Try My Best
Bar School was proceeding well enough and I went to the Inn of Court at lunchtimes for something to eat in the student restaurant. Sometimes I met other students there; other times I whiled the hour away people-watching the Henrys and Henriettas hooraying in loud voices.
Money was running out, so I applied for a bank loan, but was rejected because the bank manager said I would not get a pupillage – the year-long apprenticeship of research, drafting, photocopying and book carrying under the guidance of a senior barrister. To be fair to the bank, the odds of obtaining a pupillage were in the region of three to one against. And this was on a sliding scale. Oxbridge and other traditional university candidates had a better probability. According to a barrister who sat beside me at a mixed dining night, “Ex-Poly types like you have an almost zero chance of obtaining pupillage.” That may be true, but I’m a trier and you have smelly breath, I thought.
The equation was simple: Background + money + connections = virtually guaranteed future as a barrister. A candidate with all three variables had a high chance of practising at the Bar. The probability of success was reduced if any one or more was missing. Someone like me without any of the above only had determination to fall back on. But I went into this with my eyes wide open.
I got quite good at applying for pupillage, rattling off applications in quick succession. I picked my standard letter to sets of chancery, commercial or other chambers; opened the file; saved as; modified the chambers’ name, address and contact name; printed with CV; folded; in envelope; wrote address; stamp on; sealed – all in three minutes flat. Twenty applications an hour at my peak. No messing about there.