Sian's blog posts

Confessions of a wannabe QC part 11



So, it seems time flies when you're studying law. It doesn't feel like that long ago I was tentatively putting my first entry up on here and now I'm in the last week of term. I have now officially learned all the substantive law I am ever gonna know, and before anyone gets too carried away... I am in no position even close to practicing this. I'm worried I'll come out at the end of the BPTC and feel exactly the same, like some under-prepared child, only by then, it'll really count! All that stands between me and the cap and gown is the small matter of a dissertation and 4 exams in 5 days... How hard can it be? That was always Clarkson's catch phrase and, look how well he ended up?


Confessions of a wannabe QC part 10



Ok, so what I wanna know is where has the time gone? The final exam dates are in, I have a place on the BPTC and the home straight of the GDL is in full swing. It's absolutely terrifying that I have about 3 1/2 weeks of actual legal learning left to go... this is all the law I am ever gonna know and then, come September I have to start putting some of this into practice. I am questionning more than ever my choice not to be a legal puritan!

   It finally feels like spring which, I always find very positive. The fact that I have more work than I know what to do with seems to fade into insignificance as the nights are drawing out and the sun is shining every other day. It's all in my head but, strangely the course doesn't seem so hellishly busy just because it's bright outside. I'll take this over January any day. But the maddest thing is now making plans for the summer and the prospect of getting my life back, at least for three months or so! Beyond that is even madder- looks like I'm moving to London so, I am preparing to be poorer than ever as, I think they'd tax air up there if they were able to enforce it! I suddenly feel very adult again, looking at property and the like. I suppose the silver lining of all these civil law modules is that I'll actually understand the contract to the house this time round. I feel very empowered!

   Then of course, the next biggie is pupillage applications. After being slightly bullied into making applications this year, and, on reflection I have decided my bully is far scarier than the application process, I have to start the somewhat awkward process of trying to sing your own praises on paper to a bunch of strangers all the while attempting to sound personable and not in the least conceited or narcisistic! That, is a difficult balance to strike. I am definitely more of an 'in the flesh' kind of person, that way they get to see my charming, personality, infectious laugh and other pint-sized cuteness! Oh how I wish that were true!

Confessions of a wannabe QC part 9



Suddenly, things got very real. It's like someone just turned up the gas underneath the saucepan I call 'The Bar' and now, things are moving so fast. It's 2015, the holidays seemed to pass by in such a blur of revision and family crisis that I think I missed the last year pass away. Now, I'm back and in the middle of exams and hand ins and, I'm looking at the final stretch. We are half way through teaching... half the way through all the law I am actually going to learn and now I'm trying to remember it all and avoid failing the first set of exams. It's like sitting on an overfilled suitcase to get it closed and then then realising you've left an important outfit in the wardrobe! I wish I was Sherlock, or Sheldon or some other famous geek with the brain storage of a super computer.

   Additionally, because this is barrister life and it never rains but it pours, I have also had to submit my BPTC application this week. So firstly, like everything else in this strange parallel world, it costs a bomb. I don't see how UCAS can process the whole country's uni applications for £20 but it takes £58 for the BPTC? I smell a rip off here. And, I wouldn't mind so much, but the website has already crashed once this week... I was lucky to get the damn thing submitted! And, of course, there is never a human being to speak to when things go wrong- just some charming robotic interface in the form of a tech support email address. For people who supposedly spend their lives communicating, barristers go through much of it via bloody email!

   Ok, rant over. It is gone, I am "happy" and now I anxiously wait to see if any of my choices will actually like me enough to give me a place on the course. It's the next piece of the puzzle and officially my ticket out of Worthing so, no pressure. It's nice to be back in the GDL room. For starters, I know people here. Actually, they're pretty much the only people I do know on campus, but it's nice to work in company. Secondly, we have a kettle and central heating. Basic provisions I know but, for anyone who has spent any of the holidays in the library, you will understand what this means. I went in one day and there was an electrical fault with the heating which turned it into the ice palace, and I'm not talking about the pretty one from Frozen. I did not feel like Elsa let me assure you. Then, there were no cafe's open so, no coffee to combat the cold and fatigue. When we eventually located a vending machine for hot drinks, it was malfunctioning and producing everything milk-less. This is not an experience I am keen to repeat! Hurray for the GDL room... I have missed you!

Right, so I'd best stop procrastinating. Can't go to bar school if I fail and I have a hand in tomorrow- all the joys!

Confessions of a wannabe QC part 8



I always thought that awards ceremonies were cheesy. You watch the Oscars and, when the winner's announced they always look that perfect balance of elated, deer in a headlight, close to tears but just keeping control of yourself combination that, I felt sure they had an entire class dedicated to in drama school. Actors of the world, I take it all back.

   Thursday saw the end of the internal Criminal Advocacy competition, the real one, in real court in front of people with very large legal brains that make me want to apologise for my own existence and feel cheeky when I describe myself as knowing anything about the law. I am accutely aware that, I do not and that I am half way through all the law I will ever learn. I mean seriously, any bar school would be lucky to have me... right? I digress... So, my first hollywood moment occurred right after I made my first submission. In "A Few Good Men" there is that iconic cross examination with Tom Cruise trying to get Jack Nicholson to break, knowing that he was risking everything putting him on the stand in the first place. In the middle of it, he turns away, picks up a glass of water and drinks it. As he does this, he shakes so violently and then he replaces the glass, turns back around and carries on like a pro. I trust you can see where this is going. Only, with me, sadly the illusion was shattered, I had a witness. Aparently the prosecution bench is too close to the dock to hide any violent hand spasms so, I was slightly busted. This however, was educational as, if I ever do get to prosecute anything non fictitious, I don't really want the defendant to be able to see just how bricking it I really am! Lesson one: poker face and poker hands.

   The second hollywood moment was a bit like being live at the Oscars, granted, no one asked me who I was wearing or  to make a ghastly speech requiring me to thank everyone down to a deceased family pet, but they did announce that I'd won the entire contest. Frankly, I think if I wasn't already sat down, I would have fallen. My hope was, get to Lewes, get to real court and that would be one hell of an achievement, I didn't think winning it was really on the horizon, I just wanted to be sure I didn't quote them the wrong legislation and look like a prize idiot. Having achieved that, I thought I'd done myself justice. But this is just so cool. The prize of a mini-pupillage at a set that are just amazing is out of this world, it's definitely re-affirmed my faith in barrister-hood as, while there is nothing more terrifying, there is also nothing more adrenaline inducing and exciting.

   Unfortunately, nothing that I have previously stated is going to help me answer the daunting question of: "Why do you want to train to be a barrister?" (in under 150 words) that currently plagues the page of my bar school application form and haunts the screen like a spectre. If someone ever does come up with the perfect response for that, they should sell it and retire off the profits. It is barrister gold dust! And at the moment I'm struggling to get hold of something so intangible. How do you explain why you love something? Mostly, it's not rational, I mean why do I relish the idea of spending hours of time in crummy courts in towns you've never heard of for close on no money and encountering some of the most socially despised people you'll ever come across? The reality of it sounds hellish and yet, there is nothing I want to do more. This weekend got me to thinking about it from another perspective. Maybe it's not about judging it objectively, maybe you can only achieve explaining how much you want something by detailing all the sacrifices you're willing to make to get there?

   The fact of it is, I do want this, more than anything. I know that sounds melo-dramatic and X Factor-ish but it's as sincere as I can convey via blog. But, it does come at a cost and this week, I think it may have cost me a friendship. I'm not saying that my striving for the bar is the only reason why things have gone wrong, but it's been brought to my attention from comments made by some of my childhood friends that I don't quite fit in in my home town, even less that I used to. If I use certain words in conversation I am accused of thinking myself more intelligent than they are, it's not true, but three years at university and being passionate about things will have an effect on your vocabulary I guess. I am also vilified for having new friends or a hectic schedule, this translates to my "not talking" to them. The fact that they don't contact me is apparently irrelevant. Perhaps they do see me on a different path to them, but I was unaware that that meant there was no room in my life for them. Evidently I was wrong. See, when it comes to life at the bar, and the desperate struggle to get there, everyone warns you about the statistics of employment and the expense of education and the fierce competition. No one tells you about the emotional side, the people who you don't see enough of, or who feel that they can't relate to you any more. No one tells you about what to do with the friends you have that want to settle at home and bear their 2.4 children before they're 25, that think that you've grown above yourself for not wanting that same life, or for using big words in conversation.

   I was given to believe we had a system of innocent until proven guilty, but it looks like with many of the people I know I've been condemned and tried in absence and so may of them are willing to believe the worst of me, I'm beginning to wonder if I ever knew them at all? Or, am I the one that's changed? Are they right? Is it necessarily the bad thing they claim, or just an inevitable fact of life? At the moment I'm not sure. But, I'm hoping I can find my 150 words, secure a place at a bar school and move out, away from this town where the fit is a bit hit and miss. I miss Nottingham today...

Confessions of a wannabe QC part 7



My head is most definitely not in the game at the moment! For starters, I miscalculated the dates so dramatically this week that I actually forgot to start an essay that is due on Monday. My normal routine would be to have the bloody thing written by now, so this late starting feels distinctly out of character. Add that to the fact that, now I have actually started, I think pretty much every word I am writing is utter piffle! I'm bored reading it back to myself so, heaven help the poor bloke charged with marking it.

   Most of this week has been taken up with something far more unusual... If last week's theme was carving up the country into a new federal order for a public essay (which incidently was considered a sensible idea last night on the BBC news) this week has been all about Billy Shakespeare! Ok, context... After a very stressful blur that was Saturday morning, by the skin of my teeth I crawled into the Finals of the Criminal Advocacy competition. This was a major deal as, when I started out I didn't expect to last past 'boot-camp,' and now I've gotten all the way through the live shows and the numerous evictions and I'm standing at the end, ready to go to real court at Lewes. This feels pretty mental for someone who's been studying law a mere 3 months! Anyway, part of the deal for the last workshop is to perform a monologue, in my case The Quality of Mercy from the Merchant of Venice! As someone who ditched English after GCSE due to its over emphasis on terrible poetry anthologies, I have not read, let alone performed any Shakespeare since I was fifteen. My greatest knowledge of this speech is either an episode of the detective drama Lewis, set around a performance of The Merchant at an Oxford college, or its use by one of the most talented advocates I have ever seen in a closing speech in a rape trial. He ad-libbed like a pro and was one of the most warm and charismatic people I have ever seen in the profession... I am a long way from emanating him! So, not to be deterred in my quest for reaching warmth and charisma akin to my advocate-idol, I enlisted expert help- that's right: thesps! My friend is an actor turned drama teacher and decided to help out given that he considered it infinitely more fun than marking any of his student's work. Apparently the whole 'enlist an actor' thing is pretty common, he's had to assist in humanising doctors when dealing with their patients and so I'm hoping he's been able to do the same with me and juries. I know it's not a popularity contest but, as I have witnessed, likeability helps! Judgement day is Monday, and I sure hope it works because I think everyone in my course reckons I've cracked, as I seem to be muttering this speech under my breath everywhere I go. Maybe I have... but I would like it known, for the record, that I held up under GDL torture conditions longer than most! Haha!

   After around 3 months of knowing one another, the GDL-ers are taking our relationship to the next level and partaking in an actual social, that's right... we're getting a table at Law Ball. Oddly enough, the first we heard about this was actually from Mary in a seminar, not sure if I've ever had a tutor that actively encouraged going out and partying before so, this was new territory. I mean, for people that want to be lawyers, our ability to collectively make a decision is shocking... it took nearly a week to decide that we wanted a table and to purchase tickets. This does not bode too well for our futures! Haha. But, as I see it, it is an excuse to put on a too tight ball gown, a pair of shoes I can hardly walk in and have someone try to tame my hair into submission, and those are always great days!

Confessions of a wannabe QC part 6



I feel as though I'm going up in the world. It's Monday evening, I'm staying late for Criminal Advocacy and, rather than a slightly sorry sounding tin of soup, this evening I got left over curry! Of course, I was worried about reheating it incase I poisoned myself, so it was cold leftover curry but still... I am taking this as a culinery victory! It is not even 5pm and I am shattered. Much as it was needed, my weekend trip back to my former home in the North has almost killed me. My liver is no longer equipped for drinking on that level ( I was introduced to the art of a 'straw-pedo' by a qualified barrister this weekend) but I was also accutely aware of feeling like the 'old bird' about town. I suppose being November and, pretty heavy on the deadlines, it makes sense that only the freshers were really out, but I felt really quite mumsy for a minute there as me and my 3 former housemates stood in the middle of the ocean dancefloor lamenting where the time had gone.

    The real reason I was up there was somewhere between networking, socialising and proving to the lot I left behind from our Bar Society that, contrary to popular belief, I hadn't died. I think they have a bet going on how many weeks it'll take for me to succumb to GDL induced death... or at least a nervous breakdown (that one's the runner up prize.) So, I proved myself... and quite smug I felt too. I was the only former committee member to attend, which, excusing those presently abroad, means I am not the most over-worked under-funned person from our generation of wannabes! I even managed to stand up rather convincingly to Nottingham's equivalent of Ant and Dec (only in legal Barrister world... not showbiz world) and was not mercilessly mocked by their smutty jokes and terrible innuendos all evening as I was at this event last year! But then, then people had to chat business didn't they? So, rule number one: I have to stop referring to anything remotely Bar-related as "scary" (eventhough it is more terrifying than an audition in front of Simon Cowell) it gives off the wrong vibe apparently. Coupled with this, I need to acquire more arrogance, but not on the level a man can get away with. Several young men that I have known through my work on the committee were mentioned in, less than complimentary terms so, I know the type to avoid. Rule three: apply for pupillage this year. That was the one I was most frightened of. I'm not putting it off deliberately, it's just... time is somewhat stretched to capacity at the moment and I'm not sure if there is space in this overloaded wardrobe for another outfit- however stunning or appealing. Pupillage applications are like the kind of dress that is incredible and you love it but, you know you're gonna have to go on atkins and stick to a rigid gym schedule just to squeeze your fat self into it. Worth it in the end but, you're gonna suffer hugely in the process. And, in the unlikely event you actually secure an interview well... that'll be like bootcamp. Not sure if I have the mental capability to process all that right now. In the words of Scarlett O'Hara: "I'll think about that tomorrow... tomorrow is another day."

Confessions of a wannabe QC part 5



Can anyone get the light switches in Freeman to work? It seems to me they only display the light all the while you're pressing down on the button and this results in me, sitting in darkened rooms, looking like something from a horror show, or someone about to top themselves. Seriously, legitimate question, if anyone has mastered this, I could use a hand! This week saw the second official deadline of the GDL and, by some fresh level of hell I am on the cusp of the first exam. Seriously, where is time going? It's always difficult with a multiple choice-r as, you don't want to underestimate the enemy, bring no ammuntion (in the form of revision) and get your arse well and truly kicked by something everyone deemed as "so simple." Yet, with a schedule as tight as mine, I have no desire to waste copius hours on something that turns out to be, precisely that simple. Decisions, decisions...

   Deadlines for scholarships and a Bar school viewing are also on the horizon which is frankly terrifying. At the moment my answer to 'the quality that make me a good candidate for the bar...' is resillience. If a cockroach can live for something like 9 days without a head, I reckon a bar student can do the same. Living off of stolen sleep and far too many microwave meals in the GDL room proves this fact, I have now been without a functioning brain for approximately 7 weeks. Nevertheless, I don't think the cockroach analogy is really what the Inner Temple was going for so, I will have to reconsider that one.

   The other worry is the speedy approach of Christmas. Now, I always knew Christmas in the conventional sense was well and truly cancelled this year due to exams and dissertation and the like, however, it is now more cancelled than ever given the fact that I've been given an (albeit awesome) work experience, which means a London commute everyday in the only slightly more relaxed week I had. If I survive to the new year, I will have done well, and I will book a holiday, somewhere far away and sunny. Until then, I have a Public seminar to prep...


PS: Is this blog starting to sound like Bridget Jones' diary? Only without the men or the cigarette counter?

Confessions of a wannabe QC part 4



At long last, Horncastle is dead. Ok, in the strictest sense of the term this is untrue. In all likelihood he is probably sitting miserably in his jail cell somewhere far away but, inasfar as my dealings with him in my first piece of assessment, he is dead and buried never to be thought of again... and frankly, I don't think anyone was sorry to see him go. This week started with a whimper but I am confident it will end with a bang. The untimely passing of Mr. Horncastle has freed up a bit of my life that I can now give to luxuries like sleep and alcohol and socialising oh, and my new favourite thing: the criminal advocacy competition! So, from the title of this blog it is perhaps unsurprising that I enjoy a bit of legal theatrics, but the timing of the first training session for Criminal Advocacy came at precisely the right time to convince me that all this Barrister-malarkey is actually worth it. There is nothing more brilliant or thrilling or more likely to make your teeth stick to your lips than attempting to make a legal argument in front of your peers without refering to notes! I can hardly imagine what that will feel like when someone's liberty is at stake. (Insert reference to Tom Cruise cross examining Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men.) Nevertheless, the dream remains strong if still painfully distant. On the plus side, I came home last night to find my train tickets had arrived for my reunion in Nottingham in a few weeks. I can't wait to see all the people who had shared the early years of my degree and then disappeared abroad to learn languages in my final year, it's going to be like going back to the carefree days of second year once more. Then, after the inevitable hangover of a night at Ocean has cleared, I must make myself presentable enough to attend the Bar Society alumni dinner which, trust me, isn't half as fancy as it sounds if they let people like me attend. I'm still struggling to come to terms with the fact that I am old enough to be an alumnus. It's strange when the younger kids get in touch to ask advice about scholarships and mini pupillages and so, I like the GDL lot because, I'm the baby of the group and I can play at being young and inexperienced again. The relentlessness of this course has shown me that, while I always seem to be looking toward the future, I mustn't forget to pay attention to the here and now and that amongst the facebook statuses of babies and marriages (of the people I was at school with) I'm not ready to give up my student life just yet! I'm unashamedly 22 years old and determined to rediscover a bit of balance in my life, starting with clocking off early (for once) and watching some well deserved Doctor Who...

Confessions of a wannabe QC part 3



Catching sight of my own reflection in the train window this morning was actually quite frightening. It's official, no amount of foundation is going to hide those bags- the only remedy is sleep. I don't think I've looked forward to a weekend quite as much as this one for a long time and believe me, it's not because I have any major plans (the chance would be a fine thing) but this week has just been pandamonium! I am in disbelief that it is only Thursday. I have had several intimate dates this week with a chap called Horncastle- not as romantic as it sounds- a man appealing his GBH conviction on the grounds of human rights for my first post-graduate coursework (that came round quickly didn't it?) As my brain is currently mush and, this case note isn't technically due until next week, I'm going to do with it what Simon Cowell always does at the judge's houses round of X Factor when he is a bit stuck: I'm going to sleep on it. If nothing else, this course is teaching me that I would probably make an awful judge, I lack the patience to be given such power, I'd end up just getting annoyed with those put before me and handing out exceptionally harsh sentences... note for the future: don't get promoted. The upside of course, is the introduction of a microwave to the GDL room which has sparked some interesting suggestions for communal cordin bleu cooking: like cakes in a mug and scrambled egg and microwave pizzas, and I take this as a sign that my coursemates have bonded sufficiently that shared food as well as shared suffering is a distinct possibility on the horizon. Also, all this microwave food and running between lectures is actually doing wonders for the waist line, I no longer look at my jeans with fear and trepidation which can only be a good thing. Comedic moment of the week came when I actually managed to get locked into Freeman building having stayed late to work on Mr. Horncastle... I think it's a clever ploy on behalf of the law department to force us to work: there is no escape until you have finished. Now, that's a depressing thought to finish on. Roll on Halloween, I need a good night out, I need a costume, I need a Jack Daniels...

Confessions of a wannabe QC part 2



So, first week is drawing to a close and I would be a liar if I said I didn't want to make a voodoo doll out of Southern Rail. Between signalling problems, the suicidal and no where near enough carriages for peak time travel, I finally get what all the outrage is about every year when fees go up. I'm beginning to feel like a bona fide commuter. After the devastation of realising you can't take coffee into the library, I have taken the GDL room to become my new uni home, because we have a kettle, and a fridge and a toastie maker. Jealous much? New members of the course keep arriving in their dribs and drabs which is kinda nice, every day is a bit of a surprise in terms of who's gonna turn up next. My reflection on this week is of organised chaos, I'm quite impatient by nature and I want to stop feeling new and like I'm going everywhere with my tail between my legs (dog analogy again.) Getting onto the wifi was a mission... thank God for the IT department as I was coming close to throwing my phone down one of the many (very large) concrete staircases. I swear I am jinxed when it comes to tech, at my last uni it took them 3 days to get the bloody laptop working and of course they'd "never encountered as many difficulties as I'd had." Well, didn't I feel special? Right now I'm sitting in front of one of the law textbooks and frankly, it is the size of a small child and probably weighs every bit as much! I've decided there is no justice in the world if I don't have the physique of a supermodel by the end of this year, what with all of the stairs and the boulder books to carry... I am seriously hopeful for beach season next year! Postgrad life has got off to a flying start and, when I've processed all the information I've been bombraded with over the past few days, I'll get back to you. Over and out...