The Blurb On The Back:
What compels someone to become a barrister?
How does it feel to successfully defend a person who is freed and then kills?
How might prosecuting society’s most dangerous criminals change a person’s beliefs about justice?
This tell-all memoir is the third book from the Secret Barrister. In hilarious and tragic stories from the criminal courts, it lifts the lid on what it’s really like to pursue a career at the Bar, and reveals the uncomfortable and surprising truth about life in our opaque criminal justice system.
Nothing But The Truth charts an outsider’s progress down the winding path towards practising at the Bar. It takes in the sometimes absurd traditions of the Inns of Court, where every meal mandates a glass of port and a toast to the Queen, and the Hunger Games-type contest for pupillage, through to the endlessly frustrating experience of being a junior criminal barrister – as a creaking, ailing justice system begins to convince the that something has to change …
Full of hilarious, shocking and surprising stories from the Secret Barrister’s working life, Nothing But The Truth asks questions about what we understand by justice, and what it takes to change our minds. It reveals the darker side of working in criminal law and how the things our justice system gets wrong are not the things most people expect. And it tracks the Secret Barrister’s transformation from hang-‘em-and-flog-‘em, austerity-supporting twenty-something to campaigning, bestselling, reforming author, whose progressive writing in defence of the law is celebrated around the globe.
You can order NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH: STORIES OF CRIME, GUILT AND THE LOSS OF INNOCENCE by The Secret Barrister from Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK. I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.
The Review (Cut For Spoilers):
The Secret Barrister is an anonymous junior barrister specialising in criminal law in England and Wales and best selling author. Their third book is a searing memoir recounting their journey to the bar and later as a blogger and, more importantly, how working as a criminal lawyer changed their own views of criminal law and those who run up against it. It’s honest, funny, horrifying and is a great way of learning how the legal system works.
I picked this up because I’d really enjoyed the Secret Barrister’s first book THE SECRET BARRISTER: STORIES OF THE LAW AND HOW IT IS BROKEN, which set out how the English criminal legal system was breaking apart. There is some overlap between that book and this, although this book is structured as a memoir recounting the Secret Barrister’s journey to Bar School and getting a pupillage (the training needed to become a barrister, which is incredibly competitive) to starting their career as a junior barrister and moving up to their decision to start a blog to recount how the criminal justice system is failing.
If you are contemplating a career as a barrister than I think that this is a must-read because the Secret Barrister does not pull their punches in setting out how difficult it is to become a barrister and the set backs and rejections they encountered on the way – plus the cost. Equally, they are very honest about the long hours and low pay of being a criminal barrister. I really appreciated their honesty about the stresses of standing up in court as a pupil (including the imposter syndrome) and having to learn while on the job.
I particularly enjoyed the way the Secret Barrister weaves in repeat defence clients, giving an insight into their lives and what happened to them. Some of their clients have horrifying stories, some serve to remind you that criminals don’t tend to be geniuses. They do all serve to reinforce how the criminal justice system doesn’t work – either from a prosecution or a defence point of view and what comes through how every aspect of the system, is in crisis and can’t do what it is supposed to do.
Part of me wonders how effective a memoir can be when you don’t learn anything more about the person writing it. The Secret Barrister doesn’t give a lot of personal information here (which is absolutely their right) but you still get a real sense of what matters to them as a person by the way they write about the various issues within the justice system. However, as I said, there is an overlap here with what they covered in their first book, so although you learn more about their career and how that impacted on them, I’m not sure you learn a huge amount more about them as a person but then again, I’m not convinced that it really matters given the themes that they cover.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I certainly learned a lot about the criminal justice system and how it operates in practice. Like I said above, if you are considering (or know someone who is considering) a career as a criminal barrister, then I think that this is a must-read but it is equally useful for anyone who wants to know more about the legal system and how it operates.