Charlotte Payne, Lucy alumna, talks about her challenging career, driven by a passion to help clients and continue learning
I am currently a pupil Barrister at a large commercial Chambers in London. I feel that my work is important because ultimately I believe in the rule of law and the function of our justice system within the wider democratic model. The English legal system is also a hub for international dispute resolution, which lends credence to the notion that justice is both done and can be seen to be done within our domestic legal system.
I hadn’t always planned for a career in law and studied an MPhil in Environment, Society and Development during my time at Lucy. It was only later that I decided to try to become a barrister. I subsequently completed the GDL course, which is the law conversion course that non-law graduates are required to sit before embarking on the professional education element of becoming a barrister (the BPTC).
I had three primary motivations in pursuing a career at the Bar. First, becoming a barrister offered a career that was intellectually challenging. It helped that I loved the law and had a strong moral sense of justice and so it felt like a natural choice. Secondly, appreciating the need to play to my strengths, I knew that I wanted to do a job which was a mix of written and oral advocacy. I therefore chose commercial law, which for me had the right balance of time in court and/or arbitrations, and written work completed in Chambers. Thirdly, I am very self-motivated and I wanted to work for myself. Barristers are self-employed and therefore this aspect of the job appealed to me greatly.
Three things stand out that others may find inspiring about my chosen career. First, the aspect of my role that enables me to help clients with their problems on a daily basis. These problems often cause companies and individuals significant stress - I relish the opportunity to work alongside solicitors to help clients navigate their issues. Secondly, I am learning every day. I love the challenge of understanding the law in a given area and thinking about novel legal arguments that could apply to the case in front of me. I also get to learn from the best experts in the world about the problems that my clients are facing, which itself is a privilege. Thirdly, I get to be part of a centuries old legal system and contribute to something that is far bigger than just me. I can’t say that walking up the cobbled lane of Middle Temple each morning on my way to work, or strolling past the Royal Courts of Justice at lunchtime isn’t inspiring.
I would say that if you want to be a barrister, in addition to the obvious qualities such as strong written and oral advocacy skills, you have to have self-belief, tenacity, passion for your chosen area of law and the right personality type. Earning a pupillage is a competitive process and many people fail multiple times. My advice would be to make the most of every opportunity for help that is offered to you, whether that be through your college, Inn of Court, or various mentoring programmes. Being a barrister is also inherently stressful at times, if you are someone who thrives under pressure then it could be the career for you.
As an Alumna, I look back on my time at Lucy extremely fondly. There was an intellectual richness, where I learned not only about my chosen subject matter but also how to think - something which I am grateful for every day. There was also friendship, too many opportunities for sport, and all of the tradition that comes with studying at Cambridge. It was a magical time in my life.