You have your heart set on a career at the Bar, despite everyone advising you against it. “It’s far too competitive… Hardly anyone secures a pupillage!” you hear them cry. But nobody is going to stand in the way of you on your dreams. You understand the problems with finding a pupillage (such as having numerous mini pupillages and enrolling on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), giving you a ‘false’ sense of achievement) but are going to plough ahead with making your application anyway.
How do I apply for a pupillage?
Most chambers want you to apply through the Bar Council’s Pupillage Gateway online application system. Chambers that use this system don’t accept applications by any other means. However there are chambers who don’t use this system, and you’re free to apply to as many of these as you like.
Chambers recruit between a year to 18 months in advance, so law students need to apply in their final year at university and non-law students should apply in during their conversion course. This gives you a year to do the BPTC. Unlike solicitor vacation schemes and training contracts, pupillage deadlines fall throughout the year, the majority being between March and September.
If you use the Pupillage Gateway system, you can search and view all available vacancies on the site, but as mentioned, not all chambers recruit using the Gateway system, so make sure you note the preferred application methods.
You can submit 12 different applications on the Gateway system with the ability to tailor your application to each one (no need for a standardised personal statement as with UCAS!). It goes without saying that the best applications are always tailored – if you use the same personal statement for five or six applications, your application will appear unfocussed.
Can I track my pupillage application?
Yes! Recruiters are prompted to update the status of the application at every relevant stage of the process. You can view the progress simply by logging into your account at any time.
How are pupillage offers made?
Offers from applications made through the Gateway will come in August. Simply log in to see if you have any offers. If you’ve applied to a chamber that doesn’t use the Gateway system, you’ll find out if you have an offer in August or September.
What if I’m unsuccessful?
First things first, don’t get too down about it! Pupillage applications are unbelievably competitive and you should definitely ask for feedback on your application. That way, if you apply to the same chambers again, you know what you need to brush up upon.
Build upon your legal work experience by undertaking pro bono work, marshalling or visiting the courts. It’s up to you whether you choose to do your BPTC straight away as if you fail to land a pupillage within five years of doing the BPTC, you will be unable to start a pupillage after that.
Bear in mind that if you proceed to do the BPTC and are successful in landing a pupillage second time around, you may have to wait a year before you’re able to start due to recruitment timetables.
The pupillage application process can be a stressful one, but you now know what the process involves. Happy applying!