General ramblings, law, London life, Pupillage, Uncategorized

Cronuts, Crying and Court

Having never done Lent before, I thought I’d give it a go and have decided to cut out added/refined sugar. This doesn’t bode well for my coffee and croissants review idea for the time being, but I think it’s important as I do eat too much of the sweet stuff. I play quite a bit of sport, run/cycle into work and, on the basis that I burn off an extra few calories, have developed a habit of justifying the substitution of a piece of fruit for a KitKat or some other chocolatey goodness.

I’m not as slim as I could be, but because I’m not getting particularly plump either, this habit has gone unchecked for a bit too long and I fear that diabetes is increasingly on the horizon. Working in an office doesn’t help, as people are always bringing in sweets and treats, which means that there’s a consistent sugar supply to fuel my addiction without the shame or financial cost of sourcing my own.

A week in and it’s going well. It turns out that granola isn’t as good for you as it appears – don’t let all those oats fool you, so I’ve substituted that for some healthy muesli, which is actually delicious, and have bought a load of fruit to eat at my desk. But this isn’t a blog about food, so that’s enough on that. Except, importantly that my sugar abstinence will have a short, delicious interlude by way of a Cronut later in the week. Dominique Ansel does one flavour a month and Easter isn’t until 16 April 2017, so by then I would have lost the opportunity to sample an English Rhubarb with Brown Sugar Ganache forever, and life is just too short.

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Turning from sweet to bitterness, this week I received my first rejection of the year for applications made via the Pupillage Gateway. This has left a particularly sour taste as it was one of my favoured sets, and not only that, I had worked with some of its members on the football stadium project – in fact all counsel in the Inquiry were from the chambers and I have undertaken a mini-pupillage there too, which seemed to go well. Furthermore, earlier in the year I applied to the set for its non-gateway pupillage and, although rejected, was encouraged to apply for the Gateway position. With this in mind, to not even get over the first fence particularly feels like a firm kick in the teeth. However, I know that I should take comfort/reassurance that in making the recommendation to reapply, Chambers’ must have thought my application of sufficient note, but it’s not the most satisfying pill to swallow.

Today I received my second rejection from a chambers on the Gateway. Thankfully, unlike the first rejection, I’m just disappointed, not devastated. Despite the effort that is expected to be put into these applications as well as the unmentioned emotional investment, in my experience the vast majority of chambers do not provide feedback. In fact, nearly all of the rejections that I have received more or less follow this format, ‘Dear Candidate, thank you for your interest in X Chambers, the calibre was high this year and unfortunately you have not been successful, we do not provide feedback. Regards, X’.

One chambers I applied to was particularly cruel in their no feedback policy. I had a first and final round interview, got ‘pipped at the post’ for the final, but was ‘fast-tracked’ to a final round for their next recruitment cycle, which was around a month later. I was unsuccessful in this second final round interview too. The next year I applied again, also got through to the final round, but was third time unlucky and unsuccessful. At each point of rejection, I requested feedback and every time was more or less given the response detailed above.

Each final round required significant preparation, developing a case and researching the law surrounding it, as well as, the general anxiety and fear any interview evokes. It was never just a case of turning up and turning on the charm. It’s not only time that is invested in this process, emotionally, particularly after so many attempts and interactions with the different members, you become incredibly vested in that chambers.

How can an individual improve if evaluators refuse to share with them why they found that person to be weak or what they did wrong? Were they unclear on the law, is their advocacy unpersuasive, did they fail to make any eye contact, or are they culturally the wrong fit for the set? With consistent feedback, if an individual receives criticism on the same issues, they can identify trends and improve themselves. Other feedback may be chambers-focused and therefore not a specific issue that an individual necessarily needs to address, but in knowing they can maybe have some peace of mind.

In this particular case, why did they keep saying yes, to ultimately tell me no? Responding with, the calibre was high, or even particularly high, is not acceptable. It’s the Bar, of course the calibre is f*cking high.

Turning to another source of sorrow, seat rotations. The time has come for the trainees in the firm I work for to move departments. I’m very happy for them, but I can’t help feeling disappointed with myself, they are moving on with their careers in such an obvious way and I’m still stuck in my role – unstimulated and frustrated, scanning my life away. To add to my pain this week, I tripped over myself playing football, landed on the concrete corner of the pitch and though I’d broken my wrist. Three and a half hours in A&E proved my self-diagnosis to be incorrect, but it still hurts.

A landmark judgment was handed down recently and I was sent to court to collect a copy of it. Another colleague ended up attending too and the courtroom was as nearly as packed as the Central Line in rush hour (possibly a mild exaggeration, but people were standing all along the walls). My colleague informed me that we needed the judgment as there were important clients on the other side of the world waiting up to learn the outcome of the case. After the judge briefly delivered the judgment, which permitted a new type of declaration, the clerk went outside the courtroom to hand out printed copies.

It appeared from the large stack of paper the clerk was carrying that she had enough for most of the interested parties. However, after scrambling to get one, it turned out that the judgment was extensive and that the clerk in fact only had four copies of it; the last one I managed to claw from her possession. However, less than a nanosecond after I had secured the prize, someone else’s talons appeared on the papers, and she would not retract them. Not letting go either, I looked around and saw the equally desperate, frenzied faces of five young women who had all been sent to secure a copy of this judgment.

What to do? It’s vital that we get this judgment asap, but it’s not something I am passionate enough about to literally fight for, and fight for in court at that. One woman suggested photocopying at the Court – a 200-page judgment, 10p a page to copy, 7 people and obviously no-one has change. Next… We/I somehow manage to negotiate for them all to come to our office, which was close by, where we could run off copies for everyone at no cost – eventually they all agreed, but although the sense of desperation had subsided slightly, the tension remained with everyone unsure if they should have entrusted us with the document.

Despite the stress and uncertainty of the situation, there was still a basic level of respect, trust and cooperation, and, particularly given that it is International Women’s Week, I raise the question of whether a group of men would have acted in the same way and achieved such an outcome.

(Just to note, if you do philosophise on this point, it may be relevant know that the first three judgments were all taken by men, who pushed to the front, snatched the papers and ran away.)

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