Why sit in Chambers?
Being offered to sit in a barrister's chambers is both a privilege and an opportunity.
A barrister with over 10 years experience at the Bar can take on a Reader in a pupillage relationship. The relationship of a Master-Pupil is very special and is part of the great traditions of the Independent Bar.
The Master imparts his or her knowledge and experience by helping the Pupil to learn about the code of conduct and practice of a barrister.
The Pupil usually sits in the Master's chambers for between 6 to 12 months after completing a 2 months readership course. The Pupil gets to read the Master's briefs and assists in his or her cases.
The Master gets to share his or her knowledge, and shows the Pupil the way of the barrister.
It has been a privilege for me to have been in a Master-Pupil relationship as it has not only enriched my life at the Bar but has unlocked opportunities for collaboration and team work.
It is also a valuable opportunity for law students and graduates to be mentored by a barrister. The unique one-on-one relationship allows a push and pull strategy to work.
The Mentor pushes the Mentee to gain greater skill by engaging in experiential and applied learning. The Mentee also gets pulled into the Mentor's inner circle of influence.
For a successful and sustainable pupillage or mentoring relationship to occur, there must be the following commitment by both Master and Pupil, or Mentor and Mentee, to:
- Reach out to the other for an opportunity to learn and share
- Respect the status, talent, skill, and capability of the other
- Recognise the value of the time invested by the other
- Reciprocate by mutually giving, sharing, and learning from the other
- Reward for the hard work and loyalty demonstrated to the other
Over the decade, I have had the good fortune to learn from and mentor many law students and graduates. Some of my mentees have also become my legal research assistants. All of my legal research assistants have gone to work for large-tier law firms. I am very proud of their respective achievements.
While I have mentored many law students and graduates, fewer are nominated for awards and sponsored for internships or jobs, both in Australia and overseas (Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, London, and New York).
In assessing potential mentees, I look for certain qualities and skills sets. First impressions do count but it is not all about academic brilliance.
I look for the WHY to see the HOW that has led to the WHAT. Attributes like being a self-starter, being pro-active, and having a 'can do' attitude are very important. Having a drive and passion for community work are equally important. If you do not chase your goals, you have nothing to gain.
There are many people who are able but not willing to be involved in contributing to the legal profession or the wider community. Yet, there are those who are willing but not able because they are always finding short-cuts or back-doors to reach the top.
There is no substitute for developing a plan with passion and hard-work. Strategy always Trumps Talent.
You must be both willing and able to show up to learn, to engage by being pro-active, to contribute by giving back to important causes, to take constructive feedback, and to constantly strive for improvement.