Written by Shannon O’Connor, First Six Pupil
My first three months of pupillage have been spent predominately in the crown court with my supervisor, Jonathan Veasey-Pugh.
My supervisor defended in a trial that lasted three weeks, with seven counts on the indictment. The presence of the jury is of course one of the many things that sets criminal law apart from other areas of practice. There is nothing quite like the excitement when you are called back into court to hear the verdicts of those twelve men and women. In that trial, they could not return a verdict on the count of perverting the course of justice and then there was the question of whether the process for that allegation was going to happen all over again!
There is a great sense of camaraderie at the Bar and this extends to pupils. In Chambers, there are always a few people in the common room to have a chat with and regale with stories of the day’s events. At court, despite HMCTS’s best efforts to divert robing rooms for daily meetings and remove dining areas (sometimes to be replaced by vending machines), this camaraderie is very much alive and well. Some of the aspects of the gallows humour can jar a little but I appreciate that it, along with the rest of the robing room “banter” (of varying degrees of wit), is probably a necessary, and much welcome, antidote to the stresses of the career.
There have also been quite a few events to attend. I enjoyed attending the Birmingham Law Society Annual Dinner and experiencing the strong sense of community that exists in the legal profession here. At the Annual Bar and Young Bar Conference, I had the pleasure of hearing Baroness Hale’s speech about the first 100 years of women in law, as well as what the next century might hold for us. Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, the Secret Barrister’s appearance during a panel discussion for young barristers was via a closely guarded laptop! The Criminal Bar Association Winter Conference, as well as covering updates in crime and sentencing, featured a keynote speech from Lady Justice Macur. The overall message of this speech was that, despite the many challenges facing the profession at the moment, the future is positive.
Since commencing pupillage, I have been given two noting briefs. This is the only type of paid work a pupil can undertake in their first six. The first one involved making notes of the evidence and outcome during a three-day trial in the magistrates’ court, for use in parallel family proceedings. Receiving my first brief, albeit a noting brief, felt like a milestone and has increased my eagerness to be on my feet.