If Pupillage Portal Doesn’t Work Then It’s The New York Bar

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OccupyTheInns ponders the merits of a high risk, yet potentially high reward, plan B

This week I have turned once more to the business of pupillage application as Pupillage Portal opened for its Spring season. There again were the familiar questions: “Why do you wish to become a barrister?”, “What areas of practice are you interested in and why?”, “Why do you believe you will make a good barrister?”

I know it is boxes such as these that even leading barristers like Tony Blair who have gone onto become household names have had to tick, but I query why Bar students are required to explain ad infinitum our motivations for a career that implicitly we have demonstrated commitment to by pursuing this high-risk path in the first place!

Some say the pressure is on for people like myself who completed the BPTC last year, and that this is the round that we must obtain our goal or otherwise remain forever upon the trash heap. At the bad times, when reading a pupillage rejection letter or reflecting on an interview performance that could have gone better, it would be easy to believe this view. However, it is of course nonsense.

Thankfully, in the run up to the opening of the Pupillage Portal I benefitted from a recent holiday that allowed me to regain a sense of perspective. I was fortunate enough to return to New York City, where this journey to becoming a barrister began for me when I visited the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center which of course do not exist anymore.

I didn’t know then that I wanted to be a barrister, but I would discover so later when the behaviour of the Bush administration made me consider for the first time what the Rule of Law meant – or was supposed to mean.

This time, as I walked through those Manhattan streets, an idea that lay directly beneath my nose that I had never previously considered hit me with all the force of one of those wonderful yellow New York taxis: the New York Bar.

I have been aware that this course is available for some time, but in my parochial focus on the UK I had subliminally discounted it as an option. Turning onto Broadway, it dawned upon me: why work as an underpaid, under-respected paralegal when, as a barrister, I am eligible to sit the New York Bar Exam and become dual-qualified?

It is true that as a GDL graduate I would need to undertake a short masters degree in the States in in order to be able to sit the New York Bar, but this could prove an outstanding opportunity to learn about a different, yet similar, legal system at one of the best universities in the world. There would be further investment required to follow this route, but the scale of the rewards at the end would more than justify the outgoings.

With a Harvard or a Yale on my CV, allied to the New York Bar qualification itself, I would not only be a strong contender to obtain pupillage at one of Britain’s best human rights sets, as has always been my dream, but could indeed work anywhere globally. As the emerging economies of China and India continue to bellow their dragon-like roar, and the green shoots of recovery burst forth from stony American soils, that international flexibility could be extremely useful.

But first I must complete this blasted Pupillage Portal application form. It is a comfort, though, that as I do I know that whatever happens, be it pupillage success or failure, I have a rather interesting plan B up my sleeve.

OccupyTheInns graduated from the BPTC last summer, and was called to the Bar in July 2011. There’s more from OccupyTheInns here.



On the assumption that you are actually in earnest (which I am not convinced about), can fulfil the academic requirements, go to Harvard or Yale and take the exam and pass: I was under the impression that chambers (and law firms) are familiar with the NY bar exam cropping up on the CV and would not find it all that impressive as it has little to do with practising law in the UK. I believe quite a few students take this route and it doesn’t get them anywhere, and you’re unlikely to be able to practise NY law in NY given visa concerns and the absence of a full law degree from a US school.

The “international flexibility” you talk about (in a very strange paragraph that does not seem entirely serious) won’t really be there.



Well, top marks for the magnificent piece of specious reasoning in your second paragraph. Your application form is supposed to mark you out from the rest of the applicants, yet you find it beneath you to justify your commitment to the profession? Still, the reference to “leading barristers like Tony Blair” does rather point to this being more trolling…

Still, as a barrister with a human rights practice, when I see the New York Bar Course on a pupillage application, I think it smacks of a mix of desperation and more money than sense. How on earth does sitting a crammer course in a different jurisdiction make you any more qualified to cope with being at the bottom end of the list at Redbridge Mags on a wet Tuesday afternoon with a difficult client and an irascible DJ?


I say it with love

if you cannot get the rules straight, I struggle to see how you’re going to be part of the “dragon-like roar”.

Further, knucklehead, you might be interested in the current state of play of the NY legal market. Herewith a link for your information.

Jesus wept.



The NY Bar is not a stepping stone to pupillage in England or Wales. I cannot think of any practicing barrister who has taken this exam and succeeded in securing pupillage off the back of it (having already taken the BVC or BPTC). It is a total myth that you will be any more qualified (or any more attractive to pupillage committees) with the NY Bar to your name. This myth is perpetuated by the law schools (CoL, BPP) who give students the impression that meaningless letters behind a name actually carry weight with recruiters (e.g. the ‘free’ LLB if you take the GDL and BPTC at CoL or the ‘LLM’ for adding a dissertation to a BPTC). Everyone in the business knows that these qualifications simply do not compare to the BCL from Oxford (or indeed any other academic LLM or LLB from three years of study at a good university).

There are a handful of people practicing at the Bar in England and Wales who have taken JDs or LLMs at the likes of Harvard and Yale and actually practiced in the US or taken the NY Bar because they might as well. But these people are barristers because they are exceptionally bright (and possess the other qualities required of barristers), not because they’ve taken the new york Bar exam. It is extremely difficult to get into Ivy League law schools and, judging by OccupyTheInns posts, he has no hope.

Yes, the law schools in london will happilly take a few more £thousand from you to take the NY Bar exam (it will not be fun, and you may well fail), but it will not get you a pupillage.

And good luck getting a Visa to live and work in the US. US firms have no reason to take UK graduates unless they are truly exceptional.

It is sad to see this story being re-tweeted repeatedly. There’s a lot of young hopefuls (many of whom will be deluding themselves completely about a career at the Bar) who may see this as a useful source of information. The ‘NY Bar Myth’ is not at all helpful to those who ought to realise that it is unwise to follow one’s dreams, when one’s dreams may entail £20,000+ in debt and virtually nil employability – and, in OccupyTheInns’ case, arrogance and bitterness.



Legal Cheek has its very own Samantha Brick.



How about we all calm down and give the guy a break. At least he’s doing something be it blogging or researching other routes. It can kill a person to spend £25,000 completing the training, to have no more space on your 2 page cv, to be in so much debt it’s crushing, to get rejected continuously and to be told by experienced barristers on a regular basis…’oh no you don’t want to be a barrister, it’s all going to pot, become a solicitor’. Well, if you do do your research you’ll see you can’t. You’ve literally got 5 pupillage applications (1 a year) to make all you’ve done worth while or you fail….oh and then there’s tenancy! Gone are the days when having the right uncle got you anywhere.


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