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Learning the Law

A dozen Milton Keynes sixth formers have enjoyed a privileged opportunity to ask experienced barristers about their life in the law.

To engender a more diverse criminal bar - one that better reflects the society it serves - the Kalisher Trust is a charity that supports young people to develop advocacy skills. Creative Education Trust has partnered with the Kalisher Trust to offer Q&A sessions to students interested in legal careers. In this Careers Week fixture, our students were able to interrogate Martin McCarthy of Farringdon Chambers and Michael Polak of Church Court Chambers, in a panel chaired by Sue Freestone, Director of Education at the Kalisher Trust.

The speakers gave a fantastic insight into the varied work of a criminal barrister today: explaining their work on fraud, modern slavery and human trafficking, sanctions in international law, and getting human rights into the public eye in Vietnam and Somalia. Martin described the complexities of justice and courtroom processes involving multiple defendants online in lockdown conditions, while Michael likened being a barrister to a choose-your-own-adventure book: "You take on the cases you’re interested in and select your own adventure”. 

Martin and Michael acknowledged the long hours and the unpredictability of the job, but called it was ‘the best job in the world’. Both stressed the importance of advocacy and of standing up for justice to others. “Your client needs you to stand up for them and do the right thing, whatever the consequences might be”.

Students were keen to hear what it takes to become a lawyer, and what they can do to get experience. Michael encouraged students to be imaginative and ambitious, for instance by contacting local firms and chambers, or looking into voluntary roles. “Don't close yourself off. Look at cases you're interested in. Find the organisations connected to them. Law is everywhere, and every organisation has a legal team”.

For those wanting to find out more, the Kalisher Trust’s excellent advice and resources are available here: