So the BPTC is finished and now I’m trying to find out what I’m going to do with my life. I’d always planned for the two years I would spend at Law School to be filled with preparing me as much as possible for life as a barrister, and I feel like I have achieved that.
That being said, I’m starting to get the feeling that it’s only now that I’m outside of formal educational institutions that I’m going to start learning those lessons that are going to serve me well in practice. Simply put, there are things about life that school just can’t teach and I’m looking forward to the new experiences that await me now that I am done with formal education for good.
School’s out forever…
As I have said many times before, I have wanted to be a barrister since as long as I could remember, so it was easy for me to just put my head down and focus on school. I never hesitated to be involved in running societies and join executive committees. But maybe what was missing was that I hadn’t had the space to just be myself and do what I want. I didn’t realise until about two weeks ago that what I have been craving the most is the freedom to exist outside of timetables, deadlines and essays.
Ready or not (future chambers) here I come, gonna find you and make you want me 🎶
My focus up until now has been to get my CV looking the way it should and to ensure that I had the necessary experience to apply for pupillage and be competitive. I’m really happy to say that I think I’ve achieved that. I was lucky to hear from a mentor of mine that she considered my CV so far to be great and save for a few more mini-pupillages which I’ll be doing over the next year or so, I’m about as ready to apply for pupillage as I could ever be.
The BPTC can teach you conference, but not confidence
What the BPTC doesn’t teach you though is how to be yourself. It teaches you how to draft and perform certain skills that barristers have to perform. But what the course can’t give you is the confidence to truly believe that you belong at the Bar and to make this into a career that works for you, for life. Finishing the course and knowing that I’ve passed everything so far (and in some cases gotten excellent marks) hasn’t made me any more sure that I’m going to be a great barrister. Knowing that I’ve got ‘Outstanding’ and ‘Very Competent’ doesn’t make me believe in my own ability any more or less. It was everything that I did outside of school that has given me that confidence.
Instead of school giving me that confidence, it was writing my second journal article and presenting it in front of a Supreme Court Judge and a QC that I really want to be like when I am at the Bar. It was appearing in the Royal Courts of Justice for the competition that I won alongside my partner Polly last month. It was taking on cases with the School Exclusion Project and experiencing the adversarial nature of our justice system first-hand when I had someone on the other side accuse me of lying when they were incorrectly applying the law. It was everything outside the course that grew my confidence over this past year. As terrifying as it is, I know that the road ahead of me is going to continue to be full of lessons and experiences that are going to shape me and none of them have anything to do with school.
It’s all over…or is it?
When I finished my university degree it was a cause for celebration. I felt like I’d completed something and it felt monumental. But with the BPTC I don’t feel like I’ve completed something as such. I feel like how I felt when I got the paper counterpart to my driving licence: I am still waiting for my chance to complete all the stages and get my pink card that says I am fully licensed to drive on the road unsupervised.
I imagine that’s what it’s going to feel like after I’ve completed pupillage and I get my full practising certificate and I’m on my feet all by myself. Everyone always says that you don’t really start driving until after you’ve passed your test and I think the BPTC is like that too. You don’t really start being a barrister until after you’ve completed pupillage and it’s just you, your clients and the judges you appear in front of. No school, no supervisors and no assessment.
I can barely imagine what that is like at this stage, but looking at where I am now I am ready to enjoy the progress that I’ve made so far. But I know that my journey to the Bar is only just getting started. I’m so grateful for all of the experiences I’ve had outside of school that have affirmed my desire to push forward to the next stages. Without them I doubt that I would even be ready to go forward. I got so tantalisingly close to getting pupillage this year and it was incredible to know that on my first try I got that close.
Knowing that I spent so much time investing in myself outside of school, I can knuckle down and focus on nailing it in the next round which is a massive relief. If you also got very close on your first try don’t be disheartened. As I have mentioned many times before it is seriously normal for your first time to be unsuccessful. In my view, there is a lot you can draw out of your first application round to be successful in your next so be grateful for every piece of feedback you were able to receive and apply it.
Young, gifted and broke
Freedom is strange but the growth that I’ve experienced thus far has been wonderful. Even though this course was painful I’m grateful for every experience that I’ve had on it and every lesson that I’ve learnt. In particular, I’m really grateful for the amazing friends and colleagues that I got to know over this past year and I think they are all going to prove to be excellent lawyers and people that I would be honoured to work alongside in the future.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t super excited to see who I am outside of school and what I can do with myself. I would also be lying if I said that I wasn’t absolutely terrified because I am broke, I have no idea how I’m going to make any money over the next two years and I don’t know where I’m going to live after my lease in London ends in August. What exactly can you do as a not-quite-qualified barrister?! Whatever happens though I know that I can look back at my time on this course and on the GDL and be ridiculously proud of myself, as you should too if you’ve also come to the end of your professional legal studies.
Coming up next in Season 3 of Blessing at the Bar…
Of course I’ll be keeping you updated on how I navigate life now I’m no longer a student and I have some really exciting summer plans that I cannot wait to blog about. But for now I can happily confirm that I made it to the other side of the BPTC in one piece and that if I had to summarise how I feel in one word I would say that I feel ready.
Until next time,