Monday, 11 June 2012

A particular set of skills

In my most recent post at the Pupillage Pages (I've submitted it, but I don't think it's up yet) I quoted the film 300 as my title. In this post, you get Liam Neeson's masterpiece (my words, not his): Taken.

I say "masterpiece", what I actually mean is: it's got one very cool speech during a phone call, and then Liam Neeson chasing some nasty Europeans. Hooray for him. Anyhow, I quote this film not because of anything directly relevant to the Bar, but because of a conversation I had with an American friend of mine based entirely upon a very simple, probably very common, misunderstanding for Barristers, and Baby-Barristers like me.

I met up with a few friends at lunchtime last Thursday, one of whom (Jerry) is an American chap who was only in town for a few days. I don't know Jerry that well, he's more of a friend of a friend, and our only chance at catching up is the odd brief chat every couple of years when he's in town. Nonetheless, he's pleasant company and I enjoy seeing him. Our conversation went thus:

"Mini, what are you up to now? Still working in the House of Commons?"
"No, I left there a couple of years ago to finish qualifying as a Barrister - I finished last Friday, in fact"
"It took you two years to qualify? I thought it'd be much quicker than that"
"Yeah, I've had to do a couple of courses"
"That's quite a change from what you were doing before"
"Well, yeah, I suppose so - instead of writing speeches for other people I get to work for myself now"
"Like freelancing?"
"Yeah, most Barristers in England are self-employed"
"Really? In the States most of them are directly employed"
"Yep, the thought is it gives you a certain independence, so you can provide a better service"
"I wouldn't have thought it would have mattered that much. I don't care if someone's independent, just get on with it. So, when you're training, if you're self employed, who provides the equipment"
"Well, you don't really need to dress up for the training stage, that comes once you're qualified, and the training provider gives you all the books."
"I see. It's probably good you don't need to carry around all your own equipment"
"Yeah, lots of qualified Barristers have wheeled suitcases and things. But yeah, for now, it's largely a skills based course, it's just a case of learning, and then thinking on your feet if you ever get a job"
"Thinking on your feet? In the States they just take their orders and get on with it"
"You'd be surprised - although you do have to follow instructions, there is a bit of leeway in how you present things. You also don't have to follow plainly mad instructions."
"Like super-skinny-double-shot-wet-mocha-caramel-latte-with-extra-resentment?"
"You know, ludicrous coffee orders"
"Why would I be making coffee?"

Barrister/Barista. Whatever.

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