Mini pupillage: The student’s perspective
Before you start applying for mini-pupillages, you will need to know what a mini-pupillage is and what the application process entails. A mystery law student gave us the lowdown about what to expect.
What is a mini-pupillage?
A mini-pupillage is a period of three to five days spent at a set of chambers, during which you can either be sent out to court or stay in chambers and be asked to help with any ongoing work. Usually you will be assigned to one barrister for the duration of your stay. All of my mini-pupillages have been with criminal sets and, apart from being invited to one chambers drinks party, I have never spent more than half an hour there before meeting one of the clerks and being sent off to shadow counsel for a week.
How do I apply for a mini-pupillage?
Finding a mini-pupillage can be a bit of a lottery, with chambers usually giving them out on a first come first serve basis. First of all, you’ll need to work out which areas of law you are interested in and find a relevant chambers that matches your interests.
Research the top specialist sets for your area of law, go onto their websites and see if they offer mini-pupillages (you can usually find the information in their recruitment or pupillage pages).
The application stage is quite straightforward. You can expect to complete an online form or email your CV and a covering letter. It is extremely important that you rigorously check your covering letter and CV for any mistakes. If there are any mistakes, the likelihood is that it will go in the bin. Good grades and extra-curricular activities such as mooting and debating will help improve your chances of getting a mini-pupillage, but they are by no means a guarantee.
Try to find out the name of the person who will be receiving your application, otherwise address it to “Sir or Madam”. If you do not know who you are writing to, then you should sign off 'Yours faithfully'. It is a formality, but as an aspiring barrister, you will have to get used to writing many letters to different people, so start using the correct format now.
Networking your way to a mini-pupillage
Perhaps the most useful way of obtaining a mini-pupillage is to attend plenty of networking events, such as those organised by your university’s careers service or Law/Bar Society. Barristers who are invited to such events are taking time out of their work to attend, so they will expect to be asked questions and will be looking out for interesting people. Preparation is useful here. If you know in advance who is attending, you can research what type of law they practice and any recent cases they have been involved in.
My first ever mini-pupillage was a result of such networking. I had a continuing interest in Criminal Law, had kept up to date with recent events and I asked quite a few questions during the talk. Afterwards, I approached a QC, spoke to him about my interests and he said I should forward him my CV. This will not always be possible if there is a high student to barrister ratio at the event, but it does prove that if you show interest and enthusiasm people will pick up on it.
The mini-pupillage lottery
Unfortunately even if you attend networking events and possess solid academic grades, getting a mini-pupillage can still be a bit of a lottery. Apply early (in September) and to lots of sets. Places go quickly, particularly in the top sets, so be prepared to fight for a place. Good luck!