Mini pupillage: what to expect
A mini pupilage is to an aspiring barrister what a vacation scheme is to an aspiring solicitor. Although it looks great on any law student’s CV, it only lasts a week or two, during which time you will “shadow” a barrister. Shadowing a barrister is a good way to witness the day-to-day work of a barrister, and to begin building a network of professional contacts.
If you perform well on your first mini pupillage, the chambers might consider you for a second one, perhaps involving another speciality. Alternatively, you are more likely to be considered for a mini-pupillage with another barrister if you already have one on your CV (assuming you performed well). In any case, it is important to have at least one mini pupilage on your CV before you apply for a 12-month pupillage.
How to get a mini pupilage
Many barristers’ chambers offer mini pupilages to law students. Comparatively, few are available to students from other degree subjects but are planning to take the GDL after graduation. If you fall into the second category, you are probably going to have to wait until you complete your GDL before you will be considered for a mini pupillage.
Check the careers office at your university to discover who is offering mini pupilages. Another way of finding them is to attend networking events sponsored by your university careers service or Law/Bar Society. Find out in advance which barristers are expected to attend, learn something about them (such as what type of law they practice), and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Mini pupillage applications
Take great care in preparing your mini pupillage application, because a single error could doom your application despite stellar qualifications. Following are a few tips:
Develop some interest and experience in a particular speciality, such as medical negligence or commercial law. This is not absolutely necessary, but it could work to your advantage. At the very least, it will help you narrow down the chambers you want to apply to.
Apply early (in September) and to several different chambers. Many chambers offer mini pupilages on a first-come, first-served basis, but some are quite competitive.
Learn about the particular chambers you are applying to, including the details of the pupillages they are offering and the areas of practice that you are likely to be exposed to.
Keep your CV down to two pages or less, and make sure it’s current. Don’t commit a single spelling or grammar error!
Be prepared to explain why you want a mini pupillage at this particular chambers and not another. Perhaps the worst mistake you can make is to tell a chambers specialising in, for example, criminal law, that you want to work with them because of your interest in medical negligence.
If you are offered a mini pupillage, don’t squander the opportunity. Dress and behave appropriately.
Myths about mini pupilages
Following are a few of the popular myths about mini pupilages. Disabusing yourself of these notions can help you avoid disappointments and costly career mistakes later:
A mini pupilage guarantees a pupilage. No, it doesn’t, but it could lead to one if you impress the right people for the right reasons.
You will spend all your time in court. Not necessarily, although this is a rough description of the experience of some students. Seek as much diversity as possible—you might sit in on client meetings, spend time in chambers, or even be asked to draft documents. Seize any opportunity you can.
Two dozen mini pupilages on your CV will make it stand out. Perhaps so, but for the wrong reasons—it could make you appear unfocused, for example, especially if the reader of your CV cannot detect a distinct speciality of interest. Nevertheless, actually completing many mini pupilages is unlikely to harm your career, as long as you include only a few of the most relevant experiences on your CV.
Do your best to enjoy your mini pupillage experience, and above all, use it as a way to keep your expectations realistic and to change the course of your career if necessary.
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