Why do I want to be a Barrister? (Part 1)

So, why did I want to be a Barrister? Why do I want to be a Barrister now?

I’ve been asked this question in various ways for more than four years now and I still find myself stammering an unconvincing answer. In fact, the more I learn about this profession, the greater my fear of sounding trite in my responses.

The typical answers: “I want to be a specialist advocate”, “I want to be independent”, “I want to have varied work”, etc. all have a hollow, cliched ring to it now. Yet, on the other hand, I sometimes wonder whether I would be better off trying to channel my high school naivety (when I barely knew what a Barrister was) as my motivations to be a lawyer were much clearer then, then they are now.

To elaborate, I will use an excerpt from an application in which I had to, for the first time, explain why I wanted to study law/be a lawyer. Here is an excerpt from my UCAS Personal Statement (November 2007):

“[…] At school, I had already tried my hand at journalism and realized that despite the immense satisfaction I obtained from writing articles for the school newspaper, I was not able to see myself as a writer. During the summer, I interned at the BRAC Bank Ltd and assisted the Small and Medium Enterprises division compile an Operations Manual; only to realize that the day-to-day work of this company was too monotonous, micromanaged and mathematical for my taste.

It was during my weeks in the Chambers of two leading Barristers in Dhaka, that I felt I had come across a field that complemented my interests.

I was given the responsibility to sift through documents and research on laws of other countries. Occasionally, I even had the opportunity to sit in on meetings with clients. I had an opportunity to examine a few problems Bangladesh is experiencing in the real estate sector by not having a real estate code of conduct. Owing to this, real estate associations will be able to continue cheating customers without the fear of legal interference. At these chambers, my perception of ‘law’ broadened dramatically from simply understanding it to be the rules that kept society from imploding to recognizing it as a field of immense scope, dealing with issues that can be related to every facet of life – extending from real estate to Customs legislation to divorce litigation. What I came to appreciate most from my internship, was the diversity of clients that these Barristers attract – ranging from forwarding agents to disgruntled landlords to litigators over stolen national historical artifacts. My experience was to stimulate my interest in law as a field of study.

My country is in the process of instituting legal reform and modernizing its colonial structures. From November 2007, the country has taken the crucial step of separating the judiciary from the executive branch of government.  A greater influx of capable barristers will be requires to ensure that both the reform and the separation process are effective in operation. If my interest in law as a field of study was already stimulated, on reading about these changes I have been wondering if law could not also be a possible career for me.

Finally, I feel that my enthusiasm for logic and reasoning, dovetailed with my extracurricular pursuits such as public speaking and writing would be well exercised in this field. I also feel that such a course of study will enable me to have wider options when I pursue my postgraduate studies […]”

The parts in bold are, of course, the main reasons why I wanted to study law and become a lawyer back in 2007. Some of my ‘motivations’ make me squirm, particularly the last paragraph, but as I was able to get offers from all the Universities I applied to (UCL, LSE, Warwick, SOAS, Edinburgh), my statement must have been effective.

I came to learn over the years since writing this statement that it is possible to use clichés while applying for mini-pupillages and BPTC courses but it is all about how they’re presented. Clearly, what I had written was sufficient for my LLB application but it wouldn’t be adequate now.

To apply for professional work experience opportunities, it is also important to break down the work that a Barrister does down to its individual components and to demonstrate that you have the skills and experience to handle such work and responsibilities. General statements about being a ‘dynamic public speaker’ would not suffice!

In future posts on this topic, I will explain how my motivations to be a Barrister have evolved over time and how in some respects they have remained the same. I will also provide examples of how I tried to demonstrate in various covering letters and applications that I have the requisite skills and experience to be a Barrister.

Some of them have quite a few flaws and have been duly rejected but I hope that by reading through them, you will learn from my mistakes.

Finally, this is a link to a blog run by an English Barrister and an entry on why they want(ed) to be a Barrister: http://pupillageandhowtogetit.wordpress.com/2008/09/01/why-i-want-to-be-a-barrister/

Do you have the same motivations? Do these considerations apply to a career at the Bar, in the country you’re from?