Pupillage applications: getting through the paper sift

29th January 2024

At 5 Pump Court, we operate a 3-stage selection process for pupils:
1. Paper sift, by members of the Tenancy & Pupillage Committee, of the applications received through the Pupillage Gateway;
2. First interviews – short, remote interviews with legal and non-legal questions;
3. Second interviews – longer interviews, in person, with an advocacy exercise.

We will publish a further blog in due course about the interview stages and how best to prepare. This blog will explain what we are looking for in the paper sift.

We mark all applicants on the following criteria:

• Academic achievement – we require a 2:1 degree (unless there are extenuating circumstances) but we have no requirements about which university it should be from, or what subject it should be in. We have no preference for law or non-law. We rarely look back to A-Levels/GCSEs but we do take GDL/BPTC grades into account if you have got that far. Don’t worry if you haven’t though – it won’t count against you.

• Advocacy experience - This is really important to us! We are an advocacy-based set and most of our barristers are in court most days. If you are looking for an advisory, paper-based practice, then we are not the set for you. On the other hand if you thrive on the challenge of being in court, thinking on your feet and dealing with solicitors, clients and judges, then let us know! Give us examples of when you have advocated for others – think wider than just mooting competitions and debating clubs and consider times when you have had to argue on someone else's behalf, or have had to try to persuade people to your point of view. Don't forget to tell us what makes you good at advocacy.

• Experience of the legal system – we want to see evidence that you have researched the profession and gained an appreciation of the role that you are applying for. The most common forms of experience that are included in applications are mini-pupillages, pro bono clinics, FRU, marshalling, Advocate, LPC Law. If you have been unable to undertake minis (especially due to Covid), then explain what you have done instead. A mix of experience generally scores more highly than lots of the same (i.e. 2 minis, a pro bono clinic, and volunteering will score higher than 5 minis).

• Personal development – in addition to academic achievement, we want to see that you are self-motivated, able to work hard and have held positions of trust and responsibility. These are crucial skills for barristers representing clients during some of the most stressful periods of their lives. We enjoy reading about what you enjoy outside of work and studying – tell us about your interests and bring your application to life!

• Motivation – we want to know why you have chosen the self-employed Bar as a career, and why you think you will be suited to it. For example, think about how you will motivate yourself, stay resilient after a difficult day at court, and when you have stepped out of your comfort zone.

• Commitment to our Chambers - we commit a lot of time and money to recruiting and training pupils, and so we want to be sure both that we have chosen the right people, but also that they are going to be happy with us. We are looking to recruit you for the long-term – we view our pupils as future tenants – and want pupils who are going to stay with us after pupillage and to contribute to our long term growth strategy. Explain why you want to join us and demonstrate your interest in our practice areas. Consider which pupillage you are applying for (common law or family) and explain why – if you have no preference, just say so. Please note that we do not require experience in all of our practice areas before you make an application.

• Questions from the Gateway - we ask a selection of questions and are looking for clear, concise, well-argued answers. Remember - this is written advocacy and you need to make your case!

We receive a lot of applications each year and take about 10% of those to the first interview stage. It is worth checking and double checking your application in order to make sure that the spelling and grammar is correct, that your answers are clear and concise, and that you have not made silly errors (there’s always one application every year which refers to a different set!) If your application is well written and easy to read, it’s much more likely that you will get through to the next stage.

Good luck!

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