"27.05.21. Called to the Bar of England and Wales on my 24th birthday.
Nelson Mandela once said “it always seems impossible, until it is done.”
Studying the BPTC in ordinary circumstances was challenging. Studying during a pandemic was *incredibly* challenging. Performing advocacy exams from my bedroom praying my connection would hold up. Taking the ‘big three’ from my kitchen, experiencing a neighbourhood power cut just before my ethics exam. Having my exam crash halfway through and losing all my work due to a software issue. Having to take the paper again, finishing later than all my peers. I tapped into a part of me I didn’t know existed and I fought on. It was so worth it. God is faithful."
Read her story below
The Bar is a notoriously difficult career to get into and I have always been aware of this. I have also always been aware that as a black woman, there would be inevitable added difficulty in my attempt to push through this double glass ceiling.
I started studying for the Bar in September 2019 and was supposed to finish in May 2020. I spent the first term balancing full-time study with a part-time job. I spent the second term recovering from burnout. In the final term, I did all I could possibly do despite the tense global circumstances.
At the start of the course, I figured that it would be the most intense 9 months of my life so far, but the end would come, and I could rest then. I failed to predict the possibility of a global pandemic, meaning the original end date of May 2020 would actually be moved to February 2021.
I described this feeling to my friends and family as running a never-ending marathon. As I got closer and closer to the finish line, and I had given it my all, the finish line would move. Then it would move again and again and again.
After months of 12-hour study days, I felt ready to take my exams. The majority of which were to be taken from home. Ten minutes before one of these exams, a neighbourhood power cut occurred. Power resumed just in time to allow me to pull myself together and start the paper. However, halfway through this exam the software I was using crashed, meaning I had lost all my answers. There was nothing that could be done meaning I had to re-sit the paper at a later and unknown date.
I was distraught but I didn’t have the time to process what had happened because I had another exam the following day. I was terrified the same problem would occur, but I did my best to stay focused. Unfortunately, I ended up failing this exam by a few marks.
This was the first exam I had ever failed so I took it extremely hard. Failure is often intertwined with shame, but failure or hardship should never warrant shame. It is part of life and if it can’t be avoided, it should be embraced. Fortunately, I sat this paper again and performed extremely well. I had finally finished and passed the Bar.
In the time I was studying, I would often fantasise about the day I would be called to The Bar. I could not wait for it to be over, and rightfully so. However, I began to understand that the journey and what we learn along the way is often more important than the destination. If we focus too much on the destination, discontentment creeps in and success becomes an unattainable goal.
I grew up with a multifaceted brother who experienced many setbacks in his creative career but continued to thrive. I was raised by a mother who had moved from Ghana to the United Kingdom at the tender age of 22 and purchased a council property, in order to build a life for her, my brother and me. I was also raised by a wonderful, education-focused father, who invested everything into our futures. This journey has not been smooth sailing by any means, and neither was it for those who came before me. However, witnessing their ability to remain resilient during these hardships, gave me the strength I needed to continue through my own.
As the saying goes, ‘life is lived forward and understood backwards’. I didn’t understand at the time why my experience was not an easy ride or as straightforward as my peers. I know now that in that time, my character and my resilience grew. My ability to fight on in the face of adversity grew.
I am not where I want to be yet. I still need to get a pupillage, tenancy and establish myself as a barrister. I am choosing though, to focus on the beauty of the process rather than the destination.
I want the people who are reading this to understand the power in the journey. When it gets tough, remember why you are doing what you are doing, why you started and finish strong, always.
Finally, as this is being published in The Female Lead, it is only right to give an additional shout out to the most incredible woman in my life. My mother. Thank you for all you have sacrificed, the pain you have endured, and the strength you have shown. You deserve everything.
About the author:
Deladem Dzotsi has recently been Called to the Bar of England and Wales which means she is now a qualified barrister. Dzotsi is currently working as a paralegal in immigration law and hopes to obtain pupillage soon.