I am often asked this question more times than I can recall. Whether it is the subject of awkward small talk at a corporate event, or a distant relative trying to convince me to take on a more family orientated career, my ever-changing answers are a spider web around this one repeated question.
…why the Bar?
Initially when asked this question, I thought more about the practical nature of the Bar. Was it the independent work environment that drew me in? Or was it the ability to speak in public and represent in court? Or was it the excitement of wearing a wig and gown? Could it be the
aspirational, ever-increasing salary that stirred my passion to become a barrister? I’ve always been one for teamwork but my independence on projects is where I feel I excel. It’s not foreign to me, to create my own network and connections independently. Becoming a barrister requires you to be able to find new clients and contacts, on your own. I’m learning that the independent nature of a barrister does not mean you are isolated but requires a lot of initiative and the ability to be accountable to yourself. I love this culture that allows you to set your own personal goals.
The oratory nature of your role as a barrister is also what drew me to this path. Naturally, I’ve always been confident speaking in public and addressing a large crowd. Speaking in court is an art I always wanted to be a part of and the idea of fancy wigs and gowns only entertained this excitement further. I think I’m more of a charismatic personality, both orally and written and so I feel this career suits me perfectly. There’s an assumption that you must love the sound of your own voice to ramble on (I’m sure people I know think I do). Being a barrister requires you to be able to relate to clients in a manner that puts them at ease, but also a requirement to be able to relate to the court confidently and appropriately.
And finally, it would be false to say the idea of earning a good salary didn’t entice me. Although, considering the costs deducted before my career has even begun, it surely takes more than the points I’ve expressed above, to be committed to pursuing a career at the Bar.
I remember being warned against writing ‘my passion for law…’ in applications for university, it was too ‘boring’. However, I think it’s important that I share the importance of taking on this career path.
There are recurring responses to ‘why the Bar?’, which usually consist of buzzwords such as ‘protecting the vulnerable’, ‘defending those who cannot defend themselves’, ‘upholding justice’. To the naked eye, these phrases paint a blurred, generic picture of the supposed defining difference between pursuing a career as a barrister as opposed to pursuing a career as a solicitor. However, these phrases are understood differently by each aspiring or established barrister. For me, a black woman, ‘justice’ means something entirely different to a caucasian man.
This is an entirely different rabbit hole, that I do not intend on navigating in this post, however, this greatly influences my reasons for my decision. It is not news that the Bar is underrepresented. Especially in positions of influence, within the Bar, black women are yet to be well represented. How can I expect a justice system to be ‘fair’ to the ‘vulnerable’, where miscarriages of justice are due to a surplus of barristers who do not understand the biases
against their client?
The Bar suits my ambitions and personality perfectly and hope this encourages some of you to choose this career too. There is no one model as to becoming a barrister, your individuality makes your career. This will have a great effect on the kind of cases you take on and the human beings behind those case names.