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Barristers - would love to return but it's been 8 years. am I too late?

(25 Posts)
kategsgotmethinking Fri 26-Sep-08 11:06:36

I was a family barrister in a leading set until dc 1. 8 years later, now 3dcs. I have worked at quasi legal jobs on and off through that time, but not as a barrister. I have just hit 12 mths without working and I know that I need to get a job. I think that dc3 is my last, so I could think of something a bit more committed. I would love to return to the Bar ( I would happily go to a regional less ambitious chambers ). Do you think I've left it too long?

katycaterpiller Fri 26-Sep-08 16:35:51

The Bar Council is running a conference on Friday 3rd October (ie next week) on 'Returners to the profession'. Why not come along. I know of one barrister who took 8 years out, came back and 12 years later took silk. Not impossible at all.

mumof2222222222222222boys Fri 26-Sep-08 16:39:18

Oh good luck to you. I "only" had 3.5 years out, but I was only 1 year PQE as solicitor when I had DS1. Seriously lacked confidence about returning to work, but so glad I have done so. Katycaterpiller's conference sounds the perfect starting point.

kategsgotmethinking Fri 26-Sep-08 16:41:35

Thanks Katycaterpillar. I found the conference last night in my late night searching! I hope to be able to go. I suppose I worry that it will be like starting again, and I will have no practice to speak of for some time - and that's even supposing any chambers will take me on. I think that is my greatest concern, as I don't wish to return to my original chambers . Are you at the Bar Council or involved in the conference in some way? ( not wanting to blow your mumsnet cover in any way smile )

sagacious Fri 26-Sep-08 16:43:00

Have you contacted your old Head of Chambers ?
Perhaps sound out returning as a door tennant on a percentage per case basis (to avoid the joys of rent) to see if your comfortable returning properly.

sagacious Fri 26-Sep-08 16:44:03

Ahhh x posted with the no wish to return to old chambers ....

sagacious Fri 26-Sep-08 16:46:35

Do you have any contacts/intro with regional chambers?
You need to sort out your solicitor contacts pronto then, get your little black book out and smooze.

kategsgotmethinking Fri 26-Sep-08 16:49:13

I'm terrible at smoozing - but think have someone ( CJ and friend) who can make intros for me with Head of Chambers at a regional chambers. Failing that I guess I'll just have to cold call and go in at the bottom of the returns heap!
I also only really want to work 3 days a week. When I left that was not a possibility at my Chambers ( hence my departure) but looking at things, it seems that more Chambers are prepared to do it. Is that the case?

controlfreakinfreaky Fri 26-Sep-08 17:05:09

how long were you in practice before taking a break?

was your practice / do you expect your practice to be mainly court based?

how do you hope 3 day week to work?

i dont want to put you off as you sound v keen to get back into chambers.... but have to say i am v experienced family barrister (think ancient). had v court based practice (public law work primarily) and found it quite doable when dcs were small.... but that it got harder and harder as they got bigger and their needs more complex... i have a dh with a demanding job and something had to give! am on open ended sabbatical from my leading chambers and not sure when i'm likely to go back....

for me at least it feels like the choice is all or nothing. back to back 10 / 15 day cases or stopping. i relly tried to manage my practice before deciding to take a break but it was so stressful and just didnt work. cant begin to see how i could do a 3 day week and do court work.... would need full time childcare and to pay for that for a start.....

would be interested to hear your thoughts.

would also say the family bar is in parlous state at the moment and morale is not high! resources and funding squeezed on all sides. bar expected to do more and more for same / less money etc.

aren't there a suprising number of us on here!

kategsgotmethinking Fri 26-Sep-08 17:49:24

control - thanks for the reality check! I'd been in practice 6 years, and was just moving to 10 day public law work. Tbh that's why I could never see how it would work and haven't even thought of a return until now. I am aware of the huge squeeze on fees, and had reckoned that there just wasn't enough to go round the family law bar.
The issue now is that I want to do a job that I am qualified to do, and can do well ( I think). I have worked in chambers management, voluntary legal advice, mediation etc, but really want to be doing what I am trained to do. I looked into doing the QLTT and becoming a solicitor as part time work seems easier to come by, but as I haven't practised in the past 5 years I would have to do 2 years para legal, or work as a barrister for 2 years to be eligible to take the test. Not so good. I suppose what I am thinking is that if I found a regional set that would have me I would be prepared to do very junior work on a ~"Miss X can be in court on MOn, Tues , Wed" and nothing else. I know that I would not progress unless I was working full time ( or at least had full time child care to enable me to take bigger cases as they came along, and then have a few days between things to see my kids) . Maybe you are right - it is an all or nothing, and I just have to accept that. Everyone's thoughts and experience are really helpful so thank you.
I am trying to look at all the possibilities at the moment. Government Legal Service is another possible track - as I believe they are pretty good on part time work, and the work tends to be interesting ( although not court based) . All ideas welcome smile

controlfreakinfreaky Fri 26-Sep-08 17:57:04

have you thought about treasury solicitor's department / official solicitor? or considered part timerole in local authority legal department (lots of part timers)? are you living in sticks provinces at moment or in big city / london? where were you in practice (city not set, not trying to out you!)?

kategsgotmethinking Fri 26-Sep-08 19:05:40

I'm in Surrey, I was in London . I had wondered about local authority work - although they always used to seem very pressured and mildly chaotic. Are they receptive to ex-barristers? I always thought treasury solicitors were "very bright" and 8 yrs out makes me doubt my "very bright-ness" if indeed it ever existed. Official Solicitor always appealed to me, but am I right in thinking that they are a very small department?
I assume that until your sabbatical you were working full time? How does it feel now to have stepped out for a while?

controlfreakinfreaky Fri 26-Sep-08 22:54:53


i've been off for 2 years now. 2dss, now 11 and 9. the cruncjh issue for me was needing to support ds1 doing competitive 11+ exams for secondary school entry.... job now done. also enabled me to realise ds2's school wasn't working for him so as of this month both have started new schools....

i've trained to do some brilliant voluntary work with children and i've done the first stage of a postgrad open university psychology course... i do some ad hoc paid legal work on a v sporadic basis...(dont really want to post details to the world but if i say it involves sitting you will get my drift)

on the plus side my children are happier, my dh is happier and i am much much less stressed... and i think content.

on the down side i do miss earning (quite a lot of) money and i really miss my social life that went with the job and the using my brain everyday doing something "worthwhile" and "important".... there are some great people at the bar

not sure there are any easy answers... if you find them be a love and let me know?

if you were doing care work in london we probably know one another wink

hoxtonchick Fri 26-Sep-08 22:56:20

oi, cf, we never had that cup of coffee . you around 8th oct? and am intrigued by ds2's new school....

controlfreakinfreaky Fri 26-Sep-08 23:00:51

darling! just posted consoling message on your naked dcs thread!

no can do to 8th... can do almost any other day (except wednesdays) at mo...

hoxtonchick Fri 26-Sep-08 23:03:04

thanks sweetie . can do other days, will just have naked dd with me....

controlfreakinfreaky Fri 26-Sep-08 23:05:21

well you know how much i like her.... so that's fine.... next week? cake or noodles?

hoxtonchick Fri 26-Sep-08 23:13:19

noodles on thurs 2nd?

controlfreakinfreaky Fri 26-Sep-08 23:19:38

it's a date...

will email next week to finalise plan....

have a good w/e... it can only get better.

<sorry for detour on your thread kate...>

hoxtonchick Fri 26-Sep-08 23:20:59

brill . sorry for hijack too!

elkiedee Fri 26-Sep-08 23:36:33

I don't know about social services/childcare but I know other areas of local government law involving court work (housing) employ barristers as well as solicitors - my London council legal dept (I'm a secretary) changed the job titles to lawyers (was solicitors) to cover different qualification issues. And there seem to be a fair few posts. Maybe you could approach an appropriate agency about a locum placement and see how you find doing it, then if it doesn't work you can extricate yourself, if it does you can get the experience to then try to convert to being a solicitor if that still seems like the way to go.

katycaterpiller Mon 29-Sep-08 08:58:26

Hello again KatesG,
Yes, I am coming to the conference on Friday. I'm 32 weeks pregnant so you'll probable pin me down if you're there! I haven't taken time out of work, except 5months mat leave, but I have been away from Chambers (and Court advocacy) for ages - in 2004 I came to the ECJ on a secondment from Chambers. I am going back to my old set next year, but they don't do any EU work, so it will be a real new start - and I'll be 39, which suddenly feels very old. Hope to meet you on Friday. To everyone who's saying 'I don't feel bright anymore after 5 years or whatever out' - I feel the same, but lets not sell ourselves short eh. I also worked for GLS for a year, before I got tenancy. Lots of bright people there, and also lots of not so bright people there - there were some clockwatching, non-career advancing older men waiting for retirement; and there were some highly frazzled part-time workers with young kids, and some who were part-time (and parents of small kids) and very cool with it. Its a big dept. There's all sorts. And the work is interesting.

kategsgotmethinking Mon 29-Sep-08 16:53:12

Thanks cf, elkiedee and Katyc. I've had lots to think about over the weekend, and I'm hoping to start examining all options . I plan to be at the conference on Friday - see you there katyc. Do you have anymore info about it above and beyond the website bit? GLS has always appealed to me, but I've always convinced myself that everyone is awfully clever and they'd never have me, so thanks for the info on it. Maybe you can tell me a bit more on Friday.

katycaterpiller Tue 30-Sep-08 14:13:18

See you on Friday. It starts at 9.15 with coffee/ 9.45 with introductions. Oak Room, Bar Council, 289 High Holborn, London.
£15 registration fee. Ends after lunch, about 14.30. Main thing is that it should be good opp to meet some people in same situation.

katycaterpiller Thu 09-Oct-08 14:01:24

HI KateGGMT, it was nice to see you last friday. have you had any further thoughts or did it all (especially the slightly intimidating woman in the bright pink suit!?) put you off?

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