Updated: Jun 8, 2022
A little bit about Emma
Emma, from Oxfordshire, started studying in 2016 when she was pregnant with her second child. Studying part-time Emma took 5 years to complete her degree, graduating with a distinction in all her modules in July 2022.
Emma worked tirelessly during her time at the OU, taking up extra-curricular activities to make herself known within the industry. Unsure of her carer path, Emma took it upon herself to research what it would be like to work in chambers and find out more about the industry.
During Emma’s studies, she entered the 2018 Tom Bingham memorial essay prize with the Open University Law Society where she came in runner up. In December 202- judged by Mark Hill QC, Emma was announced the winner of the OULS Internal Moot Competition.
In May of 2021, Emma received the news she had started to dream of, she had been invited to become a pupil Barrister.
Here I share her experiences, insights, and top tips on her journey through the OU, and now as a proud future pupil of 3PB.
You have done amazing, studying, working and being mummy to your children. What is the secret to your success?
‘That’s such a kind question but it’s also hilarious hearing myself described that way. I think most OU students will know that the moments of celebration in getting pupillage or graduating hide a lot of messy hard work, moving past failures, steep learning curves and patience’.
How beneficial was mooting to your progression in your studies?
‘I didn’t do as much mooting as I would have liked probably because balancing study, work and young children was already quite the challenge. When I did get to moot, I took it very seriously and I think I regret that a little, I should have experimented with different styles and had more fun with it!’
Tell me about your mini-pupillage experiences?
‘I did a mini-pupillage with 3PB at the Oxford centre. At that point, I had not set my sights firmly on a career at the bar and the mini was a way of determining whether it was something that I really could pursue and if it was a career that could ever be compatible with family life. I got to see a real variety of the kinds of cases 3PB handles which was very exciting. More importantly, the barristers I spoke with were so generous with their time and went out of their way in discussing their own experiences of balancing their careers with other parts of their lives. I left that mini-pupillage sure I wanted to be a barrister, hopeful that I could achieve it and with my fingers crossed that it would be with 3PB’.
How many applications did you put in for pupillage and how many interviews did you obtain?
‘I applied to two chambers, and I was lucky enough to get through to the final round of interviews with each, it was a very unexpected and a wonderful experience’.
Were you successful on your first round of applications?
‘Yes, I was very fortunate and of course, I feel extremely grateful for this opportunity. However, I think it’s much like passing your driving test on the first go (I didn’t btw!), what matters is what you make of the opportunity rather than how many rounds it took to get it.’
What are your do’s and don’ts to share on pupillage interviews?
‘Everyone is different and there are lots of threads on Twitter from people who are more expert than me, full of brilliant tips. All I can say is what worked for me.
(1) Take the application form seriously and don’t write anything generic on it just because you think that’s what the panel want to read. Completing the application form was an intense experience because it actually forced me to confront questions about what had brought me to this point, who I am and where I want to be in the future. By the end of drafting my application to 3PB I honestly felt like I had condensed my entire self onto the page. This set me up well to answer some of the questions I was asked in interview.
(2) Answer questions honestly. I remember being asked what I do outside of my work and studies. At that moment you cringe and imagine that all the other candidates have given amazing answers to this question, casual mountain climbing or ultra-marathon running etc. For me the truthful answer is that study took up all my ‘hobby’ time so if I have a free moment I would try to squeeze some exercise in, run some errands or watch a movie with my kids. It’s not exciting but it’s the truth and I think it went down well. You can only be yourself and the panel are probably going to be able to see right through anything that isn’t quite accurate anyway.
(3) Use what you have and don’t panic about what everyone else is doing. Twitter and Linked In can be brilliant resources but they can also frighten you into thinking you must tick the same boxes as every other candidate. Think about what skills and attributes you have through your own unique experience. For example, as OU students we are more trained than many at working totally independently – this is a skill highly valued at the bar and when I accepted pupillage, I was kindly told that this had really shown in the process.’
You started studying six years ago now, during that time a lot can change. If you were given the power to talk to the first-year undergrad Emma Now – What would you say to her?
’That is such a difficult question! An Open University degree can be such a long process, I was very pregnant with my son when I started my studies and now, he is at primary school – I have been studying his entire life. There were so many moments when I wondered if it was the right time to be pursuing a legal career or if the process would be worth it and if I was good enough. It’s well-worn advice that “a year from now you will wish you had started today” and I can say that five and a half years on from starting my OU degree I am so glad I started when I did. So, I suppose the main thing I would say to my first-year undergraduate self is ‘you’ve made a good choice, stop worrying so much and just keep going’. Also, ‘find some comfy black shoes now, it will stop you scrambling at every moot, interview, and bar exam’!’
What are your plans at the end of your BTC and before pupillage starts?
‘I am looking forward to enjoying every second of the summer holidays with my children and reading a non-fiction book or ten, it’s been a while since I’ve had time! A lot of recent pupils and new tenants have told me that the very best thing to do before you start pupillage is to take the time to have some fun and to relax because it’s going to be quite the year ahead! I might sneak in a few visits to the local court centre just to observe where I can though……’
Finally, is there anything else you would like to add or want the readers to know about the mini-pupillage/pupillage process or anything else?
‘I think mini-pupillages are great, as is reaching out for advice. But before applying for a mini or sending that message asking for advice, consider what you really want to get out of it. For example, for me, it was working out if my family life and a career at the bar could work. For someone else, it might be exposure to certain legal fields, information about life on a particular circuit or a chance to really learn what a barrister’s day is like. You will get the most useful advice/experience if you have clarified in your own mind what you want to learn, and it gives those responding the best chance of being able to impart useful information.’
Emma is currently studying for her final exams for her BPC, and we wish her the best of luck (not that she needs it). She is due to start her pupillage in October of 2022 and we cannot wait to see the wonderful things she is going to do with her career. We wish you all the luck in the world, Emma. Congratulations!
Written By: Victoria-Jayne Scholes
OULS News Editor