In interview with...
Mani Singh Basi, Barrister
4 Paper Buildings
Mani Singh Basi is a barrister at 4 Paper Buildings and specialises in Family Law. Mani has a broad practice covering all areas of family law with a particular focus on disputes relating to children, both domestic and international. His work often takes him across the country appearing up to and including the High Court!
First things first, how did you come to the decision to practice family law?
I undertook a 3 day minipupillage with a family set and I absolutely loved my time there. I learnt a lot and I found it really interesting. Also, in my 3rd year at University, I studied family law as my elective module and found the academic side really fascinating too. As a result, I knew I wanted to practise as a barrister and pursue a career in law and having done practical experience through the mini-pupillage but equally the academic side via my undergrad degree, I knew family law was the area I really enjoyed the most. I found it to be stimulating and interesting.
When picking a chambers for pupillage, what did you look for?
First and foremost I wanted to undertake all areas of family law and learn as much as possible. I was particularly interested in doing the niche areas of family law too for example, I was always drawn to international family law. Secondly, location was really important for me and thirdly, when on my feet in my second six I wanted the opportunity to be busy and undertake all sorts of cases. Those are the key 3 things that I was specifically looking for when researching different chambers.
Can you describe a typical day as a family barrister?
The most interesting thing about family law is that no day is typical. Each day is very different. During the pandemic I have been doing a mixture of in person hearings and remote hearings. Regardless of whether they are in person or remote, I wake up early in the morning, check emails, respond to things, travel to court or wait until court starts and meet my client. I will undertake the case during the day and depending on what happens the next day i.e. whether it’s a new case or existing case, that would determine what I do for the afternoon or late evening. Sometimes in the afternoon I have conferences in other cases and that’s common for me at the moment. No day is typical and becuase the hearing times change for court i.e. it could be in the morning, afternoon or sometimes all day, my day really does vary.
What do you think are the top 3 skills fundamental to your role?
The top 3 skills are...
The first important skill is the ability to communicate with people from all walks of life. The most rewarding thing about family is that day in day out you’re helping people from all aspects of life which can be rewarding. However you have to communicate depending on your audience. You have to adapt and change your method of communication and various other skills based on what works best for the client and yourself in that situation. Communication is also key when undertaking advocacy in front of a judge in court, which varies depending on the case, the circumstances and the judge.
The second important skill is the ability to negotiate. In family law, at times, there is always room for negotiation particularly in financial remedy proceedings where there is the prospect of settling. To be able to do that, the ability to negotiate is very key particularly with the other side to resolve any disputed issues that are in existence.
The third key skill is persuasiveness. Being persuasive is important when negotiating but is also important in the general role of a barrister. The ability to persuade can be demonstrated in writing or advocacy. There are two forms of advocacy and in both forms, you can utilise your skills to come across persuasive. You’ll want to persuade the judge that your approach on the law and your solution is the correct one.
Do you have any advice for aspiring barristers when approaching applications for pupillage?
Firstly, continue to persevere. Keep progressing, enhancing and developing skills to try and stand out as best as you possibly can.
In terms of focus of advice and applications, focus on chambers that you wish to apply to and undertake as much research as you can. Start on their website then look further afield such as articles that they’ve written, books they’ve published or cases they have been involved in or training they’ve delivered. Get to know the chambers because once you know them you can then look at yourself and identify the skills that you have that make you a good fit for chambers. Your research will also help you decide whether you want to embark on a pupillage with them. Once you’ve done that, that will enable you to effectively answer the question ‘why this chambers’.
Remember applications are a form of written advocacy. You have the ability to showcase your skills and think about what areas of law you’re applying to. Think about what skills are important for that area of law. Can you demonstrate you possess those skills? You want to provide evidence in each of your answers. If you say you have certain skills, explain how you have those skills and where you developed those skills.
Make sure you are concise in your answers. Get straight to the point and answer the questions.
Any advice for applicants approaching the interview stage?
In terms of the interview, you want to come across as confident – this is your opportunity to showcase your oral advocacy skills i.e. your ability to answer questions and think on your feet when asked questions.
In terms of tips, I understand that pupillage interviews are very stressful and nerves are normal, many barristers still get nervous no matter how much experience they have. But it’s about your ability to answer questions. If you need time to answer, take that time. The process of thinking about the answer to a question and coming up with reasoning for your answer is an impressive skill to demonstrate how you process information.
In terms of other tips, this is your opportunity to showcase why you are suitable for that chambers. You need to do your research for that chambers and the work they do and convey why you’re interested. Also, recap your paper application and think about any points there that you may be asked about and amplify any points from your application that you want to in the interview.
Finally, what is your favourite part of your job?!
My favourite part of the job is the ability to positively impact the lives of others through the work I undertake. That motives me and I find it very rewarding.