Called To The Bar
I felt like I was in a dream. After a happy tube journey, I got back to our small flat and told Michelle the news. She screamed and gave me a big hug. I’d done it. I had actually gone and done it! All that hard work and perseverance had paid off. Two days later and the letter arrived “Formally to confirm that we have offered and you have accepted a funded 1st six months pupillage with us… We are delighted that you are coming to us. The only condition is that you must have passed your Bar Finals first time round!”
There were so many times when I doubted myself, but look at this! I slapped the letter in my hand. I still needed to secure a 2nd six months pupillage but my foot was well and truly in the door. The letter included a Two Oak Court brochure which revealed all the posh credentials of the predominantly Oxbridge barristers at this set of chambers. After being rejected by so many barristers’ chambers, I landed one of the top pupillages in the country. I got lucky.
I spent the summer working in the legal department of a local bank in Harrow and had a good time getting to know the people there, but earning relatively little money. Bar School results day was a letter in the post. I opened it anxiously, closed my eyes and hoped. The covering letter stated: “I am pleased to inform you that you have been successful in completing the Bar Vocational Course…” I was relieved at the news, which meant I could take up the pupillage at Two Oak Court. A few days later, The Times published the results in order of merit. I was in the bottom half but, fuck it, my name was there. The pupillage was funded, but I still needed a bank loan to complete the training. This time I got one straight away.
Being called to the bar was like going back in time. I walked to the Inn of Court dressed in a dark suit, white cotton shirt with detachable winged collars, white bands around my neck in an inverted V-shape and a black barristers’ gown. I lined up with the others under a high curved ceiling in the medieval building, about to make the transition from student to barrister. When my turn came, I stepped to the front, a Master of the Bench rose, looked at me for a moment and boomed out “Callum Stanford,” which echoed around the cavernous surroundings. That was the formal summons issued to those who were fit to speak at the bar of the royal courts. I walked forward and shook hands with the Treasurer. I was now a barrister. It was a bit surreal because it didn’t feel as if I fitted in. During Bar School, most of the people I met were over-privileged and looked down on me. But, I’d fought hard to get here and was proud of what I’d achieved.
Afterwards, there was an evening of canapés at the Inn of Court. There were some very well-to-do people mingling between the silver platters of food and top-ups of wine. This intensified the feeling of remoteness as I talked with High Court judges, QCs and Masters of the Bench. But they were very friendly and especially interested in my pupillage.
“And where have you been invited for pupillage?” a judge asked. I told him about Two Oak Court. “Ah, a leading chancery chambers. I take it you got a First?”