Wednesday, 20 January 2010

To Phd or to not Phd

As I sit here and research abuse of process in relation to RIPA, I wonder whether or not this is the sort of life I wish to live. A life full of constant reading, with a large home library of assorted books on Criminal Justice, Evidence and Human Rights. A desk surrounded by empty packets of crisps and fag packets.

I am at the moment rather tempted to delve deeper into being an academic rather than trying to pursue a career at the Bar and there are several reasons why.

Firstly there has been a complete lack of interest from Chambers when applying for mini-pupillages, I do believe that I would make a good barrister (don't we all) I have a good ability to absorb knowledge, to analyse that knowledge and be critical about it, as well as being a semi-competent advocate which I have learnt from my mooting days. There may have been a small hiccup in the fact that I put perhaps a too restrictive of a date in my covering letter for when I was available, however if chambers were interested I doubt that would have really mattered. By not being noticed enough by which ever young tenant was viewing my application, I wonder how much more there is to be done, so that my CV sparkles with fairy magic glittery Bar dust. I am currently applying for lots of NGO work, however I am yet to hear back.

The amount of opportunities for work related experience of crime and human rights are vast I would suggest, however a lot of internships are unpaid and are usually for a month or so, that is perhaps too much of a period of time where I could be earning elsewhere, the internships are in themselves very competitive.

For all my (our) troubles, the lack of interest from Chambers may be a sign of the times, the Bar is very much more so competitive in terms of sheer numbers than it used to be, Chambers will receive hundreds if not thousands of applications for mini-pupillages, there again your CV really must shine.

There is always the issue of the Bar v Solicitor Advocates, where the work is going and whether or not it would be financially viable to enter the profession in this particular climate. I am told that plans for public funding in criminal trials may reduce by 20%, that is a significant drop in income for those already in practice. The thought of being self-employed and not being good enough to make a decent living is another concern.

After this analysis it may just be simpler to try and apply for a Phd and try to win some scholarship, I would be able to keep teaching criminal law, a subject though despite it needs urgent reform in some places, is quite enjoyable and has enabled me to delve much deeper into the substantive law than I ever did as an undergraduate.

I am young however, may not the youngest blogger by very early 20's, a lot of barrister wannabes come to the Bar later on in life, it would not be such a horrendous missed opportunity if I went to the Bar after a Phd or some time being an academic, this would give me a chance to 'establish' myself. As the criminal Bar will inevitably become smaller and ever more so specialised than it is now, there may be a greater link between academics and barristers, as minute points of law become more important than the general aspects.

There is however the gigantic task of writing the Phd, spending 40 hrs a week for three years, on something that I hope would not be remotely crap, but I would have thought it wouldn't be sufficiently ground breaking. I wonder if by doing a Phd, I would actually just be postponing my real desire to be in Court and say "yes M'Lud, I am obliged, [however I would submit that you are quite wrong on this point].

Difficult choices to make, I think I will keep everything up in the air. I already have a scholarship which I deferred last year from Middle Temple, I don't have a scholarship to do a Phd, though I hope as I teach at the institution they would love to keep me and give me some form of teaching award covering Criminal Law and Evidence. Another 3 years of university can't hurt too much.