Westminster School auctions a mini-pupillage – current bid £750

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By Alex Aldridge on

Struggling to secure work experience in the ultra-competitive environment of the Bar? Well, thanks to top public school Westminster, now those with cash to burn can buy a mini-pupillage…


Westminster’s mini-pupillage auction is open until 22 May. The offer blurb on the school’s auction website reads:

“On offer is a mini-pupillage (1-2 week’s work experience) with a criminal defence barrister in London. The lucky winner will have the opportunity to gain an insight into the working life of a criminal defence barrister, attending court and observing a criminal trial. They will also have the opportunity to meet the barrister beforehand and read the case papers so that they can be fully au fait with the issues before the trial starts.”

Law students without access to vast private incomes are understandably aggrieved.

Money from the auction is going towards new facilities and a bursary programme at the school, which counts Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger and Attorney-General Dominic Grieve among its former pupils.

A Bar Council spokesperson said:

“Mini-pupillages are not something that should be bought and sold as a commodity. We don’t approve of that sort of culture.”

Update: Thursday 9 May 1.10pm – Westminster School has issued the following statement:

“There has recently been some discussion regarding the offering of work experience in our fundraising auction.  The auction was designed by our fundraising volunteers to assist in supporting both our capital building projects as well as the Westminster Bursary Programme.  The auction also provided us with a valuable opportunity to mobilise the extended Westminster Community and to include those who might have felt that they could not play a valuable part in our fundraising efforts simply because they were unable to make a large financial contribution.  There are 108 lots on offer, of which work placements make up 21, with others ranging from knitting lessons to a week in a luxury holiday home in Uruguay.  All were contributed by individuals with a Westminster connection (parents, former parents, alumni, etc.). 

The option of including work placements was raised early on by our donors, and in the end it was felt that as this had for some years been a common practice by other organisations and as the places offered would be in addition to, and not in place of, existing positions, we would go ahead.  Each work placement donor was asked if they would be willing to provide 2 places – one to be auctioned and one for the School to pass along to a pupil at one of our partner state schools – and some have chosen to do so. While these places have been created solely for the auction, we are hopeful that the businesses will be inspired to maintain these new positions and will openly recruit for candidates going forward.

Westminster School is committed to social mobility and has a needs blind admissions policy. In order to achieve this it is necessary for us to raise in excess of £1.2 million each year to fund our bursary places. This money is raised through donations from individuals, corporate sponsors and one off fund raising events such as this auction.

Westminster’s commitment to social mobility does of course go beyond our own bursary programme.  We work in conjunction with local state schools and were recently very pleased to announce the establishment of the Harris Westminster Sixth Form Academy, which has been designed to assist talented pupils from across London to develop their academic focus, to apply for places on the best university courses, and gain entrance to top universities.

Westminster will continue to look at ways of genuinely addressing the issue of social mobility, both by opening our doors to disadvantaged pupils and by offering our expertise more widely than our own precincts.”