My path to law can best be described as ‘circuitous’. While many people pop out of the womb wanting to be a commercial solicitor (it’s true, I’ve met such people), I had no idea that law was an option for people like me, from a South Wales comp.
Moving to London I started working for a Labour MP as a Parliamentary Assistant, and this really fired my interest in law as I was heavily involved in research and casework in an inner London constituency.
When my boss retired, I went to the City for a few years as a head-hunter but missed the challenge of legally-focused casework.
My eye-wateringly expensive bar course was funded by a Middle Temple scholarship, the only other financial alternative being the sale of a kidney or similar vital organ. I remain immensely grateful to them – on paper I wasn’t the most promising candidate, but Middle Temple (along with Inner) interview all applicants and allow them to make a case for funding in person.
My father was delighted when I got the scholarship and heard that that I’d get my name in The Times.
“You’ll be just like Rumpole”, he said
“I was hoping I’d be more Martha Costello from Silk, dad. Bit more glamorous”
“Nah, Rumpole, you both like a glass or two of red wine”.
My dad passed away a couple of years ago but I did think of this exchange when I assisted at an Old Bailey hearing earlier this year.
Having got as far as the Bar course I then embarked on the miserable experience that is the pupillage round. For three years I had good, bad, and indifferent interviews, and some truly awful ones. I still cringe when I think of a couple where it was clear in the first couple of minutes that I didn’t impress or I realised I was blabbering like an idiot.
Some of this misery was offset as I worked as a paralegal at the feminist charity, the Centre for Women’s Justice for part of this time. Set up by human rights solicitor Harriet Wistrich, it was a fantastic opportunity to see complex public law challenges and witness some wonderful advocacy from lawyers at the very top of their profession.
Eventually I made it through the five rounds of CPS interviews and started 2020 as a pupil. If all goes well I’ll be a fully fledged barrister early in 2021, which isn’t too bad for the girl from the South Wales comp who never thought that law was for her.
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