Sunday, 7 December 2008

Top two things you shouldn't do

-- Ignore letters from credit card companies and banks.

-- Look up the CVs of people at your dream chambers.

In particular, when combined, you may be struck with the awful feeling that you've saddled yourself with a lot of debt because you were under the very mistaken impression that you, too, could ever make it in this job.

The kind of debt that will take a great many hours to work off at the minimum-wage job you will actually end up in.

12 comments:

Lost said...

I quite regulary stalk members of my dream chambers to look at where they did law, what post graduate degree they have, what BVC school they went to etc it fills in the time of actually doing some work I suppose

I see you are on the debt train too!
I don't personally see how I can afford to pay for the BVC and live at the same time? I have a bit of time to work it out though!

Mel said...

I was doing so well, apart from one Student Loan, I'd managed to clear everything by about this time last year- but then all my activities abroad and very foolishly putting the BVC on credit cards has put me back in the 'hole'!

I've been looking at the Olpas form. It might be going against the general consensus, but I don't think it looks that awful. The only thing which bugs me about it is that you have to list your degree result so prominently - but then I always knew it was really important, and I don't expect to be able to hide my 'not having a first'.

Otherwise, it's sufficiently anonymous and straightforward I think...although to be honest, I haven't started filling anything in!

LegallyGinge said...

I think the OLPAS form is good for people who are coming straight from School and university. It is absolutely useless if you need to sell yourself as having been in the workforce for 10 years rather than chairman of your university Law Society.

Mel said...

Fair point, Ginge - but then most people are in that position - like myself. 150 words is enough to cover my mooting, debating achievements but not, as you say, a decade of different jobs in industry.

LegallyGinge said...

Duh Sorry - thats the point I want to make - I think its just mature candidates it is unsuited to, it is straight forward enough for those who have followed a traditional path.

Legal Lass said...

Looking at CV's is the worst thing you can do... You have to do it, so that you can assess what chance you have at said chambers and whether to waste a precious Olpas place on it - but it is only just bearable if you keep it to a minimum of say 30 seconds!!

Re: OLPAS. I hate it now, because there is not a lot of space to include the stuff that will make you stand out. You have to write about mooting, etc but realistically this all means you are as good as the next candidate, which won't get you any interviews - so finding that there is no space to include extra experience, interests, etc is frustrating!! and 150 words is nothing, believe me!!

LL

Law Girl said...

Mel, I have been ignoring my credit card statements for years and researching barristers cvs like a demon for about the same amount of time. deluded?! you bet! but if I don't get a scholarship for the BVC (which is highly likely I won't) then I will just take two years out to save for it. I can't put anything on any more cards! Olpas is an awful barometer of suitability for the bar.

Bar Boy said...

Sorry, if I am being dim in saying this, but is it not possible to set up a web page with all of the candidate's relevant info and then cross reference that web page on the OLPAS form ? If this is a really stupid suggestion, please be gentle :)

Mel said...

Not a stupid suggestion at all, that's quite inventive- but do you think anyone would actually look at it? I wonder how chambers sort through forms they receive.

Bar Boy said...

I have no idea (as usual !) but when 150 words of the usual generic guff (debating, mooting, minis, paralegal-ing, yawn) is not going to distinguish a candidate anyway, then why not try something different ? With only 320 pupillages last year, and probably even fewer likely to be offered in 2009, then why not take a punt ? It does, after all, only need one pupillage committee to respond favourably.

Anya said...

Personally, having witnessed a "first sift" of OLPAS applications, I would say under no circumstances do the webpage thing. The space is small for 2 reasons it seems to me: 1. because barristers are busy and self-employed, and they don't have time to read 300 volumes of War and Peace when sifting applications; 2. it is a real test of your ability to express yourself concisely while including all your "best points" - often a key skill in practice. The form is the same for everyone on purpose. I really don't think anyone would go to the webpage, and I think they would be both irritated and shocked by the audacity of it!

I think actually the best thing to do is to find a barrister to read it over for you - an Inn sponsor if you don't know any. I say this because when I think back at some things I wrote on my application I cringe! Some things were too naive, others showed a lack of understanding of the way the Bar is in practice, others were transparent in their sycophancy...

Everyone is in the same boat with the word limit - surely fairer than having some applications that are 3,000 words long and some 150? If there was no limit then everyone would be making it as long as they could and it just wouldn't be practical for the first "sift". Maybe a slightly bigger word limit, say 300 words, would be better...but again there is the problem of making sure they actually have time to read it all.

The form may not be ideal for those of unconventional backgrounds, but for the more conventional applicants, which are the majority, I do think it has the merit of cutting out bullshit...perhaps there should just be an extra box for "miscellaneous"? I suppose if say you are a mature student you can emphasise your experiences in your individual message to chambers as the form is now...not ideal maybe, but something.

At bar school it seemed that everyone thought if the form were different they would get interviewed, but the fact is that no matter what the form is like, only a small proportion will be interviewed...

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