Adventure, Beer, Career aspirations, Career frustrations, Food, General ramblings, law, Life goals, Luxembourg, New adventure, Pupillage, Training contract, Travel, Travel writing, Trips, Wanna be Barrister

Trip 5: Luxembourg (and Germany, again)

This #atripamonth idea has been a great thing for me, providing something to regularly look forward to, it’s helped get me through the tedium and banality of day-to-day paralegal perjury; the stress and disappointment of pupillage applications, interviews and rejections; and general life frustrations. Just being somewhere different for a few days and researching things other than chambers’ websites, is satisfying in its attainability and as a distraction, if nothing else. Also writing a blog (albeit much less frequently than initially anticipated) has been cathartic, writing something other than work emails, indices for bundles and unconscionably late Whatsapp messages, with no printing or scanning required.

Luxembourg was the cheapest flight for July, £28 return – bargain. As it was so cheap, I invited my brother to join me. Firstly because no one else was free and/or wanted to go to Luxembourg, but mainly because he has been struggling to find a job for a few months and I thought the trip would provide him with a little relief from the day-to-day cycle of applications and rejections. Although I only booked our flights a couple of weeks before hand, that should have been enough time to find a few things to do. But sitting in the departure lounge, we realised that between us we’d amassed only a small handful of underwhelming ideas.

So when we arrive late on Saturday night, we had no real plan of what we were going to do until our flight home Monday evening. We got on a bus from the airport assuming that it went to the city centre (luckily it did), and then walked to the hotel. Maybe we ambled along less popular avenues, but we didn’t see much in the way of Saturday nightlife. The hotel wasn’t particularly central, but after a brief wander it became clear that we weren’t near anything fun, so we settled for a G&T in the hotel bar and an early night.

Breakfast was a super start to the day, an amazing auswiel of food: from goat’s cheese and little cornichons to pastries, scrambled egg and delectably crisp bacon. It was such a treat to say in a hotel, rather than sharing a room with however many random people, each morning stocking up on stodgy rye bread, processed meat, and lukewarm coffee in stained, chipped mugs (which, to be fair, does have its own charm).

For our first proper day, we walked around Luxembourg city centre. The old town was charming, with winding streets of large stone buildings, labelled with colourful signs in a variety of languages and little arches constructing connections on obscure angles. From the bock casemates (a former fort, a honeycomb-like warren of rocky passages) there was a beautiful view – below, a green valley with the ambling Alzette river, spindly black church spires spiking the skyline and music playing in a nearby courtyard, and to the right, the expanse of the historic walled city.

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The Alzette River and Bock Casemates, Luxembourg

 

We visited the Natural History Museum, which had a special cat exhibition, and also walked along the river in the sunshine to the Grund area, where we stopped at Scott’s café for some lunch. The burger was delicious, but the beer, Diekirch, distinctly average.

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A vanilla, bourbon and caramel chocospoon!

We got caught in the rain and wandered, slightly sodden, around the Notre Dame and then back into the centre of town, where we stumbled upon the Chocolate House. What a delight, a vast selection of chocospoons, from tiramisu and wasabi to lavender and chocolate brownie, and an array of milk (including lactose free cow’s milk and almond). I opted for a vanilla, bourbon and caramel spoon, and we shared the most amazing and enormous chocolate mousse cake.

 

 

After getting caught in the rain again, we explored the Bonnevoie area on the other side of town. In search of more food, we couldn’t find anything Luxembourgish so settled for a pizza. Our conclusion at the end of our first day was that Luxembourg was nice, pretty but also quite boring (despite the chocospoons), there wasn’t many people or much of a buzz, so we needed to come up with a plan of escape for the next day.

Day Two

From our strategy session over breakfast, we/I decided that we should get the train to Germany, as my brother had never been before. Trier was about an hour and a half away, with regular trains back and forth, so we went there – to the birthplaceof Karl Marx (my academic idol as a politics undergrad). Trier was pretty and has a large Roman gate at its entrance; we went to a few churches, including the Dom, meandered along the river and then visited the Karl Marx Museum. At 5:37pm, we got the train back to Luxembourg and then went straight to the airport.

 

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The Moselle River, Trier, Germany

 

We debated whether to visit the CJEU (working in law I felt particularly obliged), but decided that as it was Sunday, the Court would not have been open, so it wouldn’t be worthwhile. Instead, we waited at the airport for hours, and then even longer because our flight was delayed and then longer still, as two people decided that because of the initial delay, that they no longer wanted to get the flight, so their baggage in the hold had to be located and removed. Thanks guys.

We landed way after midnight and got home who knows when. Dragging myself into work early the next day, I see an urgent request from my colleague – to order a toilet dispense for someone in the Netherlands. What a way to start the week.

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Karl Marx
BPTC, Career aspirations, Career frustrations, General ramblings, law, Life goals, Pupillage, The Bar, Travel writing, Wanna be Barrister

Two interviews: one answer – Sorry, but no

 

BHB_tileThe Netherlands was great and Saturday 10th June soon rolled round, bringing with it my 4:50 pm interview. I auditioned along with two other candidates at that time slot; a young women with spidery, unshaven legs, who’d just finished the BPTC and drank out of a large pickled onion jar, and an overweight Scottish guy in a tweed suit unfitting for the uncharacteristically hot weather, who disingenuously attempted befriend me and the other rival, whilst sweating profusely into the large Chesterfield ensconced beneath him.

The candidates were called up separately and the interview was in two parts, I was last to be beckoned and thankful for a few minutes of sincere silence before the ordeal fully commenced. For the first part, I was sat alone in a room at a desk and told that I had eight minutes to prepare answers to two, unseen, questions, each of which I was to present on for eight minutes. As I turned over the sheet of paper containing the questions, I saw that there were only two to choose from.

The questions were, to paraphrase: (i) should people accused of historic sex offences be given the right to anonymity; and (ii) what are the key issues affecting Legal Aid and what area would I increase funding to and why? Apart from the odd mini-pupillage, I have not engaged practically with criminal law since working at a paralegal in 2012, as my career after the BPTC has solely been in civil law – sport, corporate and now patents, not areas renown for financial constraints over litigation or witness vulnerability.

Like clockwork, after eight mercurial minutes two people came in and introduced themselves, saying that they will not be asking any questions, but will just listen and take notes. It was horrendous, having two strangers, qualified at cutting through bullshit staring blankly at you in between noting down every crap, unclear sentence you spew from your unprepared, quivering mouth, whilst your eyes desperately meet theirs in a vain attempt to beg for guidance or some glimmer of reassurance. As you can imagine, I didn’t score too highly on this section.

The second part was much better, in fact I would even go so far as to describe it as enjoyable. It was an interactive interview with two different members of chambers, one of which was wearing a batman t-shirt, the other in a standard suit and tie ensemble. The questions were a lot more personable: (i) what achievement am I most proud of; (ii) what makes me angry; and a couple more… which enabled me to build a rapport with Batman and corporate Robin. In my feedback a couple of days later, Batman said that I’d scored third highest overall in this segment and was only three marks away from being taken through to the final round, despite my car crash of a part one.

As the final round was the next day (what would have been my day two of three in Copenhagen), chambers promised to let applicants know by 8:00 pm that night whether or not they had been successful. I think my interview finished around 6:30 pm, so that was not much time for deliberation. To pass the next hour and a half, I walked from Blackfriars to Leicester Square like a briefcase wanker in my black suit, to meet a few friends that had been drinking and enjoying the sunshine since midday. Safe to say, they were pretty merry (and obviously much less anxious, stressed and sleep deprived than me).

It was either going to be a short, sweet night of happiness or a long sad evening of sipping gin to suppress tears of disappointment and frustration. By 7:50 pm, I’d learnt it was the latter. But not only that, about thirty minutes later another chambers, on a Saturday night, also sent me a rejection email. Give me a break.

On Monday, I received an email from the chambers I’d interviewed at saying that I had stood out amongst the sea of rejects and, as a result, they were willing to provide me with some individual feedback by phone. That night, Batman called. It was somewhat reassuring to hear that I am not completely useless and was very close to making the cut, but it still hurts to hear someone (however constructively and kindly) tell you that you just aren’t good enough for them.

My interview the weekend after in Peterborough was pretty much the same as part two of the interview above. Two interviewers, meaningful and meaty questions, good rapport and a chance to demonstrate my skills, experience and passion. But again, no. No, no, no. Sorry Dear Candidate, but no. No, you have not been successful on this occasion – again. You may have spent over £100 on train tickets, wasted every weeknight preparing and fretting, and squandered another rare sunny Saturday to wear a suit and sit indoors in an unfamiliar building with strangers who are analysing your every word, expression and obfuscation- but sorry Dear Candidate,  no.

 

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Career aspirations, Career frustrations, General ramblings, law, Life goals, London life, Pupillage, The Netherlands, Travel, Trips

Trip 4 Copenhagen: Cancelled for an interview

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En route to getting the coach to Stanstead Airport for my trip to the Netherlands, I got some good news – I’d been selected for a pupillage interview at an amazing chambers in London. The set specialises in civil liberties and human rights, aligning perfectly with my undergraduate degree in politics and international relations and master’s in war studies, and would provide a stimulating, rewarding and people-focused practice. It came with one minor negative, the interview was scheduled for the same Saturday I had booked to fly to Copenhagen for my June trip, with the final round the next day. I asked to reschedule, but inevitably it was not practicable.

This is the second trip I’ve cancelled for a pupillage interview. The first was for a poorly paid criminal pupillage at an unfriendly, unaccommodating set that I’d chosen over a ten-day horse riding holiday in Spain – which I’d scrimped and saved for whilst working part-time on minimum wage alongside studying the BPTC. So, in comparison, forgoing a three-day city break, when I’d just been to the Netherlands, was on the lower end of my first world problems.

A few days later and some more good news, I’d secured another pupillage interview for the weekend after the civil liberties set, for a chambers based in Peterborough. This one has a more traditional common law practice, with a strong vein of family work. They are very different options, but I’d be grateful to secure either. I’m sure the sacrifice, pain, suffering and loss of amenity will pay off soon. Plus, even if it doesn’t work out on this occasion, Copenhagen will always be there to visit another time.

Career frustrations, General ramblings, law, London life, Pupillage

Delayed gratification

cropped-bhb_banner.pngExcellent news, earlier this week I found out that I have gotten through to the next stage of the training contract application process for my current employer. The next step being an online gaming test, which is quite innovate and refreshingly different. However, I have not really played games on a phone since Snake II on my Nokia 3310 in the early 2000s, so I am particularly nervous that my career could be scuppered by my undeviating indifference towards The Sims, FarmVille and Candy Crush.

After a couple of days dwelling in the regret of not jumping on the Angry Birds bandwagon all those years ago, I decide to play the game. It wasn’t too bad, in fact, I would go so far as to say that I enjoyed it. The game tested a range of competencies, from perseverance and performance under pressure to propensity for delayed gratification, and had a number of different levels. As soon as it was completed, I was sent a profile on my performance. It’s interesting the psychometric data on me that was gleaned from playing the game, such as enjoying socialising but also valuing time alone – I don’t understand how this, albeit accurate, assessment was made from launching rockets or selecting between robots. But hopefully I collected enough stars and have ticked enough boxes to make it through to the next round.

Pupillage wise, out of the twelve chambers I applied to through the portal, nine have rejected me at first instance and three are yet to respond – one of the sets have sent an apologetic holding email, but still, the application deadline was nearly two months ago. So it will be another year until I can apply to these chambers again, meaning that if, for some inexplicable reason, I were successful in the 2018 round, the placement would be unlikely to commence until 2020, which would take me to 2021 until I actually qualify… By that time, I would have seen my third Olympics pass since endeavouring to secure a legal trainee placement, Brood X, the largest brood of North American seventeen-year cicadas will have emerged, and, apparently, London’s Crossrail will be in full service. I feel like two of these may be slightly more certain than the remaining one.

Oh yes, and Brexit would have happened – completely altering the country’s legal, economic and political foundations in unprecedented and inconceivable ways, making it near on impossible to imagine and plan for a career as a qualified lawyer in 2021, should I be fortunate enough to start that ‘early’. If I secure a training contract, it is unlikely to commence until 2019, meaning that, as it is a two-year placement, I still wouldn’t qualify until Brood X emerge, breed and die – having probably achieved more in those two weeks of active life, than I would have done in the entire seventeen years since their dormancy begun.

Career aspirations, Career frustrations, General ramblings, law, Life goals, London life, Pupillage, Training contract, Travel, Travel writing

Tripe, Tongue or Tobă

This week, I go on my inaugural once a month peregrination and I am so excited! A friend of mine is coming too, and as of yet, we have nothing planned except maybe a trip to a winery. From what I can glean from a quick search online, Timișoara is known as “Little Venice” as well as “the City of Flowers”, has loads of churches, was apparently the first European city to introduce horse-drawn trams and electrical street lighting, and was the first city in the Banat region to host a beer factory. It’s going to be pretty epic.

Local food is obviously important to research when learning about new countries. Some Romanian culinary highlights include: tripe soup, polenta with hot milk, cow tongue with olives and, my personal favourite, tobă also known as “head cheese”, which is apparently a pig’s stomach stuffed with pig’s feet, ears and meat from the head suspended in gelatine. But all is not lost, the desserts seem to be a much stronger category, with baklava, rahat (Turkish delight) and amandine (chocolate sponge filled with chocolate and almonds and glazed with even more chocolate), plus there’s lots of local wine and cheese to choose from. However, as I’m supposed to be abstaining from sugary stuff over Lent, and as I’m not particularly keen on tripe, tongue or tobă, it looks like I’ll have to exist solely on wine and brânză (a type of cheese, not of the head variety) – oh well.

It’s only Monday, but so far this week I’ve been rejected for two more pupillages. Both were for very good chambers and I should have known better than to have applied to them in the first place. However, again the most upsetting part of the rejection process is the lack of compassion. Today, when calling to request feedback, I was told by one of the chambers that as there where are so many applications “they just blend into one”, so as a result, it would not be possible to provide any comments whatsoever. Ironic that when drafting the applications you have to tailor them precisely to each chambers, weaving in references to their ethos, pupillage structure, key cases and the members you find most interesting, but when responding to your application, you are just another anonymous applicant, indistinguishable from a perpetual pool of other faceless failures.

My quote of the day, when asked if it was possible to move departments because I am unhappy and unfulfilled, I was told that I should not progress this any further as, “departments get protective over their paralegals” and that such a move would cause “political problems”. Given that most days I feel of very little/no worth, it is interesting to learn that my department has such a strong allegiance to me. Maybe all those degree have paid off, maybe I’m just so efficient at scanning now that they cannot imagine life without me… I’ve never felt so important, empowered and necessary in a job before, this is truly a big moment.

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.)

Career frustrations, General ramblings, law, London life, Pupillage

A ‘bit’ of background

Since 2012, I have tried to obtain a training placement to qualify as a lawyer. Initially this was with an open mind – barrister or solicitor. Then in 2014, I decided to do the Bar, which, despite having a cancer scare, a tonsillectomy, working ridiculous hours, and initially failing several exams by the narrowest of margins, I passed in 2015 with the highest grade in International Commercial Practice. However, I can still secure neither a pupillage nor a training contract. Instead, despite undertaking an undergraduate degree, a master’s degree, a law conversion degree and the infamous Bar; numerous mini-pupillages and other legal work experience that ranges from writing wills to shadowing Lewisham Police terrorist squad, to assisting in an Election Petition; and working across a range of industries from legal software to haulage and hospitality, from an au pair in Spain to a horse riding instructor in America, I spend most of my days photocopying and ordering articles for others to read. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I may be assigned a ‘business development’ task, which sounds interesting but in reality just involves copying and pasting information into a spreadsheet. No thought required.

I suppose that not coming from an entitled background, I should be grateful for the opportunity my current role provides to ‘get a foot in the door’, but being a dogsbody in paralegal clothing is a façade that, along with my patience and self-worth, is wearing quite thin. Having to work throughout my academic career has meant that I have not had the luxury of time to spend carefully sculpting a-grade essays, as I’ve continually had to rush from class to serve coffee, dish up fish and chips, or whatever it may be, to fund my studies. But, several degrees later, I suppose I’ve done all right; I just hope the sacrifice in both time and money will, eventually, pay off.

What my situation has provided is a wealth of opportunities and experiences that I could never have imagined being exposed to; including working as a translator for the Miss World competition in Bali. Whilst studying the Bar, I worked for a hospitality temping agency, where I waitressed at a national rugby awards ceremony, a BBC News launch party, and at many a wedding. Bizarrely, I also worked at the launch of a new model of Lexus at a car garage in Roding Valley (‘Where’s that?’ I hear you ask. I had the response when I was sent there; it’s very East, apparently the least-used station on the entire Underground network and so far along the Central Line that there is not enough time to find out precisely where). The new car was not the only hybrid at this remote launch, which was an odd admixture of a catwalk snaking around the show room, in the middle of which, an impromptu makeup counter for the disinterested wives of key clients, and Will.I.Am’s stunt double hiding in a backroom eating Domino’s pizza.

The agency sent me to a range of other places, from Australia New Zealand Banking Group, to the Royal Institute of British Architects, Fortnum and Mason, and the Ham Yard Hotel, where I worked sometimes as a cloakroom attendant and others as a canapé waitress. I was also frequently scheduled to work at a certain law firm. Sidebar, this law firm used to be one of my clients when I worked for a legal software company, in between completing the GDL and commencing the Bar. During this role as a sales associate, I would primarily, despite the job description, spend most days compiling spreadsheets of law firms’ contact details and cold calling. However, sometimes, when my boss felt generous enough to involve me in client matters, I would attend meetings, including at this particular law firm, with a view to try to sell software.

I left this job and its okay salary to study the Bar and work part-time on minimum wage. Looking back, it was not the best way to live in London, especially having spent my life savings on the course. Finishing a shift at 2 am, having to cycle across town as you’re unable to pay for bills and public transport, and being up for 5 am to do pre-reading for class, attending class, and then going to work again until past midnight, is quite draining.

Anyway, whist studying the BPTC and working for the temp agency, I was sent to this particular law firm, where I helped to replenish meeting rooms, the ones I sometimes sat in, in a suit as a sales associate, with teas and coffees. Whilst wearing a borrowed nylon waistcoat and my own, but equally ill-fitting trousers and shirt, I would push a little trolley around floors 9 to 11, clearing away cups and cutlery, and providing refreshments. In this type of role, you are invisible and worthless to most individuals that you encounter. They do not appreciate eye contact, let alone conversation.

However, one day my sociable nature escaped; liberated itself; unable to be contained within or smothered by the unbreathable, black nylon borrowed waistcoat, and I started a conversation with an individual in one of the meeting rooms. He was an older man, with a friendly smile and a calm disposition that made me feel at ease, but more interesting for me he was standing over a long table laden with piles upon piles, of layers and layers of paper. I ask him what this was for and he obliged to acknowledge me and my question, and we got talking.

It turned out that he was the director of a football team who were in the process of trying to build a new stadium. The BPTC was rapidly drawing to a close; I had secured neither pupillage nor a full-time role to commence post-study, and was in desperate need of some relevant legal work experience to justify the contradictory, confused and costly year I had just spend studying the Bar, an institution of privilege, whilst living like a pauper. I am a keen football player and lover of sport in general, and have wanted for some time to be able to incorporate my passion for sport into my career. So, I seized the opportunity and just asked him, this random, seemingly quite important man, for a job. Why not?

After adding the man in the meeting room, room 10J to be precise, on LinkedIn and following up via email, I negotiated an interview with him and his co-director. Despite getting incredibly lost and arriving 40 minutes late to the interview and thinking that I had completely squandered this one-off opportunity, the interview seemed go quite well. In fact, the directors created a role for me on the stadium project, a scheme that had a gross development value of over £500m. It was a dream come true, working on a meaningful and significant project that interwove my passion for sport with interest and experience in law, in such an unparalleled and unimaginable way. I began working for the Club on a part-time basis until the BPTC finished – generally just attending meetings in central London. But once the course finished, I worked full-time. Literally, my final two essays were handed in on Friday and I was at work first thing Monday morning.

The experience was fantastic, providing exposure to an industry I knew very little about from a commercial perspective and a valuable insight into the logistics of a large infrastructure project with significant social value. But, the pay was not great. Living hand to mouth throughout the BPTC and having no savings, I could not afford to get the train to my new job. So, I cycled there – 13 miles each way. It was great; I got to see areas of London that I’d never properly experienced, as well as, and including, those that I’ll probably never be able to afford. An added bonus was that I could eat biscuits for breakfast everyday; all the sugar with none of the guilt.

Working for the Club, I returned to the law firm, minus the waistcoat – that had been restored to its rightful owner – as a client. It was so strange to go from, within the space of less than a week, clearing up soggy napkins, half-eaten dried figs and browning apple cores, to being a client – a person in one of those meeting rooms. I felt like an imposter of a professional, subtly (although not so inconspicuously) trying to mop up the coffee I repeatedly spilt in awkwardness and haste, whilst eating the fruit fresh from the bowl; rather than scavenging the slopping seconds from deserted meeting rooms.

I assisted the Club to prepare for the public inquiry into the compulsory purchase order of land for its proposed new stadium; in doing so, I attended meetings with architects, CPO specialists, conferences with counsel and the Council. However, the role was quite administrative and I decided to bring it an end after the Inquiry, as I felt it would become even more secretarial and I was in need of better pay and more legal experience. Out of nowhere, with no track record of this happening in my life ever, I got two job offers in one day. One, £17,000 to initially work drafting partnership agreements for medical practitioners, but was then changed to a litigation assistant for the same pay, and the other £32,000 to work as a legal editor on a new corporate intelligence service. The latter seemed as though it would look good on my CV and the prospect of a relatively decent salary sounded even better.

It was crap. I’m dyslexic and struggled so much with the role. I also worked alongside two Oxford first- (probably double-first)-in-law-and-masters-in-law-graduates, who were assumed better than me from the start and got the opportunities to prove their intelligence and reinforce a very conscious industry bias. I got stuck with removing commas and adding in hyperlinks, I would also review legislation scrapped from the internet and cross check every line with other service providers and amending legislation, to ensure that we had the most up-to-date version of the provision. It wasn’t fun, it didn’t allow me to grow or to utilise the skills I had learnt from academia or my wider industry exposure, in fact the experience completely shattered my self-confidence.

In search of new pastures, I somehow secured the job of my dreams. I speak several languages, am passionate about travelling, studied conflict, security and development as a masters, want desperately to qualify as a lawyer and would love the opportunity to be able to save for a house. I was head hunted for a role as a Human Rights Trainer to work with the US State Department for African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance. I would be teaching human rights to peacekeepers across Africa, firstly in Senegal, in French, and would be paid nearly $90,000. It was the dream. Literally.

However, for the second time ever in my life, I was also offered another job at the same time. This second was a paralegal role at the law firm previously mentioned, the one I sold software to, waitressed at and then was a client of. I had put down as a referee, the partner from the firm who I had worked with on the stadium project, and I think that he may have put in a good word for me. He is also incredibly supportive and encouraging, and I didn’t want to burn a bridge / cut this lifeline. When your career into law isn’t direct, easy or assumed, you have to build your own network of support and finding people who have an interest in your best interest are very hard to come by. Plus the HR department for the Senegal job were taking too long to finalise a statement of work and their lack of response made me nervous: would I, a relatively young woman with absolutely no survival or self-defence skills, feel comfortable being unable to contact my employer if alone and in trouble in a war-torn area? Absolutely not. It was this lack of communication that ultimately led me to choose the role at the law firm.

I needed a break from work, mundanely adding commas and hyperlinks had deleted much of my self-esteem. When you don’t fit a company’s house style and your colleagues are being given opportunities to excel in such an obvious and biased way, it is very hard not to take things personally and to doubt your own worth when others attribute no, or very little, value to you.

So, I took a month off. I went with my now ex-boyfriend to Cyprus, a place special to me as my family and I moved there when I was 16. At that time, I was not given the opportunity to continue my education, so had to get a job. I did not speak Greek, so my options for employment were limited and I ended up working 7 days per week, for £10 per day, as a waitress in an Italian Tex-Mex restaurant. Due to my age and inexperience, I was initially employed to just clear tables, but worked my way up the ranks, including ‘desert devil’ and eventually to host, when the owner’s wife went on maternity leave.

I had several other jobs whilst in Cyprus, including assisting at a nail salon and working in a cocktail bar, where I was given shots of sambuca on my first shift to help me settle in and had the choice to accept either cash or cocktails as tips from clients; and I also volunteered at a donkey sanctuary. The experience taught me the value of education and made me realise how little I had appreciated it growing up. So, after nearly a year in Cyprus, I decided to return to the UK to study. In between coming home and commencing A Levels, I backpacked across Australia for three months, staying in hostels along the east coast and volunteering on a farm picking olives. Once back in the UK, I got a job at McDonald’s.

When I returned to Cyprus for a holiday, it was 10 years since I’d left the country. It was so nice to go back and actually experience the country, rather than just exist there temporarily. After Cyprus round 2, I undertook a working holiday in Spain at a horse riding trekking company. This was incredible. Physically exhausting and emotionally replenishing, it enabled me to rebuild my self-confidence through reconnecting with my love of horses.

So, when I started as a paralegal at the law firm, I was refreshed and freshly tanned, ready to take on any challenge and show the firm that I am worthy to be a trainee. Since then, I have: volunteered to build a mud kitchen for disadvantaged children in woodland, joined the gender and diversity committee – attending a conference on women in law and regular meetings to prepare for International Women’s Week, become a member of the company choir and performed in competitions at Southwark Cathedral and St Clement Danes. I also play football for the firm’s team most weeks, and netball with increasing regularity and hockey whenever the opportunity arises. I am also a fire marshal and a member of the something-committee to improve catering and services – my dream, to secure better coffee in the office coffee machines.

I have tried to befriend all, be helpful and hardworking; but I doubt it’s enough and I’m fed up of treading water, justifying the tedious, thankless tasks, the hollow feeling of impotence, the lack of dignity and respect from my peers, (idiotically) living in hope that one day, I will qualify as a lawyer. I chose the profession because I wanted a career, I wanted to improve myself and my situation, to utilise my skills and ambition to be more than just someone who clears unwanted food from tables and refills half-empty condiment bottles. But, instead, this pursuit has just become a relentless hobby of endlessly applications.

As my academics do not shine with particular brightness, I have had to overcompensate for this deficit though collecting trinkets of different legal work experience to attract the shortsighted eyes of recruitment panel to my application. I’m tired of accepting administrative jobs at poor pay in the hope that they will lead to something better. I’m tired of the rejection, the endless endeavour of trying to prove and improve myself and my futile attempts to show that I am worthy, that I have value beyond just doing someone’s printing. Most of all, I tired of waiting for something good to come along. All of the amazing experiences that I have shared above, occurred to me because I made them happened. But in my quest for a career and the knockbacks the pursuit has given me, I have become too defeatist, resigning my fate and future to the whims of others. I have made myself the victim of a situation that was completely my choice to commence and remains my decision to endure.

June, I had already booked somewhere for my ex’s birthday, so I will keep that for myself and go (I gave him the option of having the tickets after we broke up, so I’m not completely heartless – just, 4 months on, still a bit heartbroken). I’m going to see how these few trips go and will book July 2017 to February 2018 later on, as who knows what the next few months may have in store.

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Adventure, Career aspirations, Career frustrations, General ramblings, law, Life goals, London life, New adventure, Pupillage, Training contract, Travel, Travel writing, Trips

BarHumBug: Thoughts and Ramblings

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I am writing this blog, I suppose, as a way to collect my thoughts and plan my future. I have been ‘trying to get into law’ for some time now, and at this point, it feels impossible and the sense of frustration and disappointed is indescribable. I want, I need, to vent these feelings and think that sharing my experiences will not only be cathartic, but will also provide an honest narrative on the less glamorous reality of law when you’re on the periphery of the profession, paralysed in perpetual paralegal perjury. It can be quite an isolating and, at least inwardly, a shameful situation to be in – seeing your peers’ progress, whilst you are seemingly standing stagnate. I also hope that writing about my experiences, if anyone actually ends up reading them, will give others in a similar situation something and someone to relate to, and, maybe, for people who are contemplating a career in law, to better inform them as to the realities of trying to get into the profession.

However, there is, as I have to keep regularly reminding myself, more to life that law; and I don’t want to just focus on that one aspect and dwell in self-pity. So, I also aim to talk about my general life in London, the coffee, the croissants, the cycling, as well as, my new perspective and experiences of the City as, of relatively recently, a singleton. Finally, and probably most interestingly and what motivated me to start a blog in the first place, is that I made a commitment to myself to travel somewhere new every month, and I want to record and share these experiences for myself and with anyone else that cares to care.

It is a completely new venture and adventure, so let’s see where it ends up.