Finding a pupillage

  • Last updated Aug 1, 2016 12:06:53 PM
  • By Jack Denton, Co-founder & Director, AllAboutLaw.co.uk

Landing a pupillage is tough. There are only around 450 pupillages available each year. To put that into context, around 1,500 people complete the BPTC every year and can continue applying for pupillages for up to five years after completing the course.

Needless to say, those aren’t great odds. Finding a pupillage is obviously no walk in the park. So how can you improve your chances?

What will affect my chances?

Here are some factors that might affect your stake in the pupillage race:

  • Your academic achievements;
  • The area of practice you pick;
  • Your choice of chambers and location;
  • Your personal qualities, capabilities and significant achievements throughout your education and training.

How to get a pupillage…

The best moves you can make to land a pupillage on your first attempt are prospective rather than retrospective in nature. Beginning with your education, aim for consistently high grades throughout school and earn nothing less than a first or 2:1 in your undergraduate degree.

Build up a history of participation in relevant extracurricular activities and projects, local events and sports. Get involved in committee and team-level activities and make sure you collect plenty of relevant work experience.

Your personality and the aptitude you display are equally important. Polish your verbal and written communication skills, learn to manage time and people effectively, and work on improving your reasoning and analytical skills.

If you feel you lack any of the above, make sure you remedy it. All successful applicants will have the lot.

Location of your pupillage…

Choosing where you want to practise is an important consideration when planning your strategy. If you would prefer to practise in London, take the cost of living into account, including rent, commuting expenses and food. This can really pile up. What’s more, competition is fierce amongst the London sets.

Don’t disregard opportunities outside of the Big Smoke. Regional circuits and some of the larger cities may actually provide you with a decent work-life balance. Remember, London is already crowded and saturated. In light of this, the opportunities in other places will become ever more appealing. General and specialised sets are now also proliferating in cities such as Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester. 

While commercial and chancery sets may rule the roost in London, much of family, public or criminal law can be practised elsewhere in the country. Education or employment sets will be likely to have their bases in areas where educational institutions or companies and factories are concentrated, so the range of choice available to you is actually pretty wide.

What’s your chamber?

One thing many individuals overlook is the importance of gaining a clear idea of the kind of chambers you’d like to work in, whether that be full-service or specialist. Don’t be of the view that you will just take anything. The areas of practice you choose will depend on what your real objectives for being a barrister are. 

Once you are clear on your objectives and decided on your area of practice, the next step is to apply to those chambers that have expertise in that area. Choice can be a matter of personal preference. For instance, you might join a chambers because you want to work in a particular area, you might want work towards social welfare and justice, or you might just want to earn pots of money.

What next? Well, it’s time to apply for pupillage via the Pupillage Gateway.

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