I’m a devil who is beginning to really regret their decision of becoming a barrister. There are a number of reasons but the main reason is that my wrists are literally tied by the bar council. I am not that young, I have commitments and people I need to support. I have saved up to devil, at one stage in the past I worked full time and held two part time jobs. Eventually I graduated, paid my law library fees and… became a slave… and this is not my first year…
I pay fees and get treated like crap.
I know there is a process to change masters, I also know that like most things in the bar council there is a “formal process” (which is usually bad) and an “informal process” (which is off the record). Once no one knows about it it’s ok. I’m not trying to be nasty or bitchy, just realistic. A guy I know changed masters using the informal process and he was the butt of gossip and jokes for a few weeks.
I also say my hands are tied because I can’t get any legal work. I make €9.85 an hour selling chips and kebabs to drunk teenagers on Friday and Saturday nights. The job probably offends the code of conduct that governs our profession.
The code of conduct says I am not allowed approach solicitors. I could be disbarred for doing so.
I am not allowed to ask for work. I could be disbarred for doing so.
I am not allowed to advertise. I could be disbarred for doing so.
I am not allowed to advocate on behalf of a client without being instructed by a solicitor YET the solicitor has a right of audience and if the solicitor is skilled enough they don’t actually need a barrister.
I am not allowed to use the skills and abilities that I have learnt throughout my life to make a career in the profession I want.
If, in the event I do actually get work but do not get paid then I have no real recourse. I don’t care anymore about the history or origins of the once noble profession, the cold frank reality is that we profess and vindicate the rights of other people yet we do not have the same rights as our clients. That just does not make sense.
In response, the phrase “you knew what you were getting into” is heard a lot. Maybe so, but you don’t really know until it’s too late, besides which, does that make it right? I feel we are at an important crisis point in the profession, I have seen it for myself at how many are just giving up. I regularly see advertisements for second hand wigs and gowns. There is talk about it now taking 5-7 years for a barrister to establish some form of practice with a bare minimum standard of living. I know of some law lecturers opening telling students not to bother entering the profession.
Recently, I went to a talk about the proposed legal services bill during which the bar council put forward its position to us. They agreed with the premise that legal fees should be reduced. What fees? I looked around and saw the room split in two. The more senior members were nodding in agreement whilst the younger members were glancing at each other in disbelief.
In that moment I realised that there was truth to the allegation that our profession is anti-competitive, not from a particular sector but from the more established people who do not want to change the status quo. If things were to change, become more competitive, then their solicitors might be poached, lured away by younger members who have the audacity to act above their station by trying to do things differently.
While I may not agree with the proposed legal bill, I do believe that at this stage any change is better then what we currently have. Young practitioners are dropping off at a rate never seen before, rumour has it that this year even fewer law students have indicated they are going to come down to the bar. These are desperate times and I do care about the profession… but I can’t for much longer…
The code of conduct says that I am not allowed to bring the profession into disrepute.
I believe the code of conduct is already doing that by forcing people like me to scrape and beg for a living.
Unbind my hands; let me fight for my right to seek work.
If I fail then so be it but at least I tried…