Name: Shaun Round
Degree and university: LLB Law at University of Birmingham, Bar Vocational Course at Inns of Court School of Law
Why did you decide on a career in law? I always wanted a career where I felt like I was doing something good for the community as a whole. I believed I could do this through a career in law as ‘law’ influences everything and everyone in every community throughout the United Kingdom. A career as a Barrister, I believe, allows me to really do some good by protecting the public and sticking up for those who are not always able to do so themselves.
What did the application process involve? The application process was quite nerve-racking but I found that being well prepared for each stage was an absolute essential for success. The process was quite lengthy, taking approximately six months to complete. It consisted of an online application form, followed by online verbal and numerical reasoning tests, an assessment centre consisting of a creative thinking test, a ‘job-related’ case study, and the final stage – a ten minute presentation followed by a 15 minute interview on my presentation and my online application form.
What type of work are you currently doing? As a pupil barrister, my training is only for 12 months split into non-practicing and practicing periods of six months. The first six months is spent getting to grips with the work that the Crown Prosecution Service is involved with. This would involve observing charging decisions at the police station, completing case reviews in order to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to proceed on the charges faced by the defendant, and also observing court proceedings including first appearances through to trial and even appeal. There was also opportunity in my first six months to practice my own advocacy skills in front of more senior lawyers.
The second six months is very much a learning curve, but an exciting one. Once I hit the six month mark, I was immediately put into the Magistrates’ Court to conduct court proceedings. I initially dealt with the defendants’ first appearances before the court following charging at the police station. This might involve dealing with the entering of pleas, deciding whether a case is more suitable for the Crown Court or Magistrates’ Court, and also whether the defendant should be released on bail or not. After a couple of weeks of this, I then progressed to dealing with traffic trials, and trials for offences which are non-imprisonable. During this time, I really learnt to sharpen my advocacy skills. My current responsibilities now include first appearances, traffic trials and also trials involving drugs offences, domestic violence, and theft which can include legal argument over admissibility of evidence. My court appearances are on top of the work I was involved with during my first six months, such as case reviews.
What do you most enjoy about your job and are there any downsides? It would definitely have to be the fact that I am in court four out of the five days a week. Being on my feet in court, arguing my case, was the reason I wanted to be a barrister and now I get to do that pretty much every day, whether it is a remand list or a trial. I also love the variety that comes with the job as every case is different and also the responsibility that comes with it such as making decisions that could affect the way a case is conducted. I find that working in the legal profession is a continual learning experience as the law is constantly changing, particularly in the criminal sphere, which I see as a major positive; you will never get bored, which is one of my first aims when looking for a job. I also enjoy the fact that I get to be involved in some high profile cases (even if only on a very minor scale) which I hope to be involved in more so, when I have gained greater experience.
To be honest, I do not think there are many downsides at all to my job. The Crown Prosecution Service is a fantastic employer, that offers great training, support and incentives to all staff. I feel that completing my pupillage with the CPS has given me a solid basis from which to build a career as a criminal barrister. I believe the opportunities afforded by the CPS, in terms of court exposure, are far more than I would have had at the independent bar.
If I had to choose a downside, I think it would have to be dealing with victims of violent crime. Being a barrister means being a "people person". However, I sometimes find it difficult talking to victims of violence, particularly domestic violence, where the victim still has an emotional attachment to the defendant and the nature of the case is quite sensitive. I find it important to not get emotionally involved but remain sensitive to their feelings at the same time, a balance not always easily made.
What skills do you need to succeed? The most important skills/strengths I feel any solicitor or barrister need to be successful are strong communications skills, a keen attention to detail, fairness, and a great deal of drive and motivation. Being able to pick out inconsistencies, contradictions in your opponent’s case and expose them is a key skill and is difficult to master. Fairness is essential. I feel it is important to remain fair in all aspects of your work – a "win at all costs" attitude hinders a career more than it helps.
What advice would you give graduates entering this sector? If you are really considering a career in law, then the best piece of advice I could give is to be focused early on. Law is a very competitive career, but can be lucrative and thoroughly enjoyable if you make it. The application process for law firms and barrister’s chambers begins much sooner than you may think, and the calibre of applicants is getting better and better each year, making it more difficult for firms to select candidates. Therefore, it is important to find something that can make you stand out from the rest, whatever that may be.
As I said earlier, times can get tough, particularly when you apply to law firms or chambers. It is important to make a few applicants rather than just a couple. It is almost certain that you will receive rejections from some, but it is important to stay motivated and not be put off by this – you will get there in the end – if you want it enough.