Past Pupillage Applications (part 1)

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Past Pupillage Applications (part 1)

Having been offered a pupillage at last (see Pupillage Interview:  Success!), I decided it’s high time that my computer got a spring clean. Sorting through the mass of digital files, I happened upon more than two dozen old applications to chambers.

Some of my drafted responses made me cringe a bit, such was their eagerness or naïvety. This is particularly true of my earliest efforts. However, after reading through my old forms for a while, I noticed my style improving. Ultimately, I found a few examples that I was proud of… and not too embarrassed to share!

Thus, in this post and the next, you’ll find responses to real pupillage application questions — copied and pasted from the original, submitted forms. Every response here is an example of success; that is, it comes from a form that resulted in me being invited to a first interview (at least). For each response, I’ve identified the specific chambers that I applied to.

It is my hope that these responses will serve as a useful example for others, especially would-be barristers struggling to overcome writer’s block. At a minimum, posting these responses helps to further document my journey.

CORNWALL STREET CHAMBERS (2015) —
Why would you like to undertake pupillage at Cornwall Street? [250 words]

Pupillage at Cornwall Street could enable me to develop my advocacy skills by dealing with general criminal matters (the best type of work for a dedicated advocate to start with), whilst providing the opportunity to expand into better-paid areas such as regulatory offences. Cornwall Street offers a range of “advocacy-heavy” civil work, as in (e.g.) employment and personal injury, which could also keep me in court, earning as an advocate.

Winning a national mooting award (judged by a Supreme Court judge) demonstrates my aptitude and potential for civil appellate work of the kind recently undertaken by Cornwall Street member, James Hall. I would hope to be in a similar position eventually, contributing to chambers’ reputation through successful appearances at the Court of Appeal.

As an intending barrister who takes his financial future seriously, I have chosen the Mediation option as part of the BPTC with a view to becoming a mediation advocate (and possibly a mediator) in time. As a set that embraces ADR practice, Cornwall Street could enable me to derive additional income from the resolution of disputes out of court.

Lastly, as a person born and bred in Birmingham, I am proud of my city and keen to establish my practice here. And with a baby on the way, I wish to enjoy the better work–life balance that comes, ultimately, from working in the provinces.

No.5 CHAMBERS (2017) —
Give an example of a time when you worked hard to persuade someone to your way of thinking. [150 words]

Whilst working as a Tax Tribunal Clerk, I noticed a quirk. Taxpayers were held to strict standards, but HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) often filed its Statements of Case late. An appellant risked having their case struck-out for missing a deadline, but this rule was not always applied to HMRC — which I thought was unfair.

I explained to my team leader (based upon my legal training) that natural justice demands that parties to any dispute be treated equally. However, I was told that HMRC is not a “party” as such, so I should continue processing its paperwork accordingly.

Feeling unsatisfied, I escalated the matter to management level. I sent regular e-mails, detailing instances of HMRC lateness. Finally, an official memo was circulated, instructing all Tribunal Clerks to start asking HMRC for late reasons if filing beyond 60 days.

MATRIX CHAMBERS (2014) —
Should conscientious objection be a defence to breach of equality law? [500 words]

Before considering conscientious objection, and whether this should be a defence, one must appreciate where equality stands in relation to democracy.

Gandhi argued that the true test of democracy lies in the ability of anyone to act as he likes, provided that no one is harmed. John Stuart Mill argued that if all mankind, except one man, held a single opinion, and only that one man held a contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one man than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.

The common thread is equality. Citizens should enjoy the simple right to control their fate, and be the person they were born to be. This is the essence of equality, and for a society lacking this, there can be only mob rule.

However, if citizens truly enjoy the right to control their fate, it is arguable that none should be compelled to do acts which offend their conscience. For the pro-life doctor, for instance, this could mean freedom from performing abortions. And for religious ministers, freedom from solemnising gay marriages. Note that under English law, doctors and (effectively) ministers have the lawful right to conscientiously object. But the wider question is, should they?

Equality law exists to purge society of unfair discrimination.

Thus, on the one hand, equality law might be celebrated as the bedrock of democratic life — empowering Gandhi’s “anyone” to act as he likes, provided nobody is harmed. On the other hand, equality law may be reviled as an instrument of oppression — used to silence Mill’s “one man” and coerce him into doing things he will regret. But should conscientious objection be a defence to breaches of equality law committed by those who revile it?

In the UK, a politician of the Right once remarked that there is no such thing as society. Tempting as this proposition may sound, it was surely trumped by a politician of the Left, who said it is wrong for people to picture themselves in the role of “Robinson Crusoe” — having no duties beyond the garden gate. In other words, with living in a democratic society comes being party to a social contract, in that benefits require a few personal sacrifices. Thus, to make conscientious objection a defence would be to relieve offenders of this duty to society.

For all doctors, therefore, not objecting to performing abortions is arguably a price they should pay to practise. But this logic struggles to entrap the minister, whose only concern is the grace of souls. Indeed, using equality law to bring rites into line with rights could violate the freedoms of thought, conscience and religion. But then, marriage, as an institution, has become so integral to life in democratic societies that no committed couple ought be denied it, gay or otherwise.

In conclusion, conscientious objection should not be a defence to breach of equality law. Nor should there be any lawful right to object in matters of human equality.

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