Jackie McArthur, Essex Court Chambers

Name: Jackie McArthur

Chambers: Essex Court Chambers

Position: Pupil

Degree: BCL and MPhil in Law

University: Oxford

Studied BPTC at: N/A – I was a foreign qualified barrister and did the BTT

Hobbies: Cooking middle eastern food, gardening, travel

How many rounds of applications did it take to get pupillage? One

Number of interviews attended: Three

Jackie McArthur

Why did you decide to train as a barrister?

I’ve always liked both public speaking, and constructing arguments (whether written or oral). It seemed to me that being a barrister combines both of these in a way that no other job does.

What was the toughest pupillage interview question you were asked (at any chambers) and how did you answer?

None really stick out as being particularly tough. They were all challenging questions, but because they were designed to get a sense of what you are like they were actually all quite easy to answer.

Tell us a bit about the type of work you’re doing at the moment… 

I’m currently doing some work on the doctrine of acquired rights in public international law – a research note for a more senior barrister in Chambers. I find all public international law challenging and interesting for the same reason: the legal principles are often vague and almost always contested, and deciding which sources to follow and which to disregard sometimes involves difficult questions of judgment. This is especially true of an area like acquired rights, the very existence of which was controversial for many years, and on which the ICJ has not comprehensively pronounced.

What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job? 

Almost everything that I do is intellectually difficult. I love that every day I’m being pushed to think critically and carefully about hard concepts.

What aspect of the job have you found most difficult to get to grips with?

I’m quite a social person and I love working with other people. Often barristers work with each other or with teams of solicitors, but the nature of the role is such that sometimes there will be long periods of simply working in an office by yourself. At times like this it can be easy to feel lonely. 

What about your job didn’t you expect before you started?

I had a pretty good idea of what it’s like to practice as a barrister, from the experience I had working as a solicitor and barrister in Australia so I was lucky to not be taken unawares by anything.

Who’s the most recent email in your inbox from, and what’s it about?

A friend – and it’s about dinner.

What’s your best ‘in court’ anecdote so far?

My best anecdote doesn’t come from my own practice – as I’m only a pupil, it’s been pretty limited so far. When I was doing vacation work, I was taken by a supervisor to court, and in a break in the hearing one of the lawyers for the other side accused me of being planted in the court room to spy on them.

Which member of chambers (barrister or otherwise) would you want to be on the run with in the event of a zombie apocalypse, and why?

A baby junior called Felix Wardle – he has great taste in music, and if you’re going to be on the run, you should definitely have a good soundtrack for it.

Tell us two truths and one lie about yourself (in any order).

  • I’m missing a vertebra
  • I had a pet kangaroo when I was a child
  • Everyone in my immediate family but me is a scientist

If you had not decided to become a lawyer, what career would you have chosen?

Journalism

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

Do some mooting during your degree, or on the conversion course. It’s a really good way of measuring whether you’ll enjoy the sorts of things you might do as a barrister.