Name: Becky Owen
Degree and university: I initially studied Law at Brunel University, graduating in 1996. I then spent nine years in the IT Industry before attending the College of Law on a full-time basis and obtaining the Graduate Diploma in Law, and Bar Vocational Course qualifications.
Work Title: Second six pupil, Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
What type of work are you currently doing? I am currently a second six pupil. This means I have a provisional practicing certificate granted by the Bar Council which enables me to exercise rights of audience. I spend three to four days a week in court, doing trials and remand lists. This can be anything from opposing bail for a defendant charged with a serious offence, to a multi-day trial for criminal damage. Although it’s a cliché, in the Crown Prosecution Service no two days are ever the same!
What do you enjoy the most about what you do and are there any downsides?
I enjoy being an integral part of the criminal justice system. At the heart of everything I do is a person who has been the victim of crime. I put into practice the skills I learnt at an academic level, and work towards delivering justice for all victims. The sheer variety of work I do means that today I am prosecuting three defendants in the Magistrates Court for alleged criminal damage, and next week I might be preparing a case of actual bodily harm for the Crown Court. Each day is an intellectual challenge with a new set of facts to master, and a different body of law to apply them to.
The biggest downside to what I do is the pace. It really is non-stop. No sooner is one case finished than the next one begins. I can walk into Court in the morning expecting a trial to go one way, and by the end of the day it will have taken a different direction. That means I often have to think on my feet, and construct arguments and strategies to deal with the new developments quickly, and without much time to prepare.
What skills do you believe you need to succeed? An incisive mind is essential. It’s important that you can quickly sift through information and identify the issues in any given situation. Once you have done this you then need to be able to apply the law in both practical and creative ways. You need to be flexible in your thinking, and able to see a problem from every angle. Most importantly you need to be resilient, both intellectually and physically. The law is a competitive field, and the hours of work can be very long. If you can get past that, the satisfaction after a good day’s work is worth it!
What advice would you give other graduates wishing to come into this sector?
Be clear about where you want to be, and who you want to be, in five years time. That will inform the decisions you make from this point forward. Once you have worked that out, make sure that the courses you take, the options you choose, and the work experience you go on, all build towards that goal.