Updated: Jun 25, 2019
It is hardly surprising that the performing arts, and Theatre Studies in particular, has drawn in a wealth of performers of all kinds to Hurtwood over the years. So much talent comes this way, yet it is always impressive. Turning that talent into exciting and fulfilling employment is not always that easy however, as many ex-students confirm. Delightfully, in Amy’s case, her acting abilities have combined to secure a challenging profession that she clearly loves.
She left Hurtwood in 2013 with A levels in English (A), Theatre (A) and History (A*) for a year’s Classical Acting course at London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. Move on five years, and she has now been called to the Bar, and is a fully qualified Barrister, specialising in Employment Law, Clinical Negligence and Personal Injury. She happily declares, ‘I can’t believe I where I am!’ Her story is indeed an interesting one, which reflects the all-too-common difficulty of deciding on a career path.
Memories of teaching Amy recall an incredibly hard-working and committed student, able and efficient and focused, whose greatest weakness was doubting her own considerable abilities. In Theatre and in performance she shed her doubts and self-consciousness, but it was also clear that she had a fine critical intelligence. Graduate Law Studies entered the frame, but she opted to explore the acting route having been offered an exciting opportunity at ‘LAMDA’. One year on, with invaluable consolidation of performance skills under her belt, she took up a deferred place at Queen Mary University of London, and found herself ‘at home’. Challenged, yet also secure within what she describes as ‘a small collegiate year’ she began to flourish, particularly in the practical skills of ‘mooting’. What is this strange thing, I ask? Mock Court competitions, where skills are honed, battle commences, and all her performance skills come into marvelous play, apparently. Should we be cynical about the justice system that such subjective criteria are in play, I wonder? Clearly not if they involve the talents of people like Amy, and prepare her for the rigors of the job. Later, in the interview, she tells me that although she does get nervous in anticipation of a case, the minute she enters the court, she inhabits the role knowing that she must do the best she can, she is liberated it seems, to fight her case.
Studying was hard but rewarding she tells me. Amy took advantage of many wider opportunities for brief internships and law experience including the chance to shadow a High Court Judge during her consolidation at BPP Law School in Holborn. Although this was primarily self-funded, she managed to secure some financial support from a Middle-Temple scholarship fund. Based in London, she was consolidating her network of contacts. All this, she tells me, was invaluable: sharpening her skills of advocacy as well as every day elements of how to survive as a barrister. She even managed to gain a mini pupillage, which became very useful indeed when she finally faced the most challenging of tasks to date: securing the all-important official pupillage that launches the newly hatching barrister. With around 400 Law Chambers in this country, offering only one or two pupillages a year, it is not hard to see that many candidates are disappointed and this, in turn, builds up the pressure each successive year.
She was thrilled to be chosen so promptly and, after a year of close supervision, she has now been working as a fully-fledged and independent barrister out of Parklane Plowden Chambers, based between Newcastle and her native Leeds, but working also much of the time in London, and indeed across the country.
How challenging is it? Well, she is learning to balance the rather strange regimes. Being self-employed means that furious periods of intense work may be followed by enforced gaps; much of your work may go unrewarded if a case doesn’t go to court, through negotiation or withdrawal. There is also endless travel.
There is also much to be excited about, and Amy is clearly loving the challenges, the world of the Court and its dramas. She knows that it is up to her to make this world work for her. With a Clerk to organise some of the more tedious elements of management, she is keeping busy, building on her networks and gradually acquiring more challenging work and the skills to handle them. “Once you’re in,” she tells me, “the job is what you make it.” So now begins the real commitment to her chosen career.
Is it tricky? You bet it is! It involves lots of labour-intensive commitment, much of which might prove ultimately to be a cul-de-sac. There is the challenge of managing the diary: keeping the flow of cases and work in balance. That said, it is clearly time to let Amy get back to work and building that budding career.
I ask for any final pieces of advice that have served her well over the years. She offers the comfortable truth and unofficial Hurtwood motto of ‘work hard and play hard’, but also the rather more personal, ‘If you don’t ask, you won’t get’, which has clearly altered her path quite fruitfully over the years in terms of experience, opportunities and networking connections.
It has been a real pleasure to hear how Amy has channeled her considerable talents and intellect into a career that excites and fulfils and challenges her on so many levels. Is Hurtwood proud? Absolutely.