Sorry for being so quiet but three things are happening simultaneously. Firstly, I am really busy and I am finding the work particularly difficult (I had hoped this would stop but it seems not). I also have a lecture to give next week – the detail was late arriving and, when it came, seemed to envisage that I had nothing to do for the next week but research one talk. Not so. Secondly, it is coming up the Jewish New Year and I am trying to get myself sorted out. As it is primarily a spiritual rather than a social event, this is actually quite demanding – I ask myself, is it possible to have too much prayer? Thirdly, I can’t really think of anything to say so have not said anything. This follows advice from my pupil master who used to tell me ‘when you’ve finished, stop’.
However, a glance at my bulging in-tray prompts me to recommend a magazine called Counsel. Aggravatingly, Counsel does not have a website, but it is published by Lexis-Nexis and is available to students for half price – i.e.£36 per annum. I have to say that this still seems expensive so I suggest either that a group of you club together, or that you demand that your institution purchases it.
If you already have access to it then do read it. It is not that it is a marvellous literary endeavour, but it gives you a real sense of the issues concerning the profession both great and small. For example, the section in the middle (known as Bar News which used to be a separate publication) this month gives guidance about clerks signing papers for barristers. This is also a job regularly given to pupils. With a bit of wit it should be possible to work that into an interview and thus demonstrate an easy familiarity with the day-to-day issues and a keeness to be up-to-date on professional matters; both of which speak of mini-pupillages closely observed and well spent (but don’t overdo it – it is the dressing, not the main course).
This is the time of year at which I am supposed to repent my failings (it may be possible to understand why I have been so busy). Accordingly, if I have unwittingly upset or insulted anyone in either a post or a comment I apologise. If I was slightly brutal, it was motivated by an anxiety to communicate a point I really wanted to make, rather than a wish to be nasty (even you TB). I am genuinely concerned that you are not put off by this blog unless it is because you have made an honest and independent assessment, for whatever reason, that the Bar is not for you. Also, thank you to those of you who have said nice things – it is genuinely encouraging to be told that this blog helps.
Finally, along the same lines as reading Counsel, a list of legal books which have nothing to do with substantive courses but which can be casually dropped into conversation in order to demonstrate a keeness for the law which, strangely, Chambers seem to like. Most of these will have to be obtained at second hand bookshops…
- The Novels of Henry Cecil. These are slightly outmoded but good on how the Bar was and to an extent still is. Certainly, your interviewers will wish it was still this way. They are also humorous if not laugh out loud.
- Forensic Fables by O (not, please, to be confused with the pornographic author of the same initial). Think Aesop for lawyers. Even your interviewers may not have heard of these but they are excellent and for the cognoscenti.
- The Irish RM, and if you can’t get the book try the video as it was made into a TV series by (I think) the BBC a few years ago.
- The Novels of Cyril Hare. These are crime thrillers written by a barrister. They aren’t particularly my thing, but they do portray the Bar with accuracy.
- Rumpole. These always make me slightly depressed – no one I know is this cynical. But the Bar is portrayed relatively realistically providing you allow for an exaggeration factor of 500%.
- May It Please Your Lordship by ES Turner. This is a potted history of various appalling Judges and will make you feel better about your first Crown Court/County Court appearance, whatever it is.
- Miscellany-at-Law by Robert Megarry. Three collections of the weird and wonderful.
- The Little World of Don Camillo. This has nothing to do with the law at all but I am currently rereading it for about the 95th time and it is so lovely that I feel like giving it a mention.
There are also books by David Pannick and Geoffrey Robertson which I would be reading if applying to Doughty Street or Blackstone Chambers. However they are more textbooks than light relaxing reads.
Of course, none of you have any spare time. Hah.