I am a pupil barrister earning approximately £12,000. There is no typical day in pupillage. I’ve spent roughly two months each following barristers to court in Crime, Family and Civil before I take on my own cases. If someone needs research doing or documents drafting at the last minute on any given area of law, I’m eager to do it – whether it takes 10 minutes or 10 hours, it can really make a difference to somebody’s liberty and life, which is why I came into law in the first place.
I’m generally in Chambers for about 8.30, at the earliest I’ll leave at 5, but often I’ll stay much later – and I don’t even have my own cases yet! The amount I learn from the more experienced members of chambers is incredible, and I’m worried that if they go (because they can’t afford to stay), there will be no-one to do the really heavy weight cases – the murder trials, the care cases involving serious sexual abuse of children or the employment cases of serious racial discrimination.
Vulnerable witnesses need to be questioned with sensitivity and respect, and both of those come with experience, which I don’t have right now. If these cuts continue, those expert lawyers will leave, and those vulnerable witnesses will be left in the hands of the inexperienced, the under-trained and the petrified. That’s not justice, not for anyone.
I’ve always wanted to be a criminal advocate, but I’m having to seriously reconsider, I couldn’t survive on a solely criminal practice and I’ll definitely be taking on any and all cases that solicitors brief me on. I’m struggling to survive on my pupillage award – I need a new pair of shoes as mine have holes in – so they’re on my birthday list, and I have long since given up feeling guilty when my parents give me a tenner when I go home as it means I can eat meat the next week! I couldn’t afford to do pupillage if I had taken out a professional loan to do the BPTC – I’m worried that the best candidates won’t come to the Criminal Bar because they simply cannot afford to do so.