By Christianah Babajide
Traditionally Underrepresented groups run a different race to everybody else and as a result, they are the least confident group in society. Many of them develop low self-esteem in the private sphere which is mirrored in the public sphere.
Some members of the BME community believe, “a law career isn’t for someone like me.” And as a result, this mentality has deterred them from applying to top set chambers and magic circle firms, not because they lack intellectual rigour but because they lack the confidence to do so.
It is important, therefore, for these groups to be able to develop confidence and change the genetic makeup of the legal profession to truly reflect our society.
On the 7th of December, Matrix Chambers hosted a Diversity Open Evening in Grays Inn.
The purpose of the event was to address questions and offer gratuitous advice to traditionally under-represented groups aiming to secure a career at the Bar.
- Matthew Ryder QC – Criminal and Civil Litigation
- Ayesha Christie – Human Rights and Public Law
- Tamara Jabeer – International and Human Rights Law
- Sara Mansoori – Human Rights and Public Law
The event highlighted four things that are key to thrive at the Bar:
- Be Confident
- Be Well Prepared
- Show Willingness to Learn
- Develop Stamina
The more you know, the more confident you will be. For budding barristers, this will mean securing relevant work experience, taking part in Mooting and Debating in order to practice your oral advocacy.
The speakers on the panel, however, pointed out that although it’s important to be confident and self-assured, there’s a fine line between being confident and coming across as arrogant.
Matthew placed huge importance on engaging with publications. As a 21st-century law student, there are many platforms in which you can have your work published and publicly recognised. This will give you the opportunity to publish a case commentary, an event review or write articles on current affairs. He added, by reading opinion pieces you are putting yourself in a position to where you are well-informed to have discussions which in turn creates confidence.
He went on to say, “Reading, writing and being confident are what will get you to the Bar.”
Be Well Prepared
Understand that part of being a strong candidate is down to preparation. One way of doing this is by following current affairs on the news. By doing this, you will be able to form an informed opinion on affairs, which you can discuss at interviews and demonstrate commercial awareness.
Ayesha pointed out, it was important to always consider the other side of the argument which will contradict the content of what you are reading. She further advised that a good way to stay on top of legal issues and law reforms is by reading Supreme Court summaries.
Show Willingness to Learn
Barristers chambers have a set of skills they expect from budding barristers applying to their set, a willingness to learn is one of them.
Sara, the Trainee Supervisor, highlighted that learning was what traineeship is all about. When you are a trainee, this is the period to make mistakes and ask questions. She assured there was no such thing as a stupid question. She added it is the supervisor’s job to deliver constructive criticism and it is the trainee’s job to take it on board and refrain from taking it personally.
A career at the Bar, sometimes calls for working late nights, early mornings during unsociable hours, however, this is all part of the job. You must be able to develop the ability to stay focused and alert during client meetings, even when you haven’t had your recommended seven hours of sleep.
Despite being low on sleep, you are expected to deliver pieces of work to a high standard within a timescale. The work you are producing could potentially end up in court in front of a judge, so it’s important it’s a high standard.
You need to develop the stamina to be a successful barrister – both physically and emotionally.
Sara informed that at times when the workload was heavy, informing your supervisor is a must!
A career at the Bar won’t be easy, especially for under-represented groups, however, if you equip yourself with confidence, preparation, a willingness to learn and a strong stamina – hopefully, you will go on to fulfil your dream of being a barrister!