Profile: Harriet Jones-Fenleigh

I think there are few careers where those at the most junior end enjoy as much responsibility and variety as at the bar. Theres no question of being stuck doing the photocopying or making coffee.

Name: Harriet Jones-Fenleigh
University: Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge
Degree: History
Where did you study the CPE? City University
Where did you study the BVC? The City Law School
A-levels: History, French, Politics
Hobbies: Travel, diving, poker
Chambers: Fountain Court Chambers

Why did you choose to train as a barrister?

I was attracted by the bar because it combines the benefits of self-employment with the chance to do intellectually stimulating work alongside interesting people.

How does working as a barrister differ from what solicitors do?

Barristers usually work on teams with solicitors and often the clients in-house lawyers. Although the two professions work very closely, barristers specialise in advocacy, both oral and paper-based.

What does your typical day involve?

There is no typical day. One day I will be accompanying my pupil supervisor to a conference on the bank charges litigation or listening to submissions on conspiracy in the House of Lords, the next Ill be researching a tricky point of company law, drafting a skeleton argument for a hearing before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, or producing an advice or pleading for a contractual dispute about defective ball-bearings its not all glamour.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?

I think there are few careers where those at the most junior end enjoy as much responsibility and variety as at the bar. Theres no question of being stuck doing the photocopying or making coffee.

What are the worst aspects of your job?

In paper-heavy commercial litigation, getting on top of the documents and figures can be a mentally exhausting process, particularly in fraud cases, where the true nature of transactions has been disguised.

How is law in practice different to studying law?

As a student youre concerned with the legal analysis of a problem. In practice, the legal analysis is only the starting point you spend as much time evaluating the evidence and deciding how best to achieve the clients commercial objectives as you do reading authorities.

Whats the biggest misconception of the legal profession?

Unfortunately, the myth persists that barristers are all drawn from a particular background. In reality members of chambers have come to the bar from diverse backgrounds, from all over the UK and overseas, some straight from university, many from other careers.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to qualify as a barrister?

Start planning early. Research the area of law and the type of chambers you would like to do pupillage at. Chambers will want to see evidence of your commitment to and aptitude for the bar in general, and their practice areas in particular, so make sure you obtain relevant experience through mooting, debating, pro bono schemes, mini-pupillages and marshalling. Get the best degree you can and prepare well for interviews.

What are the biggest pitfalls students should try to avoid?

I think too many people decide to become a lawyer on the basis of little more than an episode or two of Judge John Deed or Ally McBeal. Test your preconceptions of the bar through mini-pupillages and be realistic about your strengths and weaknesses before committing your time and money to doing the BVC. Having said that, remember that chambers are looking for someone who members and clients will enjoy working with, not just a law machine, so dont obsess over CV-enhancing activities at the expense of having a life.