Top 10 Tips when applying for Pupillage

Lydia Stephens Lydia Stephens 2nd February 2024

Applying for pupillage is a long and competitive process, particularly when trying to balance it alongside studying, working and personal commitments. However, there are things you can do to structure your approach, make the application process manageable and produce strong applications:

  1. Write a list of Chambers: Split those to which you want to apply into 3 categories by looking at the profiles and CVs of their most recent pupils and junior tenants and comparing them to your own. The first category should be ‘aspirational’ the second ‘possible’ and the third ‘most realistic.’ Though this approach may seem cynical it can help you prioritise your applications.
  2. Research the Chambers you are applying to. Look at the type of work their pupils and recent juniors do. Find out any specialisms they are known for. Work out what makes them different. Some Chambers have pupillage information evenings as well as blogs and webinars on their website that can give you further insights. Many Chambers also have a ‘pupillage criteria’ or ‘fair recruitment’ type document on their website. Refer to these to find the specific qualities that they look for so you can tailor your answers and hit each criteria within your application.
  3. Be structured and concise: When answering questions in written applications always use a clear structure. There is nothing wrong with a basic approach whereby you answer each question in three concise points.
  4. Why do you want to be a barrister: Answer this question honestly and realistically. That means that as well as explaining why you want to be an advocate for a living, you need to show you know about the realities of life at the Bar (e.g being self-employed).
  5. Use examples and say what you learned: When writing your application, each time you use an example (whether that be a mini-pupillage, a trial you watched or a book you read) always note what you learned from that experience.
  6. Non-legal experience: Do not underestimate the importance of non-legal work experience or employment to your application. Chambers will want to see that you have an interest in and some experience of law but there is lots to be learned from non-legal experience. Being able to explain why a part time job in retail allowed you to: develop people skills and time manage will assist your application.
  7. Spelling, punctuation and grammar: Always check your spelling, punctuation and grammar. Getting someone else to review your application can help you spot mistakes that you can’t see having read it 100 times.
  8. The Gateway: Do not underestimate how long it takes to input material into the Pupillage Gateway. Writing your applications on word can help you edit them easily but copying your answers into the Pupillage Gateway itself is a time-consuming process that you should not leave until the last minute.
  9. Help: It’s always worth looking online to see if there are any schemes run by Inns or elsewhere that can support you. Many offer mentoring, application reviews and interview practice. 
  10. Take a break: Remember to take breaks when you can. Cliché as it sounds the process is very much a marathon not a sprint and you do not want to burn yourself out in advance of potential interviews.
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