Updated: Dec 20, 2019
This post is the third in a series of five which cover the experiences of our founder, Daniel Holt, who is completing the Bar Practice Training Course.
I shared how my life and career led me to the Bar Practice Training Course (‘BPTC’ hereafter) and my experiences of navigating through Term 1 and most of Term 2 in my previous posts. This post is about the end of Term 2 and Term 3, both of which were challenging.
The end of Term 2 involves sitting the centrally-set examinations, which consists of: Professional Ethics (8th April 2019); Criminal Litigation, Evidence and Sentencing (16th April 2019); and Civil Litigation and Sentencing (18th April 2019). There is also the Civil Advocacy Skeleton Hand-In (11th March 2019), Drafting Skills exam (13th March 2019), and Civil Advocacy exam (20th March 2019). I and the Disability Advisors knew the examination period could be overwhelming given that I need to be given extra time and other support. We had consequently planned to defer Professional Ethics and Civil Litigation and Sentencing. However, I had not taken into account the success I would have in being invited to pupillage interviews and the time these interviews would take. I had 7 interviews in this period, all requiring detailed and up-to-date commercial awareness, advocacy preparation, written tasks and, in some cases, mini-pupillages. I thoroughly enjoyed all of these activities, but they do take a lot of time to complete. I thus decided to also defer the Criminal Litigation, Evidence and Sentencing examination.
The current Pupillage Gateway timeline, in my view, disadvantages students because the system makes them prepare for demanding examinations and intense interviews at the same time. One may argue that it could separate the good candidates from the best candidates. However, it has a disproportionate, adverse effect on students with families, impairments, jobs and other personal circumstances, which is a shame given the Bar needs these people most. I am not sure why the timetable is set as it is but I doubt it is the most convenient for all involved. I hope the timeline will be changed in the near future to reduce the disadvantage.
I enjoyed my two Options modules, Company Law and Professional Negligence, as well as Conference Skills. I had not studied these subjects before. I chose Company Law because the module would introduce me to a new area of law and, to a limited degree, diversify the legal experience on my CV. It started off in familiar territory with director’s duties, which overlaps with the duties of charity directors to which I am accustomed. I also had prior experience of insolvency: not personally, of course, but I had been on a mini-pupillage that involved hearing such applications. I was in uncharted waters for the rest of the module.
I felt more acquainted with Professional Negligence, which is similar to the usual negligence/personal injury law we use in the BPTC skills modules. I was also taught at undergraduate level by the fantastic Professor Rachael Mulheron, a medical negligence expert. Professional Negligence was also appealing because the module leader was a fantastic tutor to me in both Opinion Writing and Alternative Dispute Resolution. I wanted to be taught by her again and to learn more about her area of law. Professional Negligence may also be a viable practice area in the future.
Choosing Options with which one is already familiar is the usual course of action, and I think that is the wisest approach. There is much to learn in the 5 or so weeks one is given to get to grips with the material, particularly in the tougher modules like Company Law and Professional Negligence. I wanted a challenge and I got it. If I were to do the BPTC again, however, I may decide to take easier, familiar options. Conference Skills felt like the witness handling found in the Examination-in-Chief and Cross-Examination modules and, therefore, was not entirely new. I have been volunteering with the Free Representation Unit and Hackney Community Law Centre as well, where you often meet clients, which ensured prior understanding.
Term 3 is the last one in which one is taught, as Term 4 will be spent completing the LLM in Clinical Legal Education. I have found tutors at my provider to be brilliant. Most of whom are strong and inspiring women. Each has a different approach, but I think they all get the best out of engaged students. They have all offered me support and advice, and it has been a pleasure to be taught by them. I have learned much this year, despite the common myth that the BPTC is useless. The course is too expensive and erects barriers to low income students, but it is not a waste of time. I loved it, to be frank.
Completing my second masters in Term 4 is an opportunity to relish. Doing pro-bono legal work and advocacy has been brilliant for enhancing my skills. The experience also allows me to show that this career is for me, and one in which I can excel regardless of my impairments. Writing about legal practice will be enlightening, and I look forward to it. I am also eager to tell you how Term 4 goes in my next blog post.
Thank you, once again, for reading.