So a lot of you know that I’m currently in the penultimate year of training to be a barrister (the snooty lawyers in the wigs and gowns) and also that I’m in the middle of exams right now. Since I’ve actually had the week from hell and the Bar Standards Board seem to have a dartboard on the wall with all our faces on, I thought I’d spend a minute just explaining the general atmosphere in the Law School right now.
People are crying. I walked out of a private one-on-one exam yesterday (you’re meant to sit in Conference with a ‘client,’ ask them some questions and then advise them on plea) and found a friend sat in the corridor crying because the actor the Law School uses had changed his plea halfway through and so all the advice she had planned was incorrect. I think mine was supposed to be mentally incompetant as he started sobbing halfway through and kept interrupting me because he didn’t understand. As I had to keep repeating myself, I didn’t reach the advice section of my plan which you’re meant to do twelve minutes in and I hadn’t when the moderator cut me off at fifteen.
The actors receive their briefs and they act as they have been instructed, which is great. But we haven’t been told how to deal with any of these situations. We were thrown in at the deep end with straightforward cases and nice, happy clients… but for the exams they throw random situations at us that we haven’t been trained to deal with.
Apparently there were four different actors and every single one caused their students to leave either in tears or pale and shaking. I asked two different people how Conference exams went and they just shook their heads at me, wide-eyed.
Furthermore, Professional Ethics on Monday was even worse. Half the questions on that paper (literally) we hadn’t been taught. Oh wait, I’ll rephrase that – ‘we hadn’t been told to teach ourselves.’ There were questions on topics I didn’t even know existed. In addition, there’s a big scandal over it as some Law schools were shown previous papers… that had those questions on.
This is genuienly traumatic. Look, I’m a diligent, responaible student. Most of us are, to have gotten this far into our careers. I revise, I do the work, I go to bed early the night before. But to know that, whatever you do, the Bar Standard Board is going to almost ensure you don’t pass this shit, it feels pretty crap. It doesn’t set a good standard for the rest of the exams.
Which are ridiculous, by the way. We got no study leave as our classes only ended last Thursday, and I don’t mean revision classes. They stopped ‘teaching’ us last week. We get no Easter holidays and the two biggest exams, the ones that encompass the entirety of Criminal law and the entirely of Civil law are two days apart and our entire grade for those modules rest on those exams.
The organisation and content of these exams is beyond a joke. Half the people have emotionally given up. They feel like there’s no point, if the Bar Standards Board already have a bullseye pointed in their direction. I know it’s supposed to be hard, I understand that. Weeding out the wheat from the chaff, etc etc. But I’d like to feel like I have a fighting chance at least.