts and will have to leave the profession. The profession will be infinitely worse off for their loss. Then there are those who can successfully move into other types of work and are doing so. Finally there are those who can actually absorb these cuts. Many very junior practitioners in the provinces are in that category. They will never make a better living than a head teacher (or even a senior teacher), but they have not yet committed themselves to mortgages, school fees, or a standard of living from which they cannot extricate themselves. However, it is clear that the MoJ simply cannot be trusted when they say that this is it. I don’t believe that this is it. If these cuts are not resisted, the MoJ will be back for more. They will persist in their salami tactics until we resist. And whilst I do not think that ramping up the temperature by hyperbole about not another penny is sensible – and nor is pretending that we will all have to quit if these cuts are implemented – it is nonetheless the case that this is a genuine tipping point for a very large number of people. 

So, we must resist now. The question is not whether, but how. 

That involves identifying what we think we can achieve. The CBA questionnaire gives no indication of the answer to that question. I have no idea why not. It ought to have done. It still ought to. Nor do I do know why the survey is so rushed. The Chairman’s message says time is of the essence, but doesn’t say why. That’s not good enough. Time isn’t of the essence. Our cuts do not come in until June at the earliest. Cuts for the solicitors have already come in. The solicitors are going to accept new work, but resist the cuts. There is nothing here that could not wait another month. That being so, the CBA ought to extend the time to reply and it ought to enter into proper debate about different options. 

It seems to me that what we can achieve is the disruption of the criminal justice system for long enough for it to become a political embarrassment. Nothing else will work because we actually have answers to the MoJ’s question about saving money, but the MoJ will not listen to Nigel Lithman, any more than they would listen to Michael Turner. That is not the fault of the CBA. That is – wholly and entirely – the fault of the MoJ. Face saving, if required, would have meant getting the answers from the Bar Council – which has also tried to give them. The MoJ is not interested in those answers. 

If we want to disrupt the system for long enough for political pressure to tell then we have to do it for a long time. Months, not weeks. The timing actually isn’t bad. An election is 14 months off. How many disrupted trials and custody time limit failures will be acceptable?

But 2 things are required for that pressure to build. First, we must be able to do it. A strike/refusal of work won’t work. No one believes it would last more than a couple of weeks. No one is advocating more than a couple of weeks. Once a strike breaks we can never be viewed credibly. We just don’t have the resources to do it for long enough. Secondly, a strike permits the government to bring in OCOF, on the basis that it has a duty to keep access to the courts available. That is politically acceptable and the public are not well enough informed to object. And, once OCOF is in, all the rhetoric about “I’ll never work for the reduced rates” will be correct, because none of us will have the opportunity. 

That is the second thing wrong with the CBA survey. Question 1 asks for agreement without identifying the risks in the policy. That is simply inadequate. Policies need to be justified and that doesn’t happen unless the question “what might happen if this doesn’t work?” is asked and answered. The third thing wrong with question 1 is that it provides no alternatives. Alternatives allow risk to be measured. There are obvious downsides with a work to rule – it needs us to be strong in front of difficult judges (although so does a day of action – which we all managed to handle perfectly well). It needs a proper identification of why we are picking a set number of hours for our working day. But, it also lessens the risk of OCOF because access to justice will be being delivered – simply more slowly to the detriment of the system overall.

At the moment we are given one choice and we are simply asked to tick it, or not. The problem, fairly obviously, is that unless the survey gives alternatives to the policy, disagreeing with it is essentially saying ‘let’s do nothing’ – the one thing that everyone agrees we should not say. That’s not ok – if the CBA is really only presenting one policy then it shouldn’t consult its membership. It should simply tell us this is how it’s going to be. For consultation to mean anything, there must be alternatives. I asked the CBA to put alternatives on the survey. I do not know why they haven’t. 

The final problem with question 1 is that it is unfair. We are asked 2 questions not 1. The first is do I agree with “not a penny more in cuts”? That is a policy. The second question, included in question 1, is whether I agree not to accept work at new rates. That is a strategy or a tactic. The 2 issues should properly be isolated. I do not know why they are not but the effect is to persuade people to agree with the strategy whilst answering a different question about policy. If my pupil had drafted that I would hand it back and ask them to do it again, better. 

I intend to answer question 1 in this way: I agree with the policy of not a penny more in cuts. However, it is currently impossible to answer question 1, because I have not been told where the CBA Executive expect it to get us to, how long it is going to last, or what its risks are. There is ample time for all of that to be made clear and then is the time to ask for support. I would like to have an input into CBA policy along with the rest of the membership. In order to do that the CBA ought to invite suggestions as to how to respond to the cuts. Each suggestion should identify where it leads in terms of succeeding in resisting the cuts and should identify the risks of adopting it. That will clarify thinking, mean that an expression of support actually means something and provide a policy behind which the entire Bar can, hopefully, unite. 

Meanwhile, if anyone is thinking of not accepting work at the new rates they ought to be saving money, because they will need it to live on. In those circumstances I wonder why the CBA is contemplating extending the no returns policy. That policy disproportionately hits very junior barristers who have less income from other sources and are more reliant on returns. In creating difficulty for those junior tenants – the very people least able to resist perceived pressure on them to conform – the CBA is sewing the seeds of the earliest possible collapse of any strike. The policy is bone-headed. 

What’s more, it has already worked. Unless the policy is to bring the Criminal Justice System to a halt (and it may be, but if so the CBA has not disclosed that to its membership or asked them about it – and it certainly doesn’t identify that policy in the questionnaire), we have already shown that we can bring the CJS to a halt and thus demonstrated our strength. 

Instead of pursuing a policy which has already worked, and now only acts to deplete our already scarce resources I propose to answer questions 2 and 3 like this: No. I wish to build on the success of the no returns policy by ensuring that the public understands that the CJS only works because the Bar picks up an enormous amount of work at no notice and does not get properly thanked or remunerated for it. In order to do so I suggest that the CBA works with the Circuit Leaders to obtain some political PR advice and then hits the media with the reality of how we work and why we do it. In order for that to be effective – and subject to the advice we receive – I suggest that this is done by the largely young barristers who are most affected and who are seeing their idealism and work ethic crushed by this government. The money for this might come from the appeal regarding QASA in respect of which I would like to see Counsel’s advice on the prospects of success, which I believe I am entitled to because I am amongst those paying for it. However, if the CBA is not going to urge us all to refuse all new work, my answer might be different and I would like to know that now. 

The last day of action received significantly less press than the first. That is unsurprising. The first DoA was a first for the Bar. It was a declaration of intent. It was interesting. It did little damage to the Court system and that was not its aim. Damage to the system was the aim of the no returns policy. The second day of action was a sequel and – as sequels usually do – it did less well than the first. And so it goes on. Days of action serve a purpose in terms of rallying the troops but we do not need rallying. We all know that we have to act and we are all committed to it. I don’t need to stand on the steps of Leeds Combined Court Centre again. I already know I will resist this. 

So I propose to answer questions 4 and 5 like this: No, unless we have already decided that we can keep up what is, essentially, an on-off strike for long enough to achieve the objective of pressuring the government into a change. I know that I believe this will take months, but I do not know how long the CBA say I need to do this for, because the CBA has not told me. Nor do I know the risks of a long on-off strike. It will certainly delay existing cases but I have no sense of how the judiciary would react to constant disruption and whether it would feel that, for example, juries needed to be protected. If so then that would inevitably lead to disciplinary referrals and a confrontation with the judiciary, which is otherwise sympathetic. These risks need thinking through and assessing and, at present, I am being asked for my views without any sign that such an assessment has been made and without any discussion about the results. Given that alienating the judiciary would, in my view, be a monumental error, I believe that this risk needs proper discussion. There is no real urgency in this questionnaire and I do not want members to think that the questionnaire is said to be urgent in order to prevent discussion.  No organisation can survive once that idea takes hold and I am sure that the answers to my questions can be provided very quickly. I suggest we send a further questionnaire out 2 weeks after those answers are provided and allows a further 2 weeks for discussion. We will then have an answer by the end of April. 

Combinations of action are, equally, subject to identifying what they will achieve, by when and at what risk. I intend to answer question 6 by saying that until I have the information I have already asked for, it is simply impossible to answer. 

Question 7 is, frankly, insulting. There are other options out there and the CBA know there are. If this were a genuine information gathering exercise it would be fine, but it isn’t. A genuine exercise would not ask questions 1 – 6 first and it wouldn’t demand a response by 28th March. I do not know why the CBA does not want genuine debate – it may feel that its Executive know best and that may actually be right, but that is no reason not to genuinely test the waters. 

My answer to question 7 is this: the strategy of no work at new rates is already declared. That being so I am unsure whether the CBA is really committed to considering alternatives. I did not vote for the strategy which the CBA has, apparently, already adopted. I did not give a mandate to anyone to vote for that strategy. The strategy has never been on an agenda of a meeting to which I, or any delegate from my Chambers, was invited. The strategy invites the government to introduce OCOF as soon as it wishes. Even now the CBA is not including a question asking me whether I agree with that strategy.

In my view a work to rule is far less likely to permit OCOF to be introduced, because it is difficult to see how that could be justified politically when we are working. Furthermore, a work to rule would focus the public’s attention where it should be, which is on the fact that we make the system work by doing crazy hours for nothing because our commitment is to justice and not to our own comfort or our own pockets. It answers fat cat questions by replacing talk of earnings with hourly rates – paid for unsocial and exhausting hours. The MoJ already understands that what it pays us is not simply to do a case but to do so in a way that ensures that all other cases get done as well. The public does not understand that. A work to rule, which will make short cases into medium cases and medium cases into long ones will demonstrate that the actual payment – when assessed against an 8 hour day – is not enormous but small. 

A work to rule will act as the no returns policy has acted and stop the system. But, when it does so, it will not be because we are not working but because we are. The only difference between the work to rule and the current position is how many hours the Bar puts in. On that basis, although I have every confidence in the Bar’s ability to stand up to Judges, I do not anticipate it will be necessary. 

Finally a work to rule is easy to explain and operate. We will work an 8 hour day which will include court time. Within that 8 hours we will deal with the cases properly and professionally. We will have necessary cons. We will prepare all necessary documents. When 8 hours have elapsed – which we will log if required – we will stop and go home. That may mean that the court cannot sit at 1030 the next day because we may still have work to do in order to be ready. If so, the Judge will be told as soon as that is apparent and will be asked not to sit until we are ready to begin. If the Judge orders us to begin before we are ready we will, consistent with our professional obligations to our client, make it clear that we do not regard ourselves as having had proper time to prepare and request an adjournment. The time thus taken will be part of our 8 hour day.

If we are nevertheless ordered to carry on then it is our professional obligation to make it clear to the Judge that we are not in a position to proceed. We may then have to withdraw from the case. However, before doing so we ought to submit to the Judge that Art 6 is breached by the Judge’s failure to permit proper representation and that the Judge ought to be prepared to accept our word that we simply cannot be ready. 

A Judge who responds that we have refused to do the work ought to be told that we have decided not to work longer than a normal 8 hour working day because our willingness to do so is being exploited by the MoJ, and asked politely whether they believe there is a power to compel a barrister to work to order and, if so, what it is. 

Judges will have a choice. They may sometimes decide that the work – for example a skeleton argument – is unnecessary and that oral argument will suffice. If so the Bar will be as loyal to that as to any other judicial decision. They may decide to adjourn. They may – unlikely though it is – become difficult and order barristers to work. If so then core principles 2 and 4 of the Handbook come into play. We will have informed our clients of the terms on which work will be carried out – as we must. It is unlikely that clients will object to an 8 hour day. We must not permit any person to limit our discretion about how the interests of our client may best be served. That must include doing the work on the terms agreed. A Judge who attempts to interfere with that agreement should back off or recuse themselves. If they will not then we may return the case and, I suggest, our clients would permit it. 

The reality is that nothing in the Code prevents a work to rule, providing we do the job properly – and we will. Whilst we do so we are able to earn – enough, I hope, to allow us to carry the action on for the months that will be required. The policy is understandable and consistent with our concerns for the CJS (which a refusal to take work is not). And meanwhile lists will lengthen, CTLs will pass, pressure will mount. And the judiciary may be able to tell the government (should they wish to do so) that this is an unhappy result of the policy of cutting fees. Rather than confrontation with the judiciary, cooperation is likely. As opposed to the result of continuing days of action. 

I love my profession and I desperately want it to survive and thrive. For that reason I am begging the CBA Executive to have a genuine debate within the membership that enables realistic action, that we can sustain, that we can explain, and that will do as much as we can do to close off the risk of OCOF, which would obliterate us. More haste less speed. Please. 

That’s how I’m going to ask my Chambers to fill in its questionnaire.

Life at the Bar · Routes to the Bar · The BVC · The Future

Don’t Send Your Daughter to the Bar Mrs Worthington – Or 16 Irrelevant Things About QASA


The BSB has posted “16 Facts about QASA”. These merit a look, as they demonstrate the way in which your regulator to be is thinking. Others, notably Legal Half Hour have already assessed them but there is room for one more…

1)  Doctors, teachers and policemen are formally quality assessed – advocates should be too.

No one is arguing against this. The issue is how to do it and whether the current proposals will achieve the specified aim. I am astonished that the BSB has not addressed this issue first. To take teachers as an example: you only have to know a teacher to know that an inspection triggers massive stress, high levels of absenteeism and an abandonment of actual education for the alternative task of passing the inspection. It would be difficult to find a consensus view that Ofsted has improved the quality of education. Ditto doctors and policemen.

It isn’t an argument to say that everyone has it so we must have it too. The Bar is dedicated to exposing poor arguments like this.

2) Delaying QASA won’t delay or stop Gov’s competitive tendering plans. It has no link to public funding.

This is not what Baroness Deach previously said. What she said was this: “In fact, if QASA didn’t exist, the government would have to implement its own quality assurance scheme to fit within the confines of OCOF and BVT.

Moreover, without a quality assurance scheme, it is difficult to see how the public could be assured that the people who offer to represent the most people who cannot afford their own representation for the least money will not simply use the first person who will take the minimum wage.

We could test this proposal in this way. Once BVT and OCOF comes in, all people employed in the public sector or who work with quangos, or who work for institutions receiving the bulk of their funding from government or government schemes (such as Universities), and all people involved in the regulation of legal services must use the lowest bidder awarded a contract for all and any legal work they require. Then let’s see who signs up. This proposal has the merit of ensuring that those committed to imposing the scheme are also users of it. There can be no principled objection, although plenty of unprincipled ones – the first of which will be that such people don’t want second rate service. QED.

3)  All advocates barristers, solicitors, legal execs will need accreditation at a level between 1 and 4 to undertake criminal advocacy.

This is true. Interesting that the BSB puts in a separate category of “advocates”. I have no idea who these people are but I think you should be told – there are alternative careers being hinted at here.

4)  To undertake criminal advocacy without registering for QASA would be a breach of the code.

This is also true if the BSB enacts that it should be so. It does not address the reason why it should be so. It is anti-competitive because it postulates only one scheme.

I am also interested in which provision of the Code it would breach. At the moment, I have to comply with para 2, which requires me to have undertaken professional training appropriate to my date of call, and to comply with the CPD regime. Is the BSB saying that it will not issue me with an unconditional practising certificate if I comply with these provisions?

5)  The Scheme has the support of the Lord Chief Justice and other members of the senior judiciary.

The whole point of being a barrister is that the Judiciary do not tell us what we must and must not do. The accused must believe his brief will tell the judge to go to the devil if that is what his case demands. The need to be marked, to move up a level or maintain one’s grade is deeply inimical to the proper relationship between advocate and judge. Lest anyone thinks this is merely the view of a noisy minority, the last 2 sentences are not mine but belong to Moses LJ.

In reality I suspect that the senior judiciary have agreed to back a scheme on the basis that something must be put in place. They may be right or wrong about that but their support is clearly not wholehearted and it is, in any event, irrelevant to the question of whether your regulator to be is correct in imposing it on the profession. This is like saying “my brother is bigger than your brother”, and about as sensible.

6)  In order to undertake trials in the Crown Court, advocates will need to be assessed through judicial evaluation in real trials.

Yes but.

A moment’s thought will show that your regulator to be is not actually committed to judicial assessment for advocacy, but only for trial advocacy. If you believe in judicial assessment then you should commit to it for everything. The BSB accepts that an incompetent plea on behalf of someone who could get 10 years + is not something that QASA should cover. That is unprincipled. So much for “standards”.

7)  Non-trial work levels 2/3 will be available to those who can prove competence against full trial standards at assessment centre.

The 4th consultation response to QASA has just been published. It says, JAG remains committed to providing a route for advocates to be assessed at an assessment centre in order to obtain level 2 accreditation for the reasons set out in the consultation paper and will not be making any change to the Scheme in relation to assessment options at level 2″. Thus, as this point makes clear, Plea Only Advocates can still do level 2 and level 3 work without judicial accreditation. Your regulator to be does not explain why the “full trial standards” to which it refers in this point, are not judicially assessed. There is one simple answer – that the assessment centre will be less demanding.

What is so distressing about this is the BSB’s abandonment of any set standard and thus its abandonment of its own profession. Barristers are to compete with people who do not have to undergo the same level of assessment to the same standard. I don’t altogether blame the SRA for this: if I could wangle it that the competition had to jump through more hoops, it would be hard to place the public interest above my own interests. But the BSB has no such excuse: it has simply supinely succumbed and it won’t even tell us why. So much for transparency.

8)  JAG will accredit a single assessment centre to provide QASA assessments for non-trial advocates and will monitor its performance

So competition is ruled out, and the monitoring of the monopoly holder will be by the people who ruled out the idea of competition. This, in some curious way, is apparently supposed to make you feel better.

9)  Advocates who can’t demonstrate competence against level 2 trial standards will not be able to appear in the Crown Court in any hearing

That’s because all Crown Court hearings are deemed level 2. It says nothing at all. For the BSB to try to sell the scheme on the basis of misdirection is shameful. I say that because, if I made a point like that in Court, I would be ashamed of myself.

10)  All criminal advocates will be required to confirm their competence every five years. This will include silks.

Fascinating. You get silk after a process which involves endless referees and at least 5 Judges being automatically consulted. That isn’t good enough for your regulator. Sound like a turf war.

Moreover, QCs practising commercial law are one of the country’s top attractors of business. The first silk to fail QASA – assuming any sign up – will imperil the entire system. If I were the government I wouldn’t be too happy about this.

11)  Silks appointed in 2010 or later will be able to apply to be passported into the scheme.

Excellent – not all silks are equally competent. I would be really interested to see the BSB’s research on this proposal, which might be commercially damaging to individuals. If there has been any it has totally escaped me. Otherwise, this is a shabby political compromise. There are barristers on the BSB’s main board. Presumably all the silks will now seek re-accreditation. If not it looks like they have thrown their criminal colleagues to the wolves.

I practice in civil and crime. Dear Auntie Ruth, what should I do?

12)  The level of case will be decided by advocate and instructing party. Judges will report abuses and disciplinary action may result.

On level of case, will it really? Actually, the instructing party will say, “this is what we think” and the advocate will agree or lose the work. The disciplinary action will be against who, do we think? The non-regulated commercial operator or the regulated professional who succumbs to economic pressure? And the Regulator thinks this is fair.

Interestingly, although this is a fact about QASA, it is an unhappy one. The BSB acknowledges that the Bar will not be able to dictate what class of work it will accept – a complete change from the current position – and that a barrister will be subject to professional discipline if, nonetheless, they take a case they cannot do. Surely the purpose of regulation should be to ensure that such conflicts do not arise.

13)  There will be a review of QASA after 2 years to assess whether changes are required to improve its impact.

But not to abolish it if it’s a dog’s dinner. Or to compensate people who lose out because of it. Or to assess whether its “impact” should actually be lessened. In other words, the review will not be a review of the scheme itself.

This is what Baroness Deech said 9 days ago: Further, the system will not be set in stone. There will be a two-year review to ensure it is working as intended, including looking at whether or not cases are being fairly allocated.” Is that the same as point 13?

14)  Evidence will be gathered during the operation of the Scheme and will be used to inform the Scheme review.

The latest consultation response does not mention how this is to be done, who will gather evidence, how it will inform the scheme review. The Regulator has neither asked for clarification on these matters, nor considered them important enough to seek a formal commitment to a fair review.

15)  Over 10,000 solicitors have notified the SRA of their intention to register under QASA when it comes into force.

So, presumably, the Bar should act now. Apart from the implicit threat in this point – and the BSB does not appear to have asked itself whether such a threat should properly appear on its website – so what? I don’t know when the 10,000 gave the notification – perhaps before it became clear that the MoJ did not intend solicitors to be the winners of the competition to supply legal services. But the fact that 10,000 Turkeys vote for Christmas isn’t a reason for a single other Turkey to do so.

What stands out from all this – and it is possible to say so now we are so near the end – is that there is not a single positive reason to support QASA in these points. Point 1 is the very best that can be mustered – that everyone else does it. Every other point is an inadequate, poorly reasoned and, in some cases, shamefully misleading reason why we should simply lie down and let QASA happen – presumably whilst thinking of the BSB.

There is, of course, an obvious case to be made for quality assurance and control. It will push standards up: it will ensure that young people are not separated from a huge amount of money on a promise of something that is vanishingly unlikely to happen: it may make chambers commit to pupillage before professional training and thus ensure a scrutiny of the quality of that training which is currently lacking, thus further assisting in raising standards: it will allow the public to have confidence that advocates are properly trained and are not reliant on their relationship with the Judge to carry on practising. All those points – and more – should be publicly promoted. But, of course, they cannot be because QASA confers absolutely none of those advantages. The BSB – your regulator to be – does not even pretend it does. So why is the BSB supporting it?

16) All criminal advocates will be subject to judicial monitoring whenever they appear in court.

No they won’t – or at least not to any new extent. Solicitors wishing to be Plea Only Advocates will not have to be judicially monitored under the scheme. They will be able to become re-accredited at assessment centres (p38).

So there it is. Obviously, my usual offer stands. If anyone from the BSB or QASA would like to deal with this, they will be offered a guest post and I will not edit what they say.

For those of you wishing to do criminal law, may I – with regret – offer you the following advice. Don’t come to the Bar until we know where this is going. I am aware that this advice suits the Government’s purpose – the best way to achieve the politically popular (for now) driving up of conviction rates is to ensure the Bar isn’t around to defend people. I am also aware that it is bad news for the profession, which cannot survive without a fresh intake – and I would point out to my colleagues who do no criminal work that this is a Pastor Niemoller moment.

But this is a blog dedicated to those who want to be barristers and I have always run it on that basis. I would give that same advice to my own children. As things stand, you would be better off as a solicitor. Even then, things will be tough and nasty. But you have more chance of employment and more chance of advocacy, and you may be better placed to join whichever big corporate friend is going to get the contract.

What you won’t have is the pleasures and perils of self-employment, the companionship of other barristers, the enjoyment of being part of a profession dedicated to improving standards  and speaking out for the least articulate members of your own society. But our own regulator is no longer dedicated to those things either and the odds are therefore that they will soon disappear for most of the Bar. By not paying £17,000 to a commercial provider who won’t tell you what your chances of pupillage are, you will simply be beating the rush.

Life at the Bar · Routes to the Bar · The Future · Uncategorized

QASA or We’re All Doomed


ImageOkay, so this isn’t really about pupillage in the narrow sense. However, if any of you aspire to do publicly funded work, this is why there won’t be many pupillages in years to come.

The government wants barristers to be quality assessed. Actually, this is a good idea if it is done properly. At the moment it isn’t being done properly. However assessment is being introduced nonetheless, and it seems tolerably clear that the purpose of its introduction is to enable the government to say that all advocates have passed such an assessment. The government needs to be able to say this because the ultimate plan appears to be (in fairness to the government, they aren’t admitting it – yet) to introduce something called Best Value Tendering. That means that legal aid contracts will be given to the organisation which does the most for the least money. A moment’s thought will tell you that when the mumbo jumbo about ‘economies of scale’ and ‘vertical integration’ is dissected, BVT means paying people less.

In order to assist with this, the likelihood is that the government will introduce One Case One Fee. A moment’s further thought will tell you that this is the end of proper fees for the Bar. The work will be hocked to the lowest bidder. If the contractor is a solicitors’ firm, that will likely be the solicitor. It may, of course, be someone unfit to do it. But wait! They are quality assessed. Everything is all right (except for the poor defendant, the overworked court system and justice).

Enter QASA. But QASA, as originally conceived, had a flaw. That was that a lot of solicitors did not want to be assessed alongside barristers. They would not pass an assessment based on how they did trials. The ‘compromise’ which has been reached (not by the Bar) is that there will be a category of people known as Plea Only Advocates.

The difficulty here is not just conflict: “Hello Mr Blogs. Will you plead guilty? Did I forget to mention that my firm gets paid a lot more money if you do?” It is that pleas can frequently be difficult and require representation every bit as effective as that required for a trial – not to mention that people may wish to change their minds. It is also that enabling one class of lawyer to cream off a particular type of work, without risk is obviously unfair. The type of BVT contracts the government wants means that barristers will not be able to get them – even the largest set of Chambers will not be able to administer a scheme for a number of towns and cities.

Unsurprisingly, the Bar is saying no to QASA in large numbers, having identified that, without QASA, it will be hard for the Government to paint its plans as anything other than reality. Reality is forget the quality – just look at whether a defendant has someone to ‘represent’ them.

There are ways to cut the cost of legal representation. The Bar has suggested them. For example, allow defendants in fraud cases to use the money they have to pay for their own defence. That money does not go back to victims at the end of a case. If confiscated it goes to … go on, have a guess. Equally, as the Bar’s calculations (prepared by independent experts) have shown, many of the current proposals will not save money at all. Removing legal aid in most civil and family cases will force people to represent themselves, double the length of trials (that is my documented experience when sitting), double the number of trials because cases won’t settle, bring the Courts to a halt, set back justice, upset millions of people and save not a penny. But no one listens. Until it happens – by which time Chris Grayling will doubtless be lecturing and collecting his MP’s pension and David Cameron will be in the Lords – the warnings about the destruction of a truly good system of justice will be painted as fat cats protecting themselves.

Although the Bar is likely to say not to QASA the BSB has decided to make it a professional offence to accept a publicly funded brief without being okayed under QASA. I am quite intrigued about this: I have been awarded silk, and practised in silk for 10 years; I sit on the BSB’s Pupillage Committee; I have done 6 years on its Conduct Committee; I have volunteered for the Bar’s ethics helpline, advising other barristers with ethical difficulties; I review cases for the Bar Pro Bono Unit. All of the latter (unpaid) tasks involve exercising my professional judgement in relation to quite serious issues. However, if I won’t be QASAd I can’t do even the simplest criminal case – although I can try serious sex cases.

The foolishness of that decision is emphasised by the fact that the BSB – as a Regulator – should not really be threatening large numbers of those it regulates. If quality control is a good thing then that is only if the scheme is a good scheme. The BSB isn’t pretending it’s a good scheme – merely that it’s better than the one the government will eventually force us to accept. What it is to have a crystal ball. Anyway, why just one scheme? As our Lord Chancellor believes in letting the market decide (such a refreshing change in believing in, say, letting the legal system be the best we can attain), then let’s have lots of schemes.

Anyway, that’s where we are. I have expressed myself about QASA itself here (bottom of the page but it’s worth reading the whole shebang), and about the BSB Chair’s view here. This is a serious issue – the standard for the current proposed quality assessments are published here at pp81-85. I will post about them separately, but have a read and ask if they really help show that advocates are competent.

And yes, it’s nice to be back and – even though I said I never would – I have twitter.

Routes to the Bar

Quick Announcement


I know I have been idle, for which my apologies. I couldn’t think of much to say that would add to the sum of human knowledge. However, having been rejuvenated by the Middle Temple students, we will shortly be starting a series about how to make your CV relevant to the Bar and your experience relevant to your interview.

In the meantime, I have been asked to post the following. As there is money in it for some of you (I hope), I am happy to do it.

I am the Marketing & Communications Manager for the King’s Student Law Review, and wondered if you would be able to do a quick blog post for our invitation for submissions for the next publication (deadline: 29th February 2012).  We accept submissions from students worldwide, and the word count is 5,000 – 10,000 words.  As well as the obvious benefits of being published in a legal journal, we also have a cash incentive – a £250 prize for the best essay!
In addition, we are also accepting submissions for shorter articles (around 1,000 words) for our 8 new blogs in the areas of:
– European Law
– Legal Theory
– Human Rights
– Constitutional Law
– Commercial Law
– Criminal Law
– International Law
– Legal Practice, Procedure and Profession
Kind regards,
Andrea Tang
Marketing & Communications Manager
King’s Student Law Review 2011-2012
 It’s the sort of thing that looks good on a CV. Go to it.
Other Sites · Routes to the Bar

Career Opportunities


Willsden County Court is looking for duty advisers. It is an opportunity to get some advocacy experience and there are currently four roles the Court would like to fill with BPTC/LPC graduates and current students. The job is limited to London only, but still offers a significant opportunity to some of you. Advisers deal primarily with repossession but there are overlapping legal issues which should mean that you get a chance to look at quite a lot of areas. I sit in general County Court civil and I would have thought that these roles would be challenging, enjoyable and offer real experience that looks good on a CV. It’s also a chance to help other people.

You can find out more by going to the site they have set up for recruitment purposes. You will be supervised by practising solicitors, so there will hopefully be real feedback and support. The application process closes on Wednesday, so you can do it over the weekend. Good luck, and if you get the job, please let me know. I will ask you to write something about it if you would like and will publish your (anonymised or not, as you wish) post.

As for the picture – whilst you are doing your application you can listen to one of the greatest bands who ever made an album.