BPTC BLOG: My First Month on the BPTC

Photo: The best part of the BPTC is avoiding it completely…in Paris…

I’m nearly at one month on the BPTC and it’s mostly been me trying to keep up to date with my work and meaningfully engage with class. I don’t feel as on top of things as I want to be, but I’m confident that will come with time. In the meantime, here are my thoughts…

Onwards and upwards, it’s the final stretch

By God’s grace, in July 2019 I will have completed the BPTC and will be called to the Bar (ideally with a pupillage offer under my belt). The first few weeks have been…interesting. I said to a friend of mine on the course that it feels as if someone has blindfolded me, spun me around ten times and then sent me on my way. I’m disoriented, the two big fat copies of the White Book on my bedroom shelf are making me feel uneasy and at the start I had no idea what half of my classes required from me.

Did someone say COLOUR CODING?! 

Ah, the admin. The GDL was straightforward, you had a syllabus for each module, a textbook and a timetable. On the BPTC we have our timetable, which we cross reference against a second document detailing what we need to study and bring for each different class and some classes are split up and divided into groups completing different tasks.

Basically you need to get it together and keep it firmly together for the entire year. You need to keep track of what you need to bring to class and when but most importantly its imperative that you stay on track with your workload. Some things require more or less prep and apparently there are some classes for which we need to prepare for consistently for weeks in advance.

Good news is I get to upgrade my colour coding system. Bad news is I can’t slack. The course has so much content to cover in about the same amount of time as the GDL – so it’s tight

Burning myself out 

I had no intention of coming onto this course and repeating the hell that was my GDL working hours. I was doing hours and hours of work a day on that course and it only ended in June! I’ve been trying to add some kind of normalcy into my life since then, but the BPTC swooped in and said: 

Unfortunately, time management has not gone as I’d hoped. The demands from the course are significant and I’m trying to get it all under control. Applying the advice that I should treat this course like a 9-5 job has been difficult with so many extra commitments flying around stealing my energy as well as completing the assigned work taking far longer than I expect it to. The inconvenient truth that I cannot (and should not) attempt to function without adequate sleep, rest and exercise is also weighing on my mind.

I don’t feel in control…ARGH! 

I know for a fact that I can handle this and to an extent, I’m probably exaggerating. I’ve mostly avoided appearing in class unprepared and I’ve been making good use of my friends to share work and get help. The frustration is knowing that these exams are notoriously bad and that I need to be working incrementally to be prepared when the time comes. I don’t want to look back and regret not working properly so maybe I’m letting that worry prevent me from seeing that everything is actually fine. On the other hand, perhaps the worry is healthy and is a warning to get it together before I do end up regretting how I used my time.

Either way, my next challenge is to stop worrying and stick to my prep timetable. I’ve been trying to do work all hours of the day, every day which is completely unsustainable. My focus is to be as prepared for the exam as possible. I’ll give updates on how it’s all going for me in a couple of weeks or so. 

Going where others have definitely gone before 

If there’s one thing I have learned in my many years in higher education, it’s that learning from others who have gone before you is essential. Taking as many tips and as much advice as you can from people who have completed the course will help you navigate it. For example, someone at work gave me the tip that for Civil Lit, the commentary underneath the CPR is essential as this is where a lot of the questions/examples for the assessment are drawn from. Time will tell how well this advice serves me, but I’m glad I received it. 

By the end of this blog I’ll be able to give more detailed advice of my own. However, if like me you’re still completing the course, I suggest that you try and pick up as much helpful advice as possible. Someone has completed this course before and can help you. Try to get advice from different people so you can compare their responses and distinguish between more or less helpful advice. 

I’m learning to make the most of productivity technology 

In anticipation of not only this upcoming year but also my future life working as a barrister, I’ve decided to invest in productivity technology. I’ve always been interested in apps but I’ve never really harnessed what’s out there properly. Given that this course is going to really require me to focus and be organised I decided to dive into the best that the app store has to offer. My top picks are: 

Wunderlist – Available on the App Store (Apple) and on Mac

Wunderlist essentially allows you to create to-do lists and keep track of your tasks. I have lists for various things and I group them into folders. The ability to set reminders and due dates for each ‘to do’ is very helpful and if I go onto the ‘Today’ tab it will show me all pending tasks that have not been done. Not to mention it seamlessly synchronises between my phone, Mac and iPad so I never miss a thing. You can also share your Wunderlists with other people, say if you work together on a project. God bless you Wunderlist. 

Fantastical – Available on the App Store and on Mac

Fantastical is a superior version of the standard Apple Calendar. It allows you to write in something like “lunch with Anna at four on Thursday at Temple” and it will automatically create the appointment. I like it because it shows me a breakdown of my day, week and month and helps me keep on track of all my classes. 

Forest – Available on the App store

Forest is a ‘pomodoro’ timer. Pomodoro timers are set for 25 minutes with a 5 minute break. It allows you to work efficiently and manage your time well. I got the idea from ‘Getting through the BPTC with the Pomodoro Technique: a guest post by Matthew Rees‘ on Snigs Classroom, a blog run by Snigdha, a BPTC Lecturer and Barrister at City Law School. I found her blog to be a great source of comfort before the course began and I thoroughly recommend you read it! Forest allows you to set your timer and grow a tree. If you exit the app whilst your tree is growing it dies and you fail. You can also create a room and grow a tree with others. It’s fantastic way to keep your study group on track! If one person goes on their phone the tree dies. You don’t want that kind of crime hanging over your head.

‘Screen Time’ – A new feature on the IOS 12 update

The best feature that Apple has delivered since touch ID. It monitors how long you spend on certain apps and allows you to set limits. We underestimate how much time is wasted aimlessly scrolling through social media apps and that can really cut into your productivity time. Screen time is a wonderful feature and I already feel like I have reclaimed many many lost hours from social media with it. I like the weekly summary which even shows you how many times you picked up your phone! This has helped me stay focused and take a bit more ownership over where my attention goes.

Wish me luck!

I have some kinks to work out in my approach to the BPTC but I’m very confident I’ll have this all under control soon. Wish me luck and I’ll check in again when I can!

Until next time,