Updated: Dec 20, 2019
This post is the second in a series of five that covers the experiences of our founder, Daniel Holt, who is completing the Bar Practice Training Course.
I shared my journey towards the Bar Practice Training Course (‘BPTC’ hereafter) and navigation through its first term in my previous post. This post is about Term 2, which I enjoyed immensely. I became familiar with the course and the assessments and seeing how everything fits together becomes easier at this stage. The experience is no longer new, and you are seasoned BPTC students by this point, with a foundation in the skills and knowledge aspects of the course. The heavy workload becomes the norm. The lift worked all term too, so I could access all my lectures.
My fellow students are friendly and genuinely interested in meeting new people and getting to know them more has been a real pleasure. Doing the BPTC at City, University of London (‘City’) is similar to studying at Queen Mary University of London in that you have the privilege of meeting people who have different backgrounds and are from around the world. I have enjoyed forging friendships which, I think, will last a long time. I think the support that we gave to each other in the first term, as a means of mutual ‘survival’, creates strong foundations. We made sure that everyone was coping with the workload and adapting to new skills. We also spent many evenings together at our Inn when participating in events that are called qualifying sessions, which students have to attend as part of their training. We all invested a lot of time in each other and I look forward to spending much more time with them.
I am pleased to have been able to create time to carry on going to the gym and playing powerchair football. Going to the gym is a brilliant way to escape from preparing, or thinking about preparing, for classes. I think getting away from work is important in keeping motivation high and feeling refreshed. Research says that exercise is fantastic for maintaining good mental health and it is difficult to disagree. I also enjoy the challenge of getting stronger and surprising onlookers who worry about me lifting heavy weights because they cannot imagine somebody like me being able to do so. It is also useful for burning calories, especially when you are a powerchair user that sits all day! Playing a team sport like powerchair football is also extremely beneficial. I talked about the advantages and how much I love it in my previous post though.
City found me another fantastic notetaker again this term to step in for my previous notetaker, who left the role to become a lawyer in Malaysia. He was great, a good friend and I wish him all the best. This term’s notetaker was equally bright and dedicated to the role and fitted into my group very well. I did not have to worry about key points being missed, as was the case last term. This term’s notetaker has also now left. She is returning to her much warmer home and to complete her course, in which I wish her great success. I hope that I will remain in contact with both of them.
Experiencing my first BPTC examination, Alternative Dispute Resolution, was a learning curve for me given that the exam was the opening assessment at my new institution. The structure of my exam arrangements was new to me, as this was the first time that I had an exam split over two days. I completed the single best answer (‘SBA’) questions, which are multiple-choice questions to non-lawyers, on the first day. I then answered the short answer questions (SAQs’) on the second day. Short answers are around a page long. I think it went well; I am optimistic of a good grade. The Opinion Writing and Drafting exams were a success too (I think). I had to complete it over two days and submit my Opinion/Particulars of Claim by email. This kind of arrangement worked well for me since I need extra time in a normal exam situation and, consequently, breaks as a result of the total length of the exam. Doing the assessment in this way would not give me a ‘fair crack of the whip’. The Examination-in-Chief assessment also went well, but I felt I could have been better. I had extra time in this exam too.
Sharing this detail about my exam arrangements invites a sense of vulnerability and weakness, particularly when I am seeking a competitive and fast-paced career at the Bar. I think it is important though, because it may show other disabled people and those supporting them, that arrangements can be made when you think outside the box – a skill possessed by the best barristers. I have confidence that I will make a good barrister regardless of any additional support I may need.
The only negative this term is that I found tiredness to be frequent occurrence, as did many other students. I did not feel on top of things for periods of the term despite having the help of more experience. I found putting in the extra hours needed to keep up with the workload more difficult this term but I did enough to get over the line. I was exhausted by the end of each week and found myself in a cycle of needing a few days rest after a week of intense work. In many ways, I am still feeling the effects. I am, however, sure I will be able to increase my momentum once again in order to finish the course strongly. I can only say that I think it is important that people take the time they need to recuperate, particularly if the person is disabled. Balance is key to success, and one cannot perform well if one is exhausted.
I am looking forward to experiencing new areas of law in my two Options modules, Company Law and Professional Negligence, as well as learning Conference Skills. I will also be in a new class group to accommodate the Options we have chosen. Getting to know different students will be exciting, although I will miss my usual group. My group has been as amazing as they were in the first term and I can only hope my new one is as great.
Thank you for reading. Bring on Term 3!
The opinions in this blog post are the Author’s and may not reflect those of the Association of Disabled Lawyers.