Becoming a barrister in London is extremely competitive. If you haven’t graduated from a Russell Group university or hold a first class degree and have no solid legal experience, it may take you a few years before obtaining pupillage. Paying £18,500 for the BPTC opens doors to financial distress, doubt, and depression. Therefore, as a law student you must do anything and everything to make yourself attractive to the pupillage committee.
I finished my LLB from a mid-ranked university with a standard 2:1. I applied for the BPTC, but could not secure a scholarship and so I deferred for a year. I landed into a gap year, which literally felt like a gap. My short term aim for the year was to earn money and enhance my CV.
My background is working class. Being the first generation to go to university, my academic achievements spread quickly within my community. A relative’s business friend needed urgent assistance in a case which had arisen in England. The procedures of the English legal system are intimidating to any party outside the jurisdiction. This business friend, i.e. the client, had landed himself into a situation at no fault of his own – his solicitor was negligent in serving the defence. As a result, a default judgment was made against his company for a substantial amount. Therefore, he wanted advice on the possible next steps.
As a new law graduate I was not in the position to advise. However, I was able to somewhat assist the client and explain the legal procedures. The client was from Turkey and English was alien to him. Understanding and communicating in English was a huge problem. Due to my ability to speak another language and knowledge of the English legal system, I managed to assist the client over lunch. I used my own free time to explain what steps he should take and offered to help as an interpreter, for free.
At the end of the meeting, I expressed my drive and determination to enter the Bar. I explained my current position and I asked whether he was able to offer me any international experience, by becoming the channel between him and his attorney at law. It was an unexpected request, but my bravery illustrated ambition and drive. The client even offered to sponsor me as a thank you for helping him in the UK.
The client took the necessary steps and went back to Turkey to continue with business. I emailed the client shortly after and attached my CV and cover letter. His attorney at law accepted my request and I was told I could start whenever I wanted. It should be noted, that I maintained my relationship with the client but also grabbed the opportunity afforded to me. As a result, I obtained an internship through a few emails sent back and forth.
The experience I gained abroad was brilliant. I learned about new areas of law which I had not studied during my undergrad. I was in court near enough every day and I was even given the opportunity to do research for live files. I promoted myself to everybody I met and I was valued by the firm I worked in. In addition to this legal experience, I also learnt how to adapt to a new culture and found that my skills were transferable for everything.
Once I completed my internship I returned back to London and began my BPTC. I have spoken to barristers and academics at social events about this experience; they were all very impressed and expressed that I what did was unique and definitely stands out. Fundamentally, we all need to stand out; to do so you need to sacrifice some time and energy, remain positive and opportunities will come flooding in.