Problems finding a pupillage
It is not guaranteed that you will find a pupillage immediately on completing your BPTC. You may have applied to several chambers, but either you’ve not heard from them at all, or you were interviewed but didn’t receive an offer.
This is not a problem unique to you: thousands of hopefuls apply each year for a mere 500 pupillages and most chambers won’t take on more than two or three pupils. There’s no magic solution other than to keep applying, maybe widen your horizons and preferences, and not limit yourself to a handful of chambers or practice areas. Be flexible and look at other options and avenues you have not considered in the first round.
Re-evaluate your approach…
If you’ve been making the rounds of several chambers and have still not secured a pupillage after all the time and effort expended, it makes sense to take a break and analyse what could be wrong with your approach or the impression you’re leaving behind. There may even be issues with the way your CV or application is put together.
If you’re falling at the first hurdle, you will need to revisit your CV and application. Are they relevant? Do you tailor your documents individually to match the requirements of the chamber they’re bound for? Try and get people, preferably practising barristers, to look over your application and give you some feedback.
One thing that will definitely help is to take a step back and spend some time refining your approach and strategy. Most chambers are aware that they cannot take all candidates that apply, no matter how good those candidates are, but chambers are always open to providing second and third chances.
Getting feedback and branching out
It also helps to call up the recruitment teams where you have not made the grade and ask for feedback on what you did wrong (particularly if you were interviewed), or what was missing in your CV or your responses to questions asked. Most chambers will be more than willing to share such information with you, as they’re acutely aware of just how difficult it is for potential barristers out there. Most importantly though, act on the suggestions and advice you get from them. It doesn’t pay to be proud in this situation.
It may be worth looking for alternate avenues, such as applying to chambers situated in different locations, if you’ve not looked at other regions before. Or change your preferred practice areas; it is sensible to take up what is available rather than what you’ve set your heart on. You can always change streams later, when you’ve got some experience and have a better understanding of your aptitudes.
Consult your seniors and peers who have gone through the process already. Your Inn of Court will most likely have a counselling unit where you can get guidance. Take up law-related work, such as mini-pupillages, marshalling or any other jobs where you can garner more experience. Be active in participating in various activities at your Inn to help build up your network of contacts. The Deputy Under-Treasurers and Heads of Education of the Inns are particularly helpful in these matters.
It might also be worth taking up volunteer work at the Free Representation Unit or legal aid clinics. Alternatively, you can look for or paid work as a clerk or paralegal in solicitors’ firms. If your CV is not strong enough then further education may not be the answer. Keep trying: there are so many ways to boost your application.