Job Dreams: Barrister
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As part of our Job Dreams series, we speak to professionals from different careers and share their advice with you. Last month, we learned what it's like to be a teacher. And this month we met barrister, Mass, who told us what it’s like to be a barrister…
What do you do?
I am a barrister and the founder of a new charity named Bridging the Bar, which aims to support aspiring barristers from underrepresented groups of society. You can find out more about the charity on our website.
Are there different types of barrister?
There are so many different areas of law to choose from. Some barristers work in multiple areas and others specialise in just one or two. Criminal law is the most well-known as that is what is usually shown on the TV. However, other areas of law include Commercial Law, Public Law, International Law, Intellectual Property Law, Sports Law and more. I know one barrister who works almost entirely on cases involving Football Law!
Can you tell us what your day-to-day is like?
As cliché as it sounds, every day as a barrister is different. That’s because no two cases are ever the same. No barrister ever reaches a stage where they know all of the law. Why? Firstly, because there is so much of it! Secondly, because the law is always developing. This means that barristers must continually research developments in the law in order to keep their knowledge up to date. As well as research, the typical day for a barrister may include reviewing evidence related to a case, drafting written advice for a client, or making submissions before a judge in court.
What do you love most about your job?
It’s my role to represent my client, whoever that client may be. It may be an alleged criminal, a sports star, the Prime Minister, or an international company. In order to best represent a client, I must have a meticulous understanding of their position. I must become an expert on all things relevant to my client and their case. This insight provides me with a unique view of the world from the perspective of the different people and organisations I represent. This also allows me to learn not only about the law, but about so much outside of it. I enjoy the opportunity to grow in more ways than just one.
What do you find most challenging?
My favourite part of the job also doubles up as the most challenging part of the job. As every case is different, I can never get ‘comfortable’ in my knowledge. There is always new information which I need to learn. In some jobs which might be more repetitive, you can pretty much learn to do the job while being mentally switched off. That is just not possible as a barrister. This makes it extra important to ensure that I do find time to switch off outside of work.
What did you see yourself doing when you were a kid?
I really struggled to decide what I wanted to do when I was a kid. I changed my mind a million times. At one point I wanted to play football and then I wanted to become a pilot. Even when I got to university, I was still trying to figure out what I would do with my life. It’s okay to be unsure about what you intend to do. It’s okay to change your mind. However, that is not an excuse to do nothing with your time. Spend it gaining transferrable skills and building your CV. If you can do that, you will create options for yourself. With those options, you can decide later!
What challenges did you face in reaching where you are today?
I previously believed that I couldn’t become a barrister unless I studied at Oxford or Cambridge University. So, what did I do? I worked hard to get the grades I needed to apply to Oxford University. When I was later invited for an interview, I began to think that this was just another step on the journey. I truly enjoyed the days that I spent there for the interviews and was hopeful that I would receive an offer. Just over a month later, I received ‘that letter’. The ‘We regret to inform you that you have been unsuccessful in obtaining a place…’ letter. I thought that would be the end of my dream. If I didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge, I couldn’t be a barrister, could I? It turns out I was wrong. I didn’t need to go to one of those universities in order to become a barrister. Aim as high as you can and carve out your own unique journey to achieving your dreams. Your journey does not have to look like anyone else’s who has come before you.
If you weren’t a barrister what do you think you’d be?
When I first got an offer for a role as a pupil barrister, I was working as a professional financial trader. If I never got that offer, I would probably still be doing that.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first left school?
“It has not been done before” – does not mean it is not possible. I wish I would have figured that out slightly earlier. Sometimes there is not a ready-made example or a clear path for what you want to achieve. Nonetheless, you can create your own route to success. In doing so, you may become that example which you thought you needed, for any other people that are facing similar struggles.
What advice would you give to someone interested in joining your industry?
What is your unique selling point? Why should a legal organisation hire you over everyone else that has applied for the same position? Most adults would struggle to answer those questions. However, jobs in the legal industry are incredibly competitive. Spend time building your skills and experiences so that you can answer both of those questions confidently.
What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve been given?
“If you don’t ask the question, the answer will always be no.” That advice was given to me by another barrister named Dr Tunde Okewale MBE. You should definitely check him out online!
What quote do you live by?
Ask, how can we? Rather than saying we can’t.