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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