Welcome to this week’s ‘The Monday Interview’.
If one thing is certain in the world of careers advice, it is that there is always going to be a steady flow of students aiming for a place at university to study law. In many cases these students assume that the outcome of their studies is that they will end up working as a solicitor, maybe a barrister. And yet whilst the reality is that many law graduates will go on to enter a whole host of non-related professions, we rarely focus on the ‘other’ jobs which exist within the legal sector.
So what can you do if you have, perhaps, studied law, have a genuine interest in legal issues but just don’t see yourself as a lawyer? In today’s interview, Clare tells us a little about how she has used her legal knowledge, along with her communication and decision-making skills to forge a successful career as a Barrister’s Clerk.
So, briefly, what is your job?
“I am a Barrister’s Clerk. It is my job to make sure that all my barristers are in work and attending court, that they get where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there and with everything they need to do their job. We problem solve and negotiate with the court, solicitors and other professionals.”
How did you get into it?
“I went to university and completed a law degree but realised that I didn’t want to be a lawyer. After seeing the role advertised I applied and got offered the job. Working in support of my barristers suits me much more than actually being in practise.”
Describe a typical day.
“One of the best things about my job is that every day is completely different with a variety of problems to solve and issues to sort out. In any given day I will spend much of my time on the phone speaking to solicitors took Counsel for the cases that they have in court and to arrange for all of the documentation Counsel needs to be sent to us. I will agree fees for the work as well.
I speak to the courts on a daily basis to find out information about where a case is to be listed and how long for and to try to negotiate the order of hearings in order that I can get my barristers to all of the work that they have been asked to do.
Sometimes you will find that cases have been put into court and the barrister cannot be in 2 places at once. It is our job to make arrangements for all cases to be dealt with even if it means that the original barrister has to be replaced with an alternative this will mean co-ordinating with the solicitor providing us with the work and the barrister who will be acting as replacement.
The rest of the day is usually spent in administration. I receive lots of information by email that has to be recorded and passed on as well as handling a lot of phone calls seeking information and advice.”
What do you enjoy most about your job?
“I am never ever bored. There is always work to be done and it is usually interesting!”
And the least?
“It can be a very stressful environment and tempers can flare. A bad day can be really bad.”
What are the common misconceptions that people have about the work you do?
“People tend to think it is just administration and that we are effectively PA’s. In actual fact we are making decisions on a daily basis that can affect the careers of our barristers. In my office my team and I are responsible for over 40 practitioners from very junior Barristers just starting out to extremely experienced individuals who are specialists in their field.”
What are the main skills you need to be a Barrister’s Clerk?
“You need patience, excellent communication, the ability to problem solve and the ability to work as part of a larger team. You must have the capacity to deal with all sorts of different people and the gift of the gab will get you a long way.”
Tell us a little about the benefits that come with the job.
“Salary varies from Chambers to Chambers and city to city but if you are good at your job and dedicated to your career you can negotiate an excellent salary. All chambers operate differently so it’s up to you how good you are at negotiating for benefits. One of the biggest perks is access to free legal advice.”
What advice would you give someone wanting to break into this career?
“There are only approximately 1000 people in the country doing this job so the number of opportunities aren’t huge. If you really want to be a barrister’s clerk keep checking Chambers’ websites and local papers for adverts of vacancies and be prepared at interview. You need to show that you understand Chambers and how they work.”
Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
“How you may progress is difficult to say as it depends where you end up. The Chambers I work in is very forward thinking and always growing. We have 1 senior clerk now but who knows how the management structure might change over the next 10 years. Ideally I would like to be in the same office but further up the ladder and with more responsibility.”
AND JUST FOR FUN…
First in the office or last to leave?
“First in the office.”
Tea or coffee?
Staff canteen or packed lunch?
The lift or the stairs?
Out after work or straight home to bed?