How do you apply for a mini pupillage?
A mini pupillage involves shadowing barristers whilst they interact with clients and conduct their cases both in and out of court. Not only do mini pupillages provide valuable insights into whether a career as a barrister is for you, they demonstrate your commitment to a career at the Bar and/or a specific area of law. Given the value of mini pupillages, how do you apply for them, and how can you make your application stand out from the crowd?
Each chamber is different...
Before you begin to think about applying to various barristers’ chambers (also known as sets), you should investigate which areas of law they specialise in and which sets would best suit your talents and interests. Once you have selected your sets of interest, you should consult their websites to find out their exact processes for mini pupillage applications.
Some sets require you to email them a CV and covering letter, whereas others will only accept applications via an online form, so it is important that you apply in the right way! Each chamber will also offer mini pupillages: at different times (some offer specific weeks, whilst others accept on a rolling basis), have different stages you can apply at (some may only allow applications to certain university year groups) and have specific people within the set that you need to apply to.
Get to the point!
When composing your CV, covering letter or application form, make sure that your writing is to the point and free of any unnecessary jargon. Chambers receive hundreds of mini pupillage applications so will not want to spend too long reading through your application. Any word limits should be used as a guide rather than a target: barristers are ultimately interested in hearing about why you are perfect for the opportunity in a concise manner.
Additionally, although this may seem obvious, you must proofread your application to make sure it's well written and doesn’t contain any errors. Spelling and grammatical errors are easy but costly mistakes to make: don’t give reviewers any reason to instantly reject your application!
Whatever experiences you mention in your application, such as extracurriculars or previous work experience, you must remember to illustrate how these have equipped you with the skills and qualities needed to undertake a mini pupillage.
Identify the skills and qualities expected of a barrister, such as having great communication and advocacy skills and being an independent, organised worker, and relate your experiences to these skills and qualities. This is a vital part of ensuring that you stand out in the competitive selection process.
What experiences are relevant?
A key thing you should mention on any mini pupillage application is any experience you have in advocacy or public speaking. After all, advocacy is one of the main responsibilities of a barrister. Include any experience or achievements you have from mooting, debating or public speaking competitions and you’ll be sure to wow chambers reviewing your application.
Any prior legal work experience you have undertaken will certainly look great on your mini pupillage applications. This work experience can come in many forms, such as pro bono work, or writing articles for legal blogs or journals. If you don’t have any legal experience, talk about the experience you have, and how it has prepared you for a career as a barrister. For example, volunteering as a student representative shows your leadership and public speaking skills.
Covering letter tips
If the chambers you are applying to require you to send them a covering letter, the key focus of your letter should be to provide details on what stage you’re at, why you wish to pursue a career at the Bar (in a particular practice area), why the particular chambers that you’re applying to appeal to you, and when you’re available to undertake a mini pupillage.
It is particularly important to tailor your covering letter to the specific chambers that you’re applying to. Reasons for your choice (which you can include on your application) may include a set’s specific practice area or culture/ ethos, or the fact that you’ve seen a member of chambers in court or whilst on placement with a solicitor’s firm.
Be specific about the areas of law that the set specialises in and why these appeal to you, potentially mentioning some cases they’ve worked on in these areas and the research you’ve done on these. Ultimately, make it clear that you’ve done your research on specific chambers and that you’re not sending out blanket applications!
The application process for mini pupillages can be very competitive, so remember to be patient and persevere. Often, once you manage to get your first mini pupillage, it then becomes easier to get more. Don’t give up!