New Year’s Resolutions can be a very good reminder of the power of affirmation. By affirming that we are going to set a goal and reach it, we tell ourselves (and the universe) to start making that thing happen. We change our mindset and we push ourselves towards something greater.
The benefits of resolutions for the aspiring barrister
For the aspiring barrister, setting resolutions can be a great way to help you feel more in control of your journey to the Bar. It is hard to commit yourself to a career that requires you to apply yourself consistently over a long period of time. By setting goals you are able to achieve you can feel more powerful and engage better with your journey. This journey should see you strengthen your skills and abilities and it can take work and consistent effort to ensure that you are not beaten down by the process.
The post below shares an idea of a resolution that the aspiring barrister can set for themselves in 2020. Hopefully it can motivate you and inspire you to create more of your own resolutions.
Resolution: Finding a specialist legal area of interest
It may not be immediately obvious why you should have a specialist interest at such an early stage of your career, but being able to identify a niche area of law that you have a genuine interest in can be very helpful and intellectually stimulating.
Finding a niche can come naturally after you look at which areas or topics you consistently gravitate towards. This doesn’t have to necessarily be legal on its face either. For example, you may have a serious interest in music and music production. This can easily translate into a legal interest in music publishing law and licensing. You could build on this niche area of law by reading up on key cases in this area and finding sources for developing law. You can build on your existing knowledge to inform your interest and over time this could reasonably become your clearly defined specialist area of interest.
The most obvious scenario that a niche interest can be helpful is for applications or interviews at a chambers with barristers who practise in that niche. However there are further benefits beyond this that are worth considering.
Use a niche interest to engage better with your studies
If you are still completing your legal studies, reading cases from an area of law you care about can help sharpen your analytical skills when completing work for different (and less interesting) subjects. For example, when I was completing the GDL, I participated in a moot on the subject of valuable consideration and the validity of an unregistered interest after the Land Registration Act 2002 came into effect. I discovered that I really enjoyed Land Law through this competition. Afterwards I kept up to date with developing law in this area and my extra curricular reading and research helped me with my studies in other areas. I found it much easier to read cases and understand the ratio decidendi, even where this was quite complex. I also found journal articles significantly easier to read and deploy in my written work because I had referred to them in my moot research.
Stay on top of your analytical skills
If you’re not studying law anymore, a niche area can still be very helpful. In the year since completing the GDL, my primary areas of interest (Public Law, Education Law and Youth Justice) have helped me to sharpen my ability to read and discuss developments in case law without the benefit of a syllabus or tutors there to ensure I did this regularly. It has meant that I haven’t ‘gone soft’ in the time since completing the GDL. I still feel analytically sharp and able to tackle difficult legal problems in the form of articles or by sharing my views online. Maintaining my interest in this area by subscribing to relevant publications, following individuals and organisations on Twitter and reading up on articles have meant that I am able to relate everyday issues to my niche areas of interest. For example, throughout the Brexit saga I have been able to read and discuss how this will impact upon my primary areas of interest. I am also able to add value to discussions with lay people (those without legal education or training) because I can meaningfully engage with them about my subject areas.
Identify your coveted skills
All aspiring barristers are aware that the search for pupillage can be ruthless. Even after you are a fully-qualified barrister with your wings, there is still competition for work as a junior barrister. Almost everyone is at a similar intellectual level with similar levels of experience. A coveted skill can help you stand out because it shows that you have abilities and knowledge that few others possess. An interest and demonstrable experience in a niche area of law can provide this. For example, I was previously a Director of a specialist advocacy pro-bono organisation specialising in Exclusion Law. This is not a position that many others have held. It means that this niche area of interest and the associated skills are not often seen in prospective pupils or barristers at such an early stage of their career. For the right people this is a coveted skill that will make them keen to interview me or instruct me for work in this area.
By showing consistent commitment to a niche and skills in that area of law, this can be your coveted skill that makes all the difference when making applications or seeking instructions at a later stage of your career.
Happy New Year and good luck with your resolutions!
No matter what you resolve to achieve in the next year, I wish you the best of luck! If you have any other good resolutions for aspiring barristers let me know on Twitter: @BATTHEBAR!
Until next time,