In this blog, Clara Steel Miguelez gives some advice on writing successful mini-pupillage applications.
8 September 2017
One of the most difficult aspects of studying for a university degree is deciding what you want to do with it once you've graduated. The advocacy aspect of the barrister profession interested me before I even began to study law at QMUL, and over the past two years I have had numerous opportunities that have confirmed that a career at the Bar is the right fit for me. Yet, I’m still constantly surprised at the low levels of interest in the Bar amongst law students. There are perceptions about the profession that seem to immediately put people off, such as the instability of self-employment, or the daunting task of having to speak in front of a court room. However, in reality we are not properly exposed to the working life of a barrister. The best way to find out whether or not it's a career you might want to pursue is by undertaking a mini-pupillage.
Once you’ve decided on which set of chambers you want to apply to, you can start your research. Chambers and Partners is a great starting point; they provide a profile overview of the set, as well as a brief description of the specialisms they undertake. However, the main source of information will come from the chambers’ website.
Look through the news section of the set’s website where they list all of their most recent, and successful cases. Pick one or two and understand the case (what were the arguments of each counsel, how was the judgment reached, and what was the significance of the case). Use the case when explaining why you are looking to apply for a mini pupillage at their set of chambers, as it individualises the application and ensures that your interest in the set is genuine. For example:
“Moreover, the prestige of [set of chambers] as the most dynamic and modern of the top specialist family law sets attracts highly controversial cases of , such as the recent EDS IV case. The exceptionally skillful work carried out by counsel, the ruling achieved, and the resulting influence on cases where there is a potential medical cause for injury that has been alleged to be inflicted, is at the heart of why I wish to pursue a career at the Bar. The opportunity to observe the ongoing modernisation and development of family law in response to scientific developments, as well as changing societal views on matters such as genetics, non-nuclear familial rights, and gender equality, would be an invaluable experience.”
A barrister once advised me that if I really wanted to impress a set of chambers, I should go down to court and watch a barrister of that set presenting his case to the court. It not only demonstrates a genuine interest in the law, and in the profession of barrister, but also an appreciation of the calibre of advocacy provided by counsel. So therefore, if you have time, this is a great way of demonstrating your interest in the set.
You must also explain why you know that you would be an ideal candidate for a mini-pupillage. By demonstrating that you have a foundation of useful skills and knowledge, as well as experience in working in a professional environment, you will reassure the set that they will not be teaching you basic law, but also that you are capable of intellectually stimulating work and discussion. Even if you have yet to undertake substantial work experience, you can still draw on the skills that you have gained from your law degree. For example:
“I have acquired an excellent level of foundational legal skills and knowledge from my law degree, as well as solid, practical experience from the different juridical opportunities I have had. This foundation will allow me to get the greatest possible benefit out of this mini-pupillage, and allow me to focus on gaining an understanding of the environment and work ethic of barristers in chambers, and on understanding better the qualities they seek in future pupillage applicants.”
A fair amount of time and effort must be put into applications to demonstrate a genuine interest in undertaking the mini-pupillage. Nevertheless, the hard work pays off when your application is successful and you discover the enjoyment of working as a barrister.