Case study

Barristers' clerk — Elizabeth Jones

Elizabeth's job is quite high-pressured and being organised is key. Find out what other skills you need to become a successful barristers' clerk

What degree did you study?

I graduated with a degree in philosophy from the University of East Anglia in 2017.

How did you get your job?

I got my job by applying through specialist recruitment firms such as ABC Chambers Solutions. I think most chambers use a recruitment service, so it's definitely worth having a look into those online.

Failing that, there's no harm in picking up the phone to contact individual chambers and checking whether they have any vacancies. The chances are there will be a chambers looking for a new junior clerk, from which there will hopefully be the chance of further career progression.

What's a typical working day like?

A typical day involves, email correspondence, diary management, speaking with barristers and solicitors over the telephone, taking on new instructions for barristers (from solicitors), dealing with aspects of marketing, and dealing with (agreeing, recording, billing) barristers' fees.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

You can never really predict what you're going to have to deal with on a daily basis, and I think that makes it a little more interesting than your average office-based job.

It is also interesting to learn about new and relevant cases. When taking on a new instruction, you'll get a chance to learn a bit about what each matter is relating to in order to pass the information on to the barrister.

What are the challenges?

There are several challenges in this job. For example, it's surprising how quickly a small insignificant issue can escalate in to a much larger one, if not dealt with promptly and efficiently.

Overall, I'd say the job is fairly high pressure, mainly because the stakes are high. Depending on where you work, you'll be interacting with leading figures in the field and managing their practice. There is little room for error as their reputation is at stake.

On a more general level, you can encounter several logistical issues on a day-to-day basis. These include issues around a barrister's capacity for work, allocation of work, fixing appointments and/or hearings.

In what way is your degree relevant?

My degree is not directly relevant to the career, but it certainly provided me with confidence in my written ability. Philosophy also centres on the ability to produce persuasive and logical arguments; a skill that I think is useful in most sectors, and certainly in clerking.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

Most clerking careers start at an entry-level position as a junior clerk, where you will spend your day physically taking barristers to court, dealing with their papers, producing bundles of documents, making requests at the library and just generally being available to provide assistance when needed. This is how I started and I'm now part of the clerking team responsible for managing the QCs (silks) in chambers.

In the future, I hope to gain more responsibility for various tasks, and just generally become more proficient at the job - as with everything, experience is invaluable.

What are your top tips for those wanting to get into this job?

  • Organisation - you must be organised if you are to have any chance of doing your job well. You will be juggling a number of different tasks constantly, which can be quite overwhelming if you are not prepared.
  • Communication - you have to be a good communicator (verbally and in writing) as you will be liaising with different people all the time, often about complex issues you may not fully have a grasp of yourself. Furthermore, you'll have to manage people's expectations. Although it's important to be positive, you certainly can’t be a 'yes man' all the time.
  • Hardworking - you have to be willing to put in the effort. People get to know you quickly and it’s important to build a good rapport with your barristers. It's all about trust, and if you're not very consistent in doing the smaller stuff, then the likelihood is you won’t get very far, and won't be trusted with the more difficult situations.

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