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Routes into Law: GDL to the Bar

Hailing from a small village on the Wirral and as the son of a police officer and a childminder, never in my wildest dreams did I think I could ever become a barrister. I had no connections to the legal profession, attended my local state comprehensive (after failing the Eleven Plus), spent my adolescence caring for my severely ill grandmother and was constantly bullied for being gay. All of this had a huge impact on my achievement at school. Yet, I knew I wanted to do something with my life, so I read French and Italian at the University of Leeds. My future looked set until my father took ill right after my graduation and I had to turn down a job offer I had received in London to help care for him.

I dedicated two years to his recovery and then decided to do a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) once he got better. During the GDL, I received an ‘Access to the Bar’ Award which included a mini-pupillage and judicial marshalling. I gained experience in crime, immigration and human rights, and met barristers from a range of different backgrounds. Seeing people like me in practice not only inspired me to pursue the bar but was instrumental in me receiving a life-changing scholarship for the very expensive bar course.

I knew I wanted to stay and practise in the North to stay close to my family. I also prefer the lifestyle. I attained pupillage at Chavasse Court Chambers, gaining insight into the full range of both criminal and family law including high-profile murder trials and complex care cases with parents accused of harming their own children. I also had the privilege of shadowing a member of chambers at the Court of Appeal in London, one of the highlights of my pupillage.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed criminal law, the crucial work done at the family bar for those in the most vulnerable and desperate of circumstances inspired me to specialise in this area and I am so glad I did. Moreover, as a gay man, I found the family bar a diverse and welcoming place.

My route to the bar has been somewhat unconventional but I wouldn’t have done it any other way. I would say to anyone considering converting to law from another discipline or career that they can make it too. The skills I developed on my undergraduate degree have proven invaluable to my job as a barrister and the GDL has been highly respected by panellists and practitioners alike. I would also say to those of the LGBTQ+ community wishing to become lawyers that there is a place for us in this profession.

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