Guest blog: How to become a barrister

Lawyer holding document and speaking to jury in courtroom

The Bar is an infamously difficult and competitive career choice. The Bar Council, the industry’s regulatory body, even goes so far as to post a ‘Health Warning’ prominently on its website in an attempt to deter potential future barristers from wasting money on the BPTC (Bar Professional Training Course). This is no standard career path.

However, though difficult, this is a phenomenally rewarding career. If you have confidence in yourself, and are willing to put in the long hours work required, then there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t find yourself fighting for a client in front of a judge at some point in the near future.

The Lawyer Portal, in official partnership with the Bar Council and CILEx, has three things in particular that you, as a student, can start preparing now to give yourself the best possible shot at the Bar! 

  • Academic Credentials

A barrister’s life can be essentially distilled down to reading, writing, and arguing. Barristers therefore have to be intellectually robust, able to construct their own persuasive arguments and point out the flaws in that of their opponent.

The best way to demonstrate that you have this vital intellectual quality is to do as well as possible in your undergraduate (and postgraduate) degree, no matter what subject you may currently be studying. The Bar is a place where your degree classification counts. The better you do, the better your chance of success in pupillage application season. At the two biggest BPTC providers in the country, BPP London and City Law School London, typically 50% of graduates who commence pupillage have First Class undergraduate degrees.

Work hard, get a First or a high Upper Second, and you will set yourself up brilliantly.

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5 top tips for landing a training contract

  • Meet the law firms. Use firm open days and careers fairs to build a relationship with your potential future employer. It is important to introduce yourself to recruiters and ask educated questions. This will help you to stand out in the application process as well as gain a better understanding of the firm and what they are looking for in their candidates.
  • Make your motivations clear. Be able to explain why you want to pursue a career is law. Training contracts require an investment of both time and money from the employer. The firm will want to see that you have reflected on your career choice and have the drive and motivation to work hard and complete the traineeship.
  • Sit in on a court case. Internships, vacation schemes and job shadowing are great ways to gain legal experience and understanding. However, you can witness the law in action by simply observing cases in your local court. These observations can also give you interesting stories to talk about on application forms and in interviews.
  • Keep up to date with the news. Recruiters commonly ask candidates to talk about current events that relate to the legal areas in which they want to work (i.e. banking or corporate law). Pick at least two stories and follow them in the news. One trainee kept a notebook with clippings from her chosen news stories as they progressed. Another suggested reading articles from various sources to help your understanding of the story. For example, start reading short articles on the BBC news website. When you feel that you have a basic understanding of the issue read the more in-depth reports in the Financial Times.
  • Come to your interview with questions. Generally recruiters will give you the opportunity to ask questions at the end of an interview. Always bring a few thoughtful and well-informed questions to your interview. This shows your genuine interest in the firm and traineeship.

For more information about locating and applying for training contracts, we offer 1-2-1 appointments with a Law Careers Consultant. Call 020 7882 8533 to book yours.

Student story: My Summer Internship at Legance

maria bMy name is Maria Luisa and I am going into my third year in Politics and Business Management at Queen Mary. This summer I had the chance to spend two months interning at Legance, an independent Italian law firm with offices in Rome, Milan and London. I was lucky enough to be based in the office in Rome which is also my home city!

At first, I was a bit intimidated about working in a fast paced environment and in the corporate world but, after the first week, I managed to adapt easily thanks to the supportive environment that I found. Since day one, I have been assigned very stimulating tasks and have been involved in a great variety of activities of the firm which is the thing that I liked the most about my internship. In particular, I primarily dealt with doing research, helping write reports and interviews, translating documents from Italian into English, working with the Corporate Social Responsibility Sector, attending meetings and reporting back to the office.

If I have to describe my internship in 3 words I will definitely choose: challenging, as I had to come across to new topics that for me were unknown, engaging because since the beginning I felt very welcomed by all my colleagues and constructive, as I enriched my knowledge and improved my skills.

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Student story: My QMentoring experience

iqraEarlier this year, we featured a guest blog from Sandeep Saib, who is part of our QMentoring programme. This week we hear from Sandeep’s mentee Iqra and what she has learnt from the experience.

When I started my first year of University, I realised that the next few years were crucial in building my skill set, knowledge, and experience in order to succeed in the field of work upon graduating. Coming from an unskilled family background, and attending a struggling state school, meant that I had very little insight or training for my future profession as a solicitor. Although I knew what steps I needed to take to reach my goal, I lacked the confidence to get there, as I knew that succeeding in the world of work was more than just academia, and involved a great degree of being able to give more through my personality and experiences.

Upon leaving Sixth Form and becoming independent, I knew that I needed to gain some experience and guidance on specifically building my professional character through my CV, interviews, networking, persona, and work experience, which would set me apart in the job market. Hence why I got involved in the QMentoring Scheme and was paired with my mentor, Sandeep Saib, who works in a Law firm.

In our initial meetings, we discussed my career goals and Sandeep advised me how to gain work experience by guiding me through the process of writing to a company, or a professional, and doing well in application processes. One of the first things we focused on were video interviews in which Sandeep helped me prepare for an interview with a Law firm. This really helped me understand more about interviews and the recruitment process – one of the main lessons I learnt was how to sell myself to an employer by targeting what I could specifically bring to their organisation. This has certainly stayed with me and helped me succeed in interviews for other ventures and projects, not limited to just the legal industry.

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Guest blog: From Law to Tax Consultancy

Ross Markham0561Ross Markham, 29, is a Consultant in Deloitte’s Global Employer Services. He joined Deloitte in September 2014 having studied Politics and then Law. He advises organisations who have a global footprint on all aspects of their internationally mobile employees.

  • Explain your background to coming to Deloitte

In the final year of my undergraduate degree, I secured a vacation scheme at Latham & Watkins, a leading-US law firm. I really enjoyed this experience, and decided to pursue a career in Law by undertaking the GDL and LPC degrees. During the LPC, I undertook a tax module, and seemed to be the only person who enjoyed it! The College then held an alternatives careers to law fair, at which Deloitte were in attendance and spoke about the transferability of legal skills to a career in Tax. I was really impressed by the similarities between careers in Law and Tax (i.e. prestigious clients, opportunities to travel, working alongside market-leading practitioners) and so applied for the graduate scheme. My law background really held be in good stead throughout the application process, as I was confidently able to talk about tax legislation and case law, which underpin everything that we do in Tax.

  • What skills gained from your Law studies have you found to be most transferable to Tax?

I use my legal skills on an almost daily basis, whether it is analysing employment contracts, drafting policies, interpreting legislation or liaising with HMRC to resolve a dispute. Being a lawyer by training has also given me strong attention to detail, which clients really value.

Furthermore, being able to construct a sound and structured argument, and then being able to verbalise or write that argument, is a really useful tool to convince others and bring them around to your way of thinking.

  • What have you accomplished?

I have been on a six-month secondment to one of the world’s largest insurers, where I worked with their in-house team to stabilise their Global Mobility program. I was also on a pitch team alongside a Partner and Director where we won a leading client for a major project.

  • What is the most exciting part of your role?

I work in a small consulting team, where we work on a variety of projects advising organisations with international employees about the tactical and strategic implications of having a global footprint. This means that I work with clients from a range of industries and with varying problems. Consequently, no two days are the same – I could be advising a Financial Services company on the soundness of their employment contracts one day and running a strategy workshop in the Netherlands for a Consumer Business client the next.

  • What has surprised you most about working at Deloitte?

Not a surprise as such, but it is genuinely been a pleasure to work alongside the most eminent people in their fields in the world. This means I have never stopped learning and genuinely find what I do interesting.

Student story: James Alao


James Alao, 3rd year LLB student

In a recent interview I had with a partner at a city law firm, I was asked, “What percentage of the information that you learn in your degree do you think is relevant to working in a law firm?” After I’d given an estimate, he responded, “Very little.”  He went on to explain that the skills and knowledge needed to be effective in the workplace are not necessarily the same as those you gain from being a good undergraduate student.

How then are students supposed to gain the skills and knowledge employers are looking for? The simple answer is work experience.

During my time studying law at Queen Mary I have been fortunate enough to get involved in a range of work experience opportunities. One of the most useful experiences was my time as a student adviser at the Legal Advice Centre. The experience provided me with a number of skills and insights that were vital in helping me understand what solicitors do, confirming my desire to practice law and ultimately enabled me to secure a training contract.

It is hard to watch Suits and not want to be a lawyer. The reality is, you won’t know that you’ll enjoy a career until you’ve experienced it first-hand. I have friends who have wanted to be lawyers for as long as they can remember. However, after being on a placement they realized within a week that the job was not for them. Work experience is just as important in helping you decide what you don’t want to do as it is in confirming what you wish to pursue.

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Student story: Entering the legal world through the Legal Advice Centre

Daniel Rees Alexander Halford, 2nd year LLB student (left in image below)

halfordWhen I started studying Law at QMUL last year, I had been ‘out of the game’ for quite a while. I spent time abroad after graduating from my previous degree before working a year in Greggs in my sleepy Welsh commuter town.

I needn’t have worried about being older than everyone else on campus – everyone on the Senior Status degree was my age or older. Though I was the oldest in my Pooley flat by a couple of years, the other flatmates were second years from the States and people who for some reason or other hadn’t gotten sucked into university at eighteen.

But shovelling pasties is a little easier than getting through a contract law case. I tried to expand my comfort zone, mooting and making a last-minute application to the Legal Advice Centre. I went to see a panel of barristers talk about their experiences and dropped by the Law fair. On the networking side, I had a strong desire to be talked at, to hear stories, but didn’t really have enough stuff to talk about myself.

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