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What is a pupillage?

Barristers’ pupillages last one year, and are divided into two six-month stages, known as ‘sixes’. The first ‘six’ is referred to as the ‘non-practising’ six, since the pupil is not yet eligible to take on their own matters. Instead, they assist their pupil supervisor in case preparation, at hearings, conducting legal research, and observing the supervisor.

In the second six, the pupil is eligible to take on his or her own matters, managing their own cases and clients. At this stage pupils start to develop their professional profile and reputation as practising barristers.

When applying for pupillage, you need to bear this structure in mind, and demonstrate your capability to assist a pupil supervisor adequately for the first few months, before moving on very quickly to take on a good deal of work and responsibility yourself, in a relatively short period of time.

Objective…

To complete your qualification as a barrister, you will need to complete:

  • barristers’ pupillage (one year spent training under a qualified barrister)
  • compulsory training courses in advocacy, practice management and accounting.

Eligibility for obtaining pupillage…

  • Completion of the Academic Stage of training.
  • Completion of the barristers’ Vocational Stage of training (passing the BPTC) within the last five years.
  • You will need to have been called to the Bar before you start pupillage.

How to apply for pupillage…

The Pupillage Gateway (formerly the Pupillage Portal system) allows candidates to submit applications to up to 12 barristers’ chambers. The website also contains a list of all pupillages available, including those offered by chambers that are not part of the Pupillage Gateway network.

When to apply for pupillage…

  • Pupillages usually start in September or October.
  • The Pupillage Gateway allows first applications for pupillages to be submitted only between the end of March and the end of April of each year, at which point the system closes to applicants.
  • Applications are considered between May and September, with offers being made from early August to early September.
  • The system closes altogether each year at the end of October, to reopen again for candidates the following March.
  • Chambers that are not part of the Pupillage Gateway network may be approached direct – check with each one for application requirements and deadlines.
  • You must register your pupillage with your Inn and with the Bar Standards Board (BSB) before you start, in order for all of your pupillage time to count towards qualification.

Preparing for qualification…

You will need to obtain formal Certification of Pupillage on completion of the first six months of pupillage (the non-practising element of professional training), and a second Certification of Pupillage after the second, practising, six months.

When you have completed all the necessary stages of pupillage, you will be issued with a Full Qualification Certificate. Note that this is not the same as a practising certificate, which must be obtained separately from the Bar Council.

There are four core areas in which the BSB sets requirements for experience and competence in all pupils:

  • conduct and etiquette
  • advocacy
  • conferences and negotiations
  • drafting, paperwork and legal research.

The BSB issues checklists for use by pupils and supervisors, which set out details of these core areas, and the skills that need to be covered during both first and second sixes. These can be adapted by individual chambers to reflect the precise nature of the work carried out, and chambers or supervisors will ensure that pupils gain the required experience as their pupillage progresses.

For full details of the BSB requirements, consult the current version of the BSB’s Pupillage Handbook, available at www.barstandardsboard.org.uk

In addition to the core skills and checklists above, the Bar Council requires all barristers to have completed three formal training courses before a practising certificate will be issued:

  • advocacy training
  • practice management training
  • forensic accounting.

These courses are organised by a pupil’s Inn, rather than by chambers, and course elements vary from Inn to Inn. You can expect the courses to go well beyond the minimum requirements, often being covered in weekend residential courses. These courses are outlined below.

Advocacy training…

A minimum of 12 hours of advocacy training is required during pupillage, and must be completed within the first six months. Advocacy training is mainly conducted through exercises in legal argument and speeches, and making or opposing applications to court, such as injunctions. Witness handling, case analysis, examination of witnesses and cross-examination are also covered. Advocacy is often tested through practical exercises in court, with a judge presiding over the exercise as if it were a true hearing.

Practice management training…

This is made up of several elements, and is usually covered in the second six months of pupillage. Subjects included in the practice management course include:

  • managing the transition from Bar student to independent practitioner
  • professional ethics
  • managing tenancy as a practising barrister
  • court etiquette
  • accounts and book-keeping
  • working with Legal Aid.

You can also expect to receive training in specialist areas of the Bar, in which you may either wish to practise or are already practising.

Forensic accounting…

The forensic accounting course is an introduction to financial accounting information as it applies to a barrister’s work. The course covers the main principles of accounting and financial documents that are likely to be encountered in the context of litigation, and to enhance awareness of accounting systems in order to improve individual barristers’ own practice.

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