Moving On

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I entered a period toward the end of my 1st six months pupillage when the barristers in chambers opened up a lot more toward me. I was chatting to a barrister in her room one day and asked her why this set of chambers usually took on Oxbridge graduates. “We stick with what we know,” she replied. Candidates like me were an unknown quantity.

Jeremy took me aside later that day and was brutally honest. “It doesn’t really matter how well you do here, you know? You’re going to have to move on.” It was clear I did not fit in at Two Oak Court.

Jeremy offered to help me out and wrote to a dozen barristers’ chambers he thought I could do well in. Within a week, I was offered an interview at a nearby chancery chambers. I was a bit deflated and could have done better in the interview, at the end of which a barrister unfolded a letter and showed it to the interviewing panel. It was a recommendation by Jeremy and they agreeably nodded at each other. Within a few days, I received a letter from Four Oak Court stating; “We are delighted to offer you an unfunded 2nd six months pupillage… The competition has been fierce, but we were extremely impressed with your application.” I was offered the opportunity to complete my pupillage because Jeremy put in a good word. It would be six months of hard work with no pay.

My money was running out. I could not afford to meet people for nights out anymore and my daily extravagance was buying lunch from a sandwich shop at the top of Chancery Lane. It was a luxury, but the warm turkey in a brown bun tasted the best. My girlfriend, Michelle, was paying the bills and I was at the point where the lack of money was going to force me to leave the Bar. I sat in a library and applied to the Inn of Court for a further scholarship and sent an application form detailing the pupillage I was about to complete and the next one I had been offered. I received a letter within a few weeks stating I was being awarded another two scholarships and I did not even need to go to an interview this time. I was amazed, but extremely grateful. I would have just enough money to complete my pupillage, thanks to the benchers of the Inn of Court. And Michelle.

On the last day of my 1st six months pupillage, the barristers had a meeting to discuss the results of each pupil. I knew there was no hope of me staying on and Jeremy asked me for a quiet word when it was over.

“It’s really surprising where candidates end up after six months, considering where they started from. You did really well, but we can’t offer you a 2nd six months pupillage.”

He explained our starting positions were in order of our Bar School results. Bertie was first, then Giles Twatte, next was George and I was in fourth place. I knew George had faltered early on and I overtook the surly Giles Twatte with about a month to go. I was told that, as I achieved a higher mark than Bertie, no one would be offered the opportunity of completing pupillage there. I had proved myself, but I was gutted.

I packed a few things to leave and my soon to be ex-pupilmaster discussed the realities of pupillage and cheerfully referred to all the current pupils as “Natural wastage.” He went on to say I “Would make a good, but not exceptional, barrister.” Against my instincts, I kept my mouth shut and took it on the chin.

During another break in the court calendar, I worked for some extra cash on an opinion for Jeremy about his most recent case. I thought long and hard about the case and came to the conclusion the court papers drafted by my ‘Natural wastage’ pupilmaster were fatally flawed. I advised the case could not be won without submitting amended pleadings to correct his errors. I drafted and attached the amended pleadings to the legal opinion. Jeremy read the advice, thanked me and handed over a cheque. I was pleased to hear a few months later that Jeremy followed my advice. The corrected pleadings were accepted by a judge and Jeremy won the case. It must have been a bitter pill for my ‘Natural wastage’ pupilmaster to swallow.

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