Why would you make a good barrister?

This question sounds very similar to ‘why do you want to be a barrister’ and it is hard to answer well. It is distinct from ‘why do you want to become a barrister’ in two ways:

  1. It is asking you to decide what are the most important qualities that a barrister must possess, focusing in particular on those qualities relevant to your proposed area(s) of practice.
  2. Then it is asking for proof (from your experiences) to back up the assertion that you will be a good advocate.

The focus of your answer therefore needs to be on your skills – this is where you sell yourself. It is your pitch to chambers. Competencies are important, but they will be nothing without proper examples.

This answer should encompass:

  • The thinking you’ve done on your ‘X’ factor; and
  • Your assessment of the competencies you’ve demonstrated through the work experience you’ve gained.

Key points to bear in mind with these two questions

  • Really, this question is asking ‘why would you be any good at being a barrister’.
  • Go for depth, not breadth.
  • Make sure your answer is suitably specific and wouldn’t also ‘work’ if you were to apply for a job as, for example, an aid worker or activist.
  • Although your answers should be tailored to you, avoid oversharing. Don’t put in a deeply personal reason for becoming a barrister; such ‘life stories’ rarely come across well.
  • Similarly, make sure you fully understand the difference between what solicitors and barristers do.
  • Finally, bear in mind that many professionals are self-employed. See below.

The reality of being self-employed

Many candidates are attracted to the Bar because barristers are (largely) self-employed. However, not only is being self-employed at the Bar not quite what it seems, but there are downsides as well as advantages.

You need to appreciate the reality of self-employment before you make the claim in your application form or at interview.

In reality, for the first few years of practice, you are not truly self-employed: what you do, where you go and when you can take a day off is down to (in order of importance) the clerks, the court, and your clients. The views of members of chambers will also play a role in dictating what you do. You will have “bosses”, but not in the traditional way people imagine.

Being self-employed also has its downsides: no holiday or sick pay, no time off (without losing income), no pension and (often considerable) delays in being paid. That last point is most important for those doing legally aided work. You need to be aware of this. You will have to pay your chambers’ expenses/overheads (you shouldn’t have to but you probably will have to), and service your overdraft, and get to far flung courts even as you wait to be paid. 

What being self-employed means: you will have the freedom to develop your practice, albeit within certain constraints that tend to be particular to your chambers. You can work in the way that you want – although you won’t have full autonomy from day one of tenancy. The more senior you become, the more freedom you’ll have.

So, when discussing the benefits of self-employment, keep these points in mind.

Finally, please remember that many other professionals are self-employed.

* Thank you to Iain Morley QC for inspiring this section. 

Next page: Why this chambers?