Tanya completed a mini pupillage at 5 Essex Court chambers. She is currently studying Law with Criminology at the University of Brighton.  

1. What attracted you to the barrister profession?

It was actually a stroke of pure luck. I had attended a networking evening at my university, which lead to a barrister offering a selection of us a mini pupillage. I accepted the offer before I even knew what that meant! At the time I didn’t even know there was a difference in lawyer roles – I thought a lawyer was a lawyer was a lawyer.

That mini pupillage changed everything for me.

2. What did you enjoy most about your mini pupillage?

The level of engagement and discussion about the cases I was asked to look at was fantastic. I also watched a court of appeal case on YouTube – I didn’t even know that was possible! I was so lucky to be assigned to Robert Cohen as my supervising barrister, and he took the time and effort to explain ‘police law’ to me which I found ultimately fascinating. It is not an area of law I had experienced before, but it got the adrenaline pumping and I absolutely loved it.

I was given some feedback after the mini, which has been very useful and is much appreciated.

3. What sort of things did you get involved in on your mini pupillage?

This mini with 5 Essex Court was one of the best virtual events I have attended – and there have been many. My assigned barrister, Robert Cohen, made me feel welcome and gave me tasks to do throughout the process, which we would then evaluate and discuss. I was challenged and encouraged to think laterally with my ‘legal head’ on. Although attending court was not possible due to the current pandemic, the whole experience was as close to an in-person mini pupillage as possible.

4. How did you make yourself stand out from the crowd in application process?

Do you know what? I have no idea. I have a wealth of unusual personal background experience and I was honest and open in my application. All of my other mini pupillages have been obtained by contacting chambers directly – I have only filled in two actual application forms with all the bells and whistles. One of those was not successful, the other was 5 Essex Court. I think it was just meant to be! It greatly exceeded my expectations, and I am so grateful for the opportunity.

5. In your view, what are the biggest challenges facing barristers over the next 5 years?

Where to begin? Self-employment is tenuous at the best of times, but during and post-pandemic, things are more uncertain. I have been self-employed for many years, so am familiar with the reality. I think the ‘success’ (yes, the inverted commas are deliberate) of online courts during COVID may lead to an increase in automated and online systems being used in a (misleading) attempt to cut costs. This and the combination of the ever-decreasing access to legal aid could see barristers looking obsolete. Luckily for me, money is not my driving force and I am doing my law with criminology degree simply because I am interested in it and always looking to move forward and to learn more.

6. What are your top tips for aspiring barristers?

I have just started a Bar Society at my university and can often be heard saying “Do the Things!”

Apply for mini pupillages. Volunteer within the university and outside. Go to seminars online – I attend at least two or three a week. Use LinkedIn, talk to people, be engaging, post your own take on current events. Send LinkedIn contact requests to absolutely everyone you come across on there – if you have both commented on someone else’s post, add them as a contact, whether they are law-based or not.  Enter all the competitions you can, even if you have no idea what you are doing to begin with – sometimes you just have to jump in!

Take out student membership to professional bodies and attend their meetings – and if you come across the same people regularly, add them on LinkedIn. Do a vac scheme so you can say you’ve done it as a process of elimination for the solicitor route. Go to legal webinars even in areas you don’t think you will be interested in.

Do. The. Things.

7. Wildcard: You’re prime minister for a day. What’s the first thing you do?

I hate this question!! My teenagers and I  would take a tour of the Downing Street premises, speak to the Queen, go into the HOC and participate in whatever discussion is going on there, hug the No 10 resident cat, and add everyone I meet to my LinkedIn – and I do mean everyone! Actually, the cat would be the first thing!