Jul 11, 2022

Written By Thomas Cserep

Do you have to do a pupillage to be a barrister?

Jul 11, 2022

Written By Thomas Cserep

Pupillages, mini-pupillages and the Bar Course, the path to becoming a barrister may seem confusing at first. However, we will clear up the jargon and discuss what pupillages are and whether you will have to do one to become a barrister.

Pupillages – the basics

Pupillages are a form of work experience where you have the opportunity to work in a chamber while you are supervised by barristers. It is an integral part of becoming a qualified barrister as you gain the experience necessary to succeed in the role.

In addition to ordinary pupillages, you can also do mini-pupillages, which we will discuss below.


Mini-pupillages are short-term work experience opportunities with chambers that last from three days to a week. You are able to see how barristers work in the chambers and you are involved with tasks such as legal research and proofreading documents.

Most law students who know that they want to become a barrister do mini-pupillages throughout their studies during their term-time holidays in the Winter, Spring and Summer. Aspiring barristers who apply for bar courses are recommended to have completed three or four mini-pupillages previously. Certain chambers require you to do a mini-pupillage before you can enrol on their year-long pupillage with them.

But what is the road to becoming a barrister and how are pupillages involved along the journey? We will elaborate on the importance of pupillages to help you qualify as a barrister.

Becoming a barrister

In order to qualify as a barrister in the UK, you can start your education pathway by doing a law degree.

However, there is no need to worry if you did not study law at undergraduate level. You can do a law conversion course such as the Postgraduate Diploma in Law (PGDL), which condenses all the important information from a law degree into a one-year programme.

A law degree and the PGDL provide you with the foundational theories necessary to have a career in the legal industry. However, in order to become a barrister, you also need to complete the Bar Course.

What is the Bar Course?

The replacement for the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), it is the vocational component of your barrister education journey. On the course you are able to pick modules that focus on different areas of law, helping you specialise in the field of law that you are interested in.

Getting onto the Bar Course can be challenging, as you need to pass the Bar Course Aptitude Test, in addition to joining one of the Bar’s associations as a member, which are commonly known as the Inns of Court. Depending on whether you study full-time or part-time, the Bar Course takes one or two years to complete.


What is a Pupillage?

A pupillage is the work experience element of your postgraduate training and is similar to the qualifying work experience (QWE) which aspiring solicitors need to complete.

During your pupillage you will be able to apply the skills you have gained during your vocational training in a real-life setting. Whilst initially you will only be shadowing your supervisor and assisting with their cases, slowly you will be given more and more responsibilities.

As you are ending your training to become a fully-fledged barrister, in the final months of your pupillage you will be tasked with dealing with your own cases.

Even though it is mandatory to qualifying as a barrister, doing a pupillage is a great opportunity to learn the ins-and-outs of working in a chamber and help you acquire the skills and credentials necessary to become a successful barrister.