Jul 14, 2022

Written By Helena Kudiabor

How many people apply for pupillage annually?

Jul 14, 2022

Written By Helena Kudiabor

To become a barrister, you are required to complete a legal degree (or a law conversion course), vocational bar training and finally a year-long pupillage. In this article, you’ll find out just how many people apply for a pupillage each year, and what you can do to secure yours.

What exactly is a pupillage?

A pupillage is a year of work experience completed by aspiring barristers, and is the final stage of the training process before you become qualified. Most students complete their pupillage in chambers, but you can also complete it in a Bar organisation such as a law firm or the Crown Prosecution Service.

Pupillages are divided into two sections- the ‘first six’ non-practicing period and the ‘second six’ practising period. During your pupillage, you’ll review everything you learnt during your vocational training, as well as gaining practical experience.

The non-practicing period will involve shadowing a qualified barrister and preparing documents for court, as well as compulsory training courses. During your practising period, you’ll be more independent, and will even find yourself taking on your own cases.

How many people apply for pupillages annually?

Competition for pupillages is fierce. According to the Bar Council, in 2021, 3,301 applied for just 246 pupillage positions. The average applicant applied for around six positions, resulting in a staggering 20,647 applications in total. This figure is a sharp increase from the year before, with 2,142 applicants competing for 237 pupillages. While the number of pupillages has increased slightly, the increase does not account for the extra thousand applicants.

It’s also important to note that there is a time limit when it comes to finding a pupillage. You must find a pupillage within five years of completing your vocational training, unless you have extenuating circumstances. In this case, you may be able to receive an extension from the Bar Standards Board.

How can I increase my chances of securing a pupillage?

There are a few ways you can make yourself more attractive to the chambers you’re applying to. One way to do this is by completing a mini-pupillage. Similar to vacation schemes for solicitors, these week-long courses provide you with work experience in a chambers. You’ll get the chance to shadow a qualified barrister, and will learn more about the day-to-day working of a barrister.

It’s advisable to complete your mini-pupillage at the chambers you wish to complete your pupillage at, as this will show your commitment to them. Some chambers only allow those who completed their mini-pupillage there to apply for a pupillage.

Another way to improve your chances is by completing some pro bono work. Pro bono is short for pro bono publico, a Latin term that translates to ‘for the public good.’ Pro bono work is a great way to show your dedication to the law, and your altruism, as lawyers who get involved in pro bono work don’t get paid.

Completing pro bono work experience is also a great way to find out which speciality of law suits you best. For instance, if you’re interested in employment law, you may wish to get some experience at a firm specialising in employment law, or provide pro bono advice in a legal advice clinic.

Finally, all barristers need to be confident when arguing for their clients, and to know how to develop a strong argument. Thus, working on your public speaking skills will make you more attractive to future employers. You can do this by joining your university’s debating society or getting involved in mock trials.

How can I improve my pupillage application?

When completing your pupillage applications, be sure to tailor your application to each individual pupillage you’re applying for, provide evidence to support each point you make, and check your application thoroughly for spelling and grammar mistakes.

In addition to an online application, you’ll also be invited for an interview, so make sure you know your application form inside out. It’s also important to keep up to date with current affairs in the legal world.


Although pupillage positions are incredibly competitive, there are quite a few ways you can boost your application and increase your chances of admission. Best of luck on your application!