Becoming a barrister – Expectations vs. Reality – Ifsa Mahmood

Ifsa Mahmood

(Year of call: 2018)

Ifsa Mahmood

Ifsa joined Kings Chambers in October 2021, having completed her pupillage under the supervision of Sophie Allan and Richard Borrett.

Ifsa is building a practice in all areas of Court of Protection work, across both health and welfare and property and affairs cases, as well as matters involving the Mental Health Act 1983. She also accepts instructions in administrative and public law cases and abuse and human rights work.

Before joining chambers, Ifsa worked as a lawyer in the UK division of the European Court of Human Rights. In 2018-19, she was the Judicial Assistant to Lord Justice Irwin at the Court of Appeal where she assisted with cases on a range of public law and human rights issues.

What did you imagine life as a barrister to be before you started?

Before starting, I did a number of mini pupillages where I saw barristers working on complex legal issues in chambers or appearing in hearings and trials at court. My overarching impression of life as a barrister was of a cerebral, slower moving job. I was often shadowing one person over the course of a day and had understood that the job was varied and offered a lot of independence.

What’s life as a barrister like compared to what you thought it would be?

Life at the junior end is much more fast-paced and practical. Every day is different, and you have the opportunity to try different types of work. I always wanted a court-based practice and so I expected to be traveling to court a lot, but my pupillage was in the midst of the Covid lockdowns which brought a lot of change to our ways of working. I spent most of my second six and first years of tenancy doing remote hearings which demand a different style of advocacy and the need to master technology.

How do you think people’s perception of life as a barrister compares to reality?

I think people often consider the job to be the end product- the hearings in court or the meetings in conference rooms. Whilst those things happen, much of a barrister’s time is spent reading through the paperwork and preparing for a court hearing or meetings with clients. That can often involve early starts and late nights.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt as a barrister?

The importance of good working relationships. These include with your clerks, the solicitors who instruct you and your colleagues. They are the people that you will work with day in and day out and will form your professional support network.

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