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The future of the Bar: An interview with Maria Liddiard

Maria Liddiard, our Future Pupil Programme Co-ordinator, completed the BPTC, as it was then known, at our London Bloomsbury campus from 2019-2020. We talked with Maria to discuss her time with us and the future of the bar and the BPC.

By Cara Fielder. Published 9 November 2020. Last updated 27 July 2022.

My experience working in the human rights field ignited in me a fierce passion for social justice. In high school, motivated by the inequalities which confronted me daily, I ran a social enterprise that worked to empower women through economic independence. Following this, I worked in reproductive and sexual health clinics, helping provide useful information about people’s rights. I then worked on developing programmes and worked with young people across Europe, aiming to tackle the root causes of discrimination and inequality.

Although I loved the work on each occasion, I knew that even the best of intentions could not justify that which could be ultimately inadequate, unsustainable or an inefficient use of my skills.

I concluded that becoming legally qualified was the best way for me to have a profound impact on the causes I believed in. In the third year of my LLB, I set my sights on being a barrister because of the opportunities afforded by the profession and I felt the role matched up with my own skills. I hope that being a barrister will lead to more sustained impact on the causes that matter to me.

In particular, I intend to use advocacy to fight for the human rights of those who have been disadvantaged by discrimination and inequality. To deprive someone of their liberty is the greatest infringement by the State on an individual’s rights and personal integrity and must therefore face the strictest of checks and scrutiny. Yet criminals and prisoners remain one of the most ostracized and neglected sections of society. This of course has a disproportionate effect on minority groups and perpetuates discrepancies between the rich and the poor, the oppressor and the oppressed. I hope to be part of the solution and I believe becoming a barrister is the best way for me to do this.

The BPTC at ULaw was of course challenging, but I learned so, so much over the course of the year. The best part was undoubtedly the brilliant tutors and the Employability Service. I felt really supported throughout and their advice on everything pupillage was truly invaluable. They helped me transform my CV and applications and ultimately played a big role in securing pupillage. I’d advise anyone starting at ULaw to make the most of them.

This year, we are expanding the Bar Series to encapsulate all kinds of issues related to the bar. There will be guidance on every step towards a career at the bar, as well as discussions of the hot-topics which concern everyone. Whether you’re unsure of whether you want to be a barrister, unsure where to start, or concerned about gaining experience in the Covid era, we will be producing content on all these areas and more. The aim is to de-mystify the profession, make it more accessible to more people and answer the questions which students can’t find on Google.

While marshalling (sitting alongside a judge for a week in the Crown Court), I observed a multi-handed kidnapping and false imprisonment trial. Sitting on the bench with the judge, I was able for the first time to see the whole courtroom – the advocates, the defendants, the jury, the press and the public gallery. The view was really striking.  

My inspiration is brilliant women doing brilliant things! My personal tutor on the BPTC at ULaw was Sonia Simms, who was wonderful – a formidable advocate and a genuinely compassionate, fun and approachable person. She and I talked about coming from non-traditional backgrounds for the bar and her stories were inspiring. I’m also a massive fan of twitter-royalty Joanna Hardy who is hilarious, bright and down-to-earth.

Don’t try and fit the mould of what you think a typical barrister is if that’s not you. In many practice areas, it isn’t a pre-requisite to have done 15 mini-pupillages, have gone to Oxbridge, been top in everything AND won all the mooting competitions. Increasingly, chambers and law firms are valuing other experiences and personal qualities, such as part-time jobs, demonstrable commercial ability, languages spoken and examples where you took initiative. It’s about showing how your story, whatever it is, shows that you have the motivation and ability necessary to succeed at the bar. The Employability Service at ULaw helped me do this. I would definitely recommend utilising them as much and as soon as you can.


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