Miroslava Dimitrova is a Legal Solutions Specialist at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, who undertook the Bar Professional Training Course.
We recently caught up with Miroslava, who kindly shared with us an overview of what it was like to complete the course, advice for those also looking to take it and details of what she did on an average study day.
Why did you choose to pursue a legal career?
I was born and raised in a corrupt country where the notion of justice is long forgotten as people’s freedom can easily be bought. As such I was naturally attracted to pursuing a career in law.
Growing up, I was always interested in reading books and watching documentaries exploring the criminal mind and trying to understand the issues surrounding criminality. That was one of the reasons why I decided to do a joint honours degree in Law and Criminology.
This allowed me not only to study and gain a better understanding of the English legal system but also research the theoretical motivations of criminals as well as their personal experiences and the impact the Criminal Justice System has had upon their lives.
Having been fortunate enough to gain invaluable experience working for the Cardiff Innocence Project, I realised that everyone deserves a legal representation and a fair trial regardless of the crime they have committed as often there are underlying complex socio-economic issues involved, acting as the driving force for committing a crime.
As such, I want to be the person that makes a difference at the lowest point of someone’s life where their freedom is at stake. I want to be in the courtroom pleading my client’s innocence or mitigating on his behalf, doing the best I can to help someone in need.
What has been a highlight of studying for the BPTC?
I utterly enjoyed preparing for my advocacy classes, in particular, preparing a cross examination in criminal cases. This was the time when I could bring my case theory to life, practicing the art of persuasion, thinking on my feet and handling unpredictable witnesses – doing all the things a barrister does.
Advocacy classes allowed me to improve my public speaking skills, gain confidence, practice patience and start the development of my own style of advocacy.
Have you faced any challenges whilst studying?
Yes, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit and lockdown was introduced, I was in the middle of my examination period. This was an extremely stressful and frustrating time for everyone in my cohort as there was a delay and uncertainty regarding the way our assessments were going to be conducted.
I found it particularly hard to do my advocacy assessments online as you are primarily relying on body language and facial expressions to read the witness you are questioning or the judge in front of which you are presenting your arguments.
Doing all of this through a camera where you are unable to really read your witness and a number of technical difficulties may occur at any moment, makes the task difficult and the experience stressful.
On top of that my BSB-centralised litigation and ethics assessments were postponed and took place in August 2020 instead of April 2020. Although this allowed for more revision time, the stress surrounding the strict manner in which the assessments were to be conducted as well as unfortunate personal circumstance negatively affected my overall grade.
3 things you wish you knew before starting the course?
- How demanding and consuming the course is hence why your time management skills should be on point.
- How important it is to have a support system whether that is family, friends or coursemates that would help cope with the stress and keep you motivated throughout the process.
- Set realistic goals and deadlines for what you want to achieve during and after the BPTC. The competition for securing a pupillage is fierce and just because you were unable to secure one before or during your BPTC does not mean that you are unworthy of the profession. Keep following your dreams, gain as much experience as you can and use every rejection to improve yourself.
Give us an overview of what you did on a day?
- 8:30am – Make a bullet point plan of what material I need to cover for today’s workshops and make a start on tomorrow’s workshops preparation.
- 9:00am – Finish up my CPR notes covering the syllabus material required for today’s Civil Litigation workshop.
- 12:30am – Revise my plan for the opinion I will need to write in two weeks’ time and write down some questions I need to ask in today’s Opinion Writing workshop that will make me better understand the task and the material.
- 1:30 – 3:00pm – Civil Litigation workshop.
- 3:15 – 4:45pm – Opinion Writing workshop
- 5:30pm – Start preparation for tomorrow’s Criminal Advocacy workshop. Read the brief, build my case theory by making a table of helpful and unhelpful facts, make a bullet point list of the topics and questions I want to cover during my cross examination. Read the second brief and learn the facts of the case so I can play the witness.
- 9:00pm – Make a bullet point plan of what Syllabus I need to make notes on and what preparation I need for next week’s workshops.
What are your career goals for the future?
The ultimate goal is to secure pupillage and manage a successful criminal practice. In the meantime, I will be working as a paralegal, trying to get as much practical legal experience as I can, learning more about different areas of law and the legal market.
I am also volunteering with as many legal charities and organisation as I can which are providing support to people who represent themselves in court and just try and give back to the community.
What advice would you give to someone taking the course?
Prepare as much as you can for the BPTC before you actually start the course. What I mean by that is understanding what is required of you and setting yourself realistic goals. The transition from LLB to BPTC would be challenging.
Preparation for workshops beforehand is essential and it requires significantly more time than what you would normally spend on a seminar/tutorial preparation during your LLB. The course is demanding but it is an amazing experience at the same time.
It encourages you to get out of your comfort zone and practice advocacy every single day. There will be times where you will be doubting yourself, wondering if you are good enough to succeed in the profession. However, it is important to remember that not everyone’s journey to the Bar is alike.
We all have different experiences and bring different qualities to the profession and that is what makes it exceptional. Be prepared to turn that constructive feedback into a strength.
Most importantly, my advice to fellow aspiring barristers is to:
- Believe in yourselves, there is nothing you cannot do as long as you put your mind to it; and
- Keep fighting for your dreams. Yes, there will be times when you will be feeling like everything is against you and no one wants to give you a chance but remember that hard work, persistence and resilience are always rewarded at the end.