Yes counsel

Note to self: make sure your Blackberry doesn’t decide to overheat and subsequently switch off, rendering your only source of alarm completely redundant. At least, not the night before you start the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).

The consequence was that I woke up 15 minutes after I was supposed to leave – my paranoid nature was exacerbated by the fact that I had yet to explore my route to the law school – and ended up running like a lunatic to make it in time for my 9am (compulsory) introductory lecture. After all, I’d heard that the Northern line was a nightmare on Mondays.

In any case, I found myself standing outside the shiny polished glass building on Red Lion Street at 8:45am, heart pounding like there was no tomorrow. I had been in a similar position a year ago, mentally gearing myself up for the GDL, but nothing could have prepared me for the insanity of the BPTC. No amount of pep talks from various friends and family members could have assuaged the tornado of butterflies flapping wildly in my stomach. It was like starting a new school all over again. It was starting a new school all over again.

Week one went by in a whirlwind of lectures and introductions. Terms such as “professional ethics”, “code of conduct”, “personal development file” were thrown about; 250 pairs of feet dragged themselves tiredly to the lecture theatre every evening; some eyebrows were raised at the total horror of assessments in Week Nine (only two months before letting us loose? Scandalous!) but relaxed when news broke of the scrapping of the Legal Research assessment. All in all, it was an emotionally draining week, but I found myself ridiculously eager to get started.

The BPTC is not a course for the faint-hearted; something I have learned very quickly in the past few weeks since starting. Advocacy sessions are a lot more gruelling than I had ever imagined, and the mere thought of recording my performances on a DVD had me wishing the ground would swallow me whole – and this was before my first session! The sheer volume of preparation for every class has me reading the tiny print of the famed White Book into the early hours of the morning, and my first Civil Litigation session seriously tested my dedication to my chosen career path. I find myself typing away furiously at a computer in BPP’s fifth floor study room too often for it to be sane. That said, I finally feel like I’m making steps – actual steps – towards becoming a barrister.

I find it unsurprising, really, how barristers-to-be throw about the words “intense” and “lack of social life” when talking about the BPTC. My year on the GDL had quickly taught me that the path to becoming the hotshot, high-flying lawyer I’ve always dreamed of being was going to be full of potholes and would not have many rest periods on the way. Not the most comforting thought but it was a deal with the devil I had signed 13 years ago and I’m not one to back off.

I have a long way to go before becoming the ideal candidate for pupillage – the next few months are going to be full of pro bono work, mini pupillage applications and pretty much any other law-related activity I can get my hands on. This course has proved to be a lot more demanding than I anticipated, and I don’t expect it to get any easier.

As Aristotle said, excellence is not an act, but a habit – so I fully intend to make it my habit in a bid to get to the top.