After being called as a Barrister in 2019 by Inner Temple, Blessing has pupillage! Here, BATB Blog Editor Nicole Taylor catches up with Blessing Mukosha to tell all about her journey before, during and after Bar school and provide tips on how she managed the stress of the application process and secured pupillage.
Hi Blessing, how are you?
I am good thank you. It’s the first week of June and I get very motivated at the start of each new month. This month is particularly good because last month I got pupillage, and it has really sunk in that all my hard work has paid off.
Tell us a little about yourself.
The first and most important thing about me is that I am a huge Hip Hop head. If you are into real Rap music then you are definitely a friend of mine. I could talk about Hip Hop for hours and I listen to it the moment I wake up, all day and last thing at night. I know all the history and have an entire platform dedicated to Hip Hop separate to my legal personality which is pretty huge now. I also write my own raps and freestyle. I am getting pushed to get into the studio, but I have a musical composition and theatre background and I fear that I could spend forever lost in music. My Mum always told me music was my passion and it should not become my work otherwise I would stop enjoying it. She was right because there is nothing better than taking a break and spitting a freestyle when my legal work has me stuck in a rut. It is a form of meditation for me because when I freestyle I don’t think, I just follow the beat and get out of my head for a little while. I think barristers need to be able to do that regularly to handle the pressure.
I am also very into shopping for and styling cool fashion; I have a pretty unique personal style. I pride myself on looking chic at all times, and I never like to wear the same outfit combo twice. I collect pieces that can be styled for every occasion. I have a special love for suits, and it is my dream to have my own line of suits. My favourite thing to do is to go out (alone or with other people) and dress up for the venue and vibe. I am the kind of person to plan my outfits and hair weeks in advance because I want to plan out every detail of my look. I always compliment people when their outfits catch my eye because I appreciate the effort that goes into creating a good ensemble.
How did you become interested in law?
I wanted to become a barrister when I was seven, which isn’t surprising because I was a very well-read child and wanted to know everything. I used to read encyclopaedias and the newspaper and memorise facts. With no barristers or lawyers in my family, I used to read books about barristers to motivate me and learn more. Then when I was at sixth form I learned more about the world and the history of it. I understood more about government and politics and took part in community charity work. It was a very eye-opening time for me and I realised that I had to push hard to become a barrister and be involved with regulating the powers of the state.
For the longest time I believed that I was going to practise purely public law. I then worked hard to diversify my legal CV by getting myself a range of different commercial experience, like working inside a company that adheres to a regulatory framework and working as a commercial legal intern. As much as I was interested in working within public law, I also understood that it was important that I widened my scope. I really didn’t feel that it was easy to break into public law without dedicating yourself to a small niche of chambers and charities.
I did so much public pro bono work but I didn’t have a lot of success when I only looked at public law. By widening my field of view, I developed my interests and recognised that many commercial enterprises work within a regulatory framework, and that decisions of regulators are generally amenable to judicial review because they are bodies exercising public law powers. I realise now that I can get the best of both worlds with this kind of work. The lesson here is that my interest in law developed over time, and it’s likely to continue developing as I get more experience during pupillage. Diversifying my legal skill set and experience was a great way to develop my interest in law.
Route to the Bar
What has been your route to the Bar?
I studied History and Politics at Warwick University and wrote my dissertation on Legal reform and Liberation in post-apartheid South Africa. I participated in mooting and advocacy competitions throughout university and held multiple positions on the Law Society Executive Committee. From there I began the GDL, then Bar School. I kept up my interests with positions of responsibility within a School Exclusions Pro Bono advocacy organisation on campus, volunteering at Advocate, mooting competitions, writing in student law journals, networking at events like Urban Lawyers and Reb Law and of course – through creating content for BATB. After Bar School I worked as a Public Inquiry Paralegal and I received my pupillage to start in October 2022.
When did you get called to the Bar of England and Wales?
I was called in December 2019, by the Inner Temple.
You have recently obtained pupillage, where will you be a pupil?
I will be a pupil at Five Paper Chambers, in London.
How many years did it take between getting called and securing pupillage?
It took me two years, and one of those was applying during the first wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
What was the easiest part of the pupillage application process?
The easiest part was knowing which chambers I really wanted. I had discovered Five Paper at Urban Lawyers Careers Conference which was one of my first ever Legal Conferences. I attended their workshop on how to write pupillage applications and they seemed really down to earth. Their areas matched all of my interests and experience and I felt like I could make a strong application there. That feeling never went away so it was always easy for me to motivate myself in my applications. I reached the final round the first year I applied, but didn’t make it. I motivated myself through another year, just for COVID-19 to suspend applications. I then motivated myself through another year and finally got it. I never struggled with motivation, I knew that this chambers was the one I wanted to join to complete pupillage.
What was the hardest part of the pupillage application process?
The hardest part wasn’t the applications or the interviews, it was the overthinking between submitting applications and waiting to see if you reached the next stage. It doesn’t go away until 9am on the first Friday of May when you wait for good news over email or phone. I felt at times that I couldn’t stop myself from worrying incessantly over the process. I had to push myself to get outside and roller skate, and No Ghostwriter also was a great outlet to have fun, decompress and talk about Hip Hop.
What did you do differently in the 2021 application season that you believe helped you to secure pupillage?
Before 2021 I had never fully embraced my vision for myself and the value I want to command for myself in my Bar career. I made a conscious decision to accept the accountability of my ambition and put the right energy behind my applications. I was more candid than ever before over my process and how I work. I was more open, and proud to explain my methods and stand behind myself and all of the work I had done until this point.
I started freestyling more as I wrote my applications and came up with the moniker ‘Big Money Ble Ble’. It’s a small in-joke because my smallest brother calls me ‘Ble Ble’ and I am always talking about money and markets. In my head, Big Money Ble Ble, or Billionaire Barrister B, represents someone you value, trust and have respect in. She’s smart, strategic and worth every pound she is paid. That was who I focused on being as I wrote my applications and completed my interviews. Convincing the committee to give me pupillage started with convincing myself that I deserved it.
Between being called and Pupillage
What have you been doing since qualifying as a barrister?
I have been working as a Public Inquiry Paralegal, working as a Legal Assistant and Commercial Legal Intern. I have also been running BATB and working as a Law Tutor. I was a founding member of Bridging the Bar and engineered our launch campaign and built the infrastructure for the mini-pupillage scheme. It was inspirational to work in that team, and the perfect energy. I wish I could have stayed with them for even longer, but BATB has grown so much that I need to give it all my love until my mission for the platform is complete
What is Blessing at the Bar and what do you hope to achieve from this venture?
Blessing at the Bar was launched in August 2017 and is a platform providing motivation, education and inspiration for Future barristers. Without consistent resources and support, nobody can make it to the Bar. I created BATB because I believe that access to knowledge and resources for becoming a barrister should not be contingent upon familial or personal connections. BATB provides the aspiring Barrister with everything they need for success. Blessing at the Bar works to create resources of the highest possible quality, and is especially digitally innovative. We are currently developing resources that fill a much needed gap in the legal education market because we embrace technology and digital media. BATB was one of the first dedicated platforms out there for aspiring barristers and it is incredible to look at the brand it is today.
What are your plans between now and commencing your pupillage?
My plans are to stay focused on BATB and No Ghostwriter because I get such a great feeling when I work on both, but for different reasons.
BATB makes me feel like I am helping a version of myself that didn’t have these resources. Creating resources, events and content for others helps me legitimise my journey and why I always felt like I never had everything that I needed to succeed.
No Ghostwriter makes me feel connected to Hip Hop in a real way because the majority of my audience is from North America and a lot of them are from New York. They are always teaching me new things about references in lyrics, and we have pioneering conversations around misogynoir in Rap and Hip Hop on our weekly livestreams. I want to work on this platform and expand it even further until it rivals XXL, Complex and Genius.
Tips for students pursuing the Bar
What has kept you motivated throughout the pupillage application process?
With no barristers in my family I looked towards external resources to motivate and inform my journey to the Bar. Of course now anyone who is following my footsteps doesn’t have to worry about that and BATB and Shop B At the Bar are here to provide all of the insight tools, knowledge, resources and practical guidance that you need to support your journey to the Bar.
As an undergraduate student there was not a lot on campus to motivate my interest in Law because things were geared so strongly towards Commercial Law Firms and chambers were non-existent on (our) campus. I am grateful to Warwick Bar Society (whose former President now works on the BATB Team!) for the excellent resources and opportunities they provided me. Through them I was able to visit chambers in London and secured a mini-pupillage at one of them.
From there my journey to the Bar and getting pupillage was motivated by strategic planning and taking each step in my plan one at a time. At the start of the GDL I wrote myself a career plan that set out my time on the GDL until pupillage, and as I went on I filled it in with the different minis, internships, competitions and so on that I wanted to apply for. I have always maintained goals for myself and because I’m extremely ambitious, it was easy to motivate myself into meeting those goals. Shop B at the Bar is soon going to be stocking resources that will emulate this career plan I made for myself. It was definitely my secret sauce.
A lot of people want things like a pupillage but haven’t sat down and really broken down all the steps that they need to achieve or obtain what they want. In business and entrepreneurship it is called thinking about your next 10 to 15 steps, because you have to start playing your career like a game of chess. As much as people will say that there’s ‘luck’ involved in getting pupillage I am not motivated by luck or chance, I am motivated by intentional actions that generate results. I generated my own results by building my own plan and sticking to it with intention. I never lost motivation, never lost drive and my success is proof of what happens when you focus on strategy and hard work. I wrote in my 2018 career plan that I would get pupillage at Five Paper Chambers and then in 2021, I did.
Any tips for students that have qualified and awaiting pupillage?
Firstly, congratulations! My first piece of advice is that you need to celebrate. Anyone who is like me and has been as focused and dedicated as I have knows that hard work doesn’t know rest. We have to be able to celebrate ourselves. I was listening to Drake’s recent acceptance speech for the Billboard artist of the decade award and he talked about how he’s the last person to take a break and congratulate himself. I think that energy is helpful when you’re motivating yourself through the hardest parts of the journey, but now you’ve made it you need to sit back and take a moment to take it all in.
You’ve really pulled this off and because of that, you need to start to get used to two things: one is no longer being ‘aspiring’ and the second is to start to put in the framework so that you are in the right state of mind to take on the next challenge ahead, which is pupillage itself. A career at the Bar is a journey that keeps on going and you need to be able to sustain. In the words of the late Nipsey Hussle, it is a marathon and you’re only ready for a marathon if you train yourself little, often and over time. Take this time to embrace yourself and learn more about yourself. You are not the same person that you were at the start, the same way I am not the same person I was in 2018 (for some context, my career plan used to have written in there that I would go and spend a gap year with my ex-boyfriend in France…)
I am also taking this time to do whatever it is that I want. I have never done that. I have been a self-sacrificing overachiever for pretty much all of my life. This is the first time in my life where I don’t have a lot on other than the projects I have given myself and my work and it’s pretty glorious. I recommend that anyone else who has also been successful in getting pupillage and is waiting to start does the same. We did it Joe!
What/ Who is your inspiration at the Bar?
I have two main Bar inspirations. The first is everyone who I call a friend at the Bar, and this includes my mentors. Their faith in me has inspired my faith in the profession because for the entire duration of my career journey at the Bar I have faced a loud minority of barristers with bad vibes who very clearly have not come to terms with the idea of someone who looks like me not only getting into the profession but thriving in it. I have had to handle a lot of the people who wish to uphold the Bar’s traditions of hierarchy and I find some people at the Bar are more focused on putting you in your place as an aspiring black female barrister than actually helping you with anything. But everyone that I call a friend has been the antithesis of this and has bent over backwards to support me, give me positive and helpful criticism and feedback and to champion me when I needed it. That has been inspirational.
The second inspiration at the Bar is my BATB community and that includes everyone who watched the BATB X LCN YouTube series, everyone who reads the BATB blog, everyone who has purchased from Shop B at the Bar, everyone who follows us on Instagram/ all of our platforms and everyone who attends our workshops. Your commitment to developing yourself and learning more about the process by engaging with my platform has motivated me to no end and inspired me greatly. If you’re ready and willing to embrace your career journey and push yourself forward in the best way that you can, I’m inspired to keep pushing myself into the profession and make it an even more welcoming place for you when you arrive and give you everything you need to understand it and navigate it with confidence. I am inspired by all of you and I want all of you to continue to keep engaging with me and telling me exactly what you want and how I can help you. I wouldn’t want to be in this career if I wasn’t busting the door (even more) wide open for everyone else to come through.
Reflecting on your journey thus far, has it been worth it?
Although I’ve been in a very intense eye of the storm since I started the GDL in 2017, I have nonetheless found that under four years of consistent pressure I have been turned into a diamond. This process has brought out my fierceness and the most strategic and efficient parts of myself. Everything I have had to handle that has been emotionally draining has been offset by the strength and resilience that I have developed by picking myself up and pushing forward. There is very little now that can phase me and there are very few situations that I don’t think that I can navigate my way out of with critical thinking and belief in myself. I never would have gotten that had I not gone through what I went through to get here and finally achieved my result. It was definitely worth it to see the woman that I am now on the other side.
Above all though, it was worth everything and then some to call my Mum and tell her that we did it, and her Blessing is at the Bar.