10:06, April 20 189 0 theguardian.com

2017-04-20 10:06:03

 

Guardian Students  Judge Rinder: 'I was a proper nerd as a law student. I was consumed by it'

Robert Rinder, 38, is a barrister best known for his ITV show, Judge Rinder, and his appearance on Strictly Come Dancing last year, where he came fifth. Before adjudicating small claims disputes on screen, he worked on criminal law cases involving international fraud and money laundering. He graduated with a double first in politics and modern history from Manchester University, followed by a law conversion course at City University.

What are you up to at the moment?

I’ve been filming more court cases for Judge Rinder, and I have a TV show on called Judge Rinder’s Crime Stories. And hopefully next year, there will be a drama that I’m part of called Crown Court, where we’ll be watching a dramatised court case, and the public will be able to vote at the end whether they think the defendant is guilty or not.

You’re also a writer.

I wrote a book last year, which no doubt you read cover to cover, I presume.

Of course.

What was your favourite part?

Um, the beginning?

Really? Which particular bit?

OK, I haven’t read it.

[Laughs] Are you too busy burying yourself in fucking Proust? The book was called Rinder’s Rules, which was about common legal problems that we all face at some time, from consumer issues to issues involving wills.

Is that something law students could benefit from? They often get questions from their mates about common legal issues.

One of the things about being a law student is that the academic discipline of law is very often removed from the practical reality of law. How to complain, who to complain to and whether or not you even need to invoke the law, is very different in the real world from how it’s examined in the lecture theatre.

Is studying law boring?

One man’s boring is another man’s or woman’s veritable thrill ride. None of it’s boring if it’s taught well. But it was radically different when I did my law conversion last century. I know from interviewing students for pupillages [apprenticeships to a member of the bar] that there are way more providers now.

What are your pupillage interviewees like when they meet you?

One person had the rather poor judgement of tweeting that they’d just been in the interview with me, which probably wasn’t the smartest thing in the world. They were like, “OMG hashtag Judge Rinder hashtag chambers”. Well, hashtag you’ve got no chance of getting a pupillage. The bottom line is that pupillage is eye-wateringly competitive, the odds are Hunger Games-esque.

If you are committed and passionate about wanting to be a barrister, you should do it. But you can’t be half-arsed about it. You need to be realistic, which means if you don’t have a first-class degree from a good-rated university, it’s going to be challenging. You’d need to counterbalance your application with a huge amount of experience, so doing as much advocacy as you can, charity work, speaking up for people, and doing related work experience is hugely important.

What were you like as a law student?

Academically, I was really into it. I was a proper nerd. I was consumed by it. I worry deeply these days about people going to university. It’s bloody expensive, and it wasn’t when I went. Students didn’t have to necessarily want to go to university and then join a German bank. They could explore ideas and wonder what they wanted to do. I think these days that’s the preserve of the ultra-privileged, which is a real shame.

What did you get up to outside of class?

I was involved in a very limited way with drama. I also got involved with debating – because I’m super cool – which stood me in good stead, because when I applied for pupillages I’d won national and international debating competitions. University can be incredibly enriching in every important way. It just requires you to not sit on your arse.

Is it true that Benedict Cumberbatch put you off acting?

If you printed that then I would sue you. That’s not even vaguely true – you’ve misquoted a story which itself was misquoted. I just remember we both auditioned for a play and he was exceptionally brilliant. I didn’t do much acting after that, but that wasn’t the reason.

Was being on TV something you’d wanted back then?

I had no interest in that. I was doing really serious cases. I used to write scripts in my spare time and I went along to a TV company with one idea. To cut a long story short, within about two months I was on TV – which never happens. It normally takes about two years.

People inevitably compare you to Judge Judy a lot.

Yes – somebody tweeted about me: “God, hasn’t Judge Judy let herself go,” which I thought was funny. I’ve only watched her a couple of times, but she’s excellent. Although there’s an element of drama and theatre in the way that she presents herself and gives her rulings, the law principles are 100% authentic, and that’s true of my show as well.

So it’s really important to get the legal basis right?

It’s not important, it’s critical. I care deeply about the legal principles. Sometimes the jokes, if there are jokes, write themselves because people behave in a funny way.

Slang trips you up sometimes?

Honestly, half the time young people come on, and I haven’t got a clue what they’re talking about. The other day, somebody said in a case, “would you like to come round and Netflix and chill?” I just assumed that means you’re inviting someone round to your flat to come and watch House of Cards and have a glass of wine or something. Turns out it’s an invitation for sex. What is wrong with people?

Were you ever tempted to wear a wig?

No.

Does it not suit you?

That’s a leading question.

No?

You asked me a question, and I said no, I wasn’t tempted. You asked if my wig doesn’t suit me, and if I’d answered no, then the story is “my wig doesn’t suit me”, and if I’d said yes, it’s “my wig suited me” and it sounds like I’m conceited in my wig. So no comment.

Keep up with the latest on Guardian Students: follow us on Twitter at @GdnStudents – and become a member to receive exclusive benefits and our weekly newsletter.