The Criminal Bar: what is the future for eager graduates cramming their way into a tighter knit profession?…. Dola Ajibade
Given the financial climate at the moment it’s little wonder that all the chambers evenings directed at GDL students come purely from commercial sets. Legal aid reforms, designed to cut public expenses, have hit the criminal sector hard so when 6 King’s Bench Walk (6KBW) decided to hold a chambers evening I had to attend. A brave invitation I thought by 6kbw, which came with a clear warning from David Herling (Director of the GDL), that only those interested in this field should attend.
Truth is none of us were sure if it was the route to pursue, and what were the reasons for 6kBW inviting us? They were not short of applicants i’m sure. However there is no denying the quality of the GDL cohort at City, a course known for its additional edge of academic rigour in an already intensive (and what many would describe as) painful nine months. The result? Some of the best barristers in England and Wales.
On the evening direct questions about the criminal bar were fired (it may have been the wine)...
How much will I earn? Will I ever be able to leave my parents house? Why is so much emphasis placed on academic ability when we are helping people mostly from working class backgrounds? How does someone with a first class honours and from a middle class background relate to criminals from a different background to their own?
Their answers to these very general questions? They stated that, yes the bar does place great emphasis on intellectual ability because historically that is how it has always been. They acknowledged the problem of being able to relate to clients and represent them to the best of your ability when you are not from the same background, especially in criminal law. Yet they stated they did not rule out people with a high 2:2 who demonstrate other qualities, similarly those with a first class honours with no experience do not just walk straight through the doors. Reassuring advice, I thought, useful to a post-graduate, I was won over already.