Khaliq Martin is the winner of the Bar internship blog competition.
The joint project between the Bar Council and 10,000 Black Interns has been a defining moment in my legal career.
During the final week of my internship, I received instructions to exchange introductions with a barrister whose advocacy I would be observing for a full week trial.
The barrister and I convened at a café adjacent to court where the trial would be held. They were expecting my arrival, admittedly however, they had no pre-existing knowledge of the program I was participating in.
They encouraged me to expand on what the internship entailed, and what I had learned thus far. I described the internship as a 6-week scheme, with each week being spent at five different chambers and the Government Legal Department.
I was exposed to a variety of work ranging from civil fraud, asset recovery, insolvency proceedings, extradition hearings, family disputes, and financial dispute resolution hearings.
Each week I engaged in different activities connected to different areas of law. The activity included research, case analysis, and the preparation of draft orders.
I drafted skeleton arguments, bail applications, and winding up petitions with the goal of making submissions on them to pupil supervisors, benchers, and advocacy instructors.
These experiences helped me to refine my written and oral advocacy skills, and helped to build on what I had already developed during my Bar Vocational Studies at City, University of London.
Each chambers arranged a diary of hearings I would attend, some of which were held in distinctive courts and in different cities. Prior to each hearing, I read extensively on the relevant law pertaining to my barrister’s legal matter.
I marshalled a Deputy High Court Judge while they determined a derivative claim in the Commercial Court of the Rolls Building; observed the advocacy of a barrister instructed to make submissions in a judicial review held in the Royal Court of Justice; attended the Central Criminal Court for the first time where my barrister’s client sought an enforcement receivership order. I also visited several governmental departments, parliament, and the Supreme Court.
Every opportunity was taken to practice and prepare briefing notes - as is customary during your first six of pupillage. Comprehensive notetaking helped me to make connections and inferences in proceedings, and I took part in discussions with each barrister after their hearing concluded.
Back at the café, after I had explained and after a moment’s pause, the barrister reminded me that the hard and practical skills of legal research and advocacy are crucial for success at the Bar, but so are the soft skills such as facilitation and collaboration.
All barristers hope that their client can face proceedings with dignity and have a voice. Court can be intimidating, and the impact of adversarial proceedings on a client can be diminished by how you conduct yourself.
While the internship provided me with a unique opportunity to improve the practical skills necessary for the Bar, I also witnessed the importance of collaboration between colleagues that resulted in a conducive out of court settlement.
I heard the appropriate tones when providing a gentle check-in to a nervous client anxiously awaiting judgment. I learned that tensions can be eased between two parties through the calm, collected, and cordial manner of a barrister to court staff and litigants in person.
After the trial, I attended a networking event organised by the co-founder and trustee of 10,000 Black Interns, Dawid Konotey-Ahulu. He said that only strong characters can resist the storms of life. Indeed, many storms have been caused and weathered by black barristers. Both in the obstacles that obstructed their path to the bar, and their efforts to remove them.
This sentiment is echoed in the 2021 Race at the Bar report which found incontrovertible evidence of systemic barriers for black barristers in creating a rewarding and sustainable practice. Black barristers and their allies continue to show resolve and courage through their accounts of life at the Bar. All for the purpose of making the bar a more equitable profession to work in than the one they entered.
I am thankful to the Bar Council and the 10,000 Black Interns project, and to the various sets, and Government Legal Department for their support for inclusivity at the Bar through this internship.
The ripple effect has been to prepare me, and many other black students like me, to contend with the ebbs and flows that this profession has to offer.
I invite those eager in their pursuit to the Bar to apply and take part in the internship, and for chambers to continue to involve themselves as willing hosts for black students.