Infographic: why it’s really hard to land a job through the Pupillage Gateway

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By Thomas Connelly on

Places on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) massively outnumber available jobs on this year’s Pupillage Gateway, especially in the regions.


The 2014 Bar Barometer, which was released at the end of last week, revealed that BPTC numbers have risen by almost a quarter to 1,732. There is no geographical breakdown of the figures, but this is how approved BPTC places (of which there are over 2,000 full and part-time) are distributed according to region.

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Here is the breakdown of pupillages currently available through the Pupillage Gateway — which opened last week — according to regional circuit.


The figures support a statement made by 9-12 Bell Yard head Mukul Chawla QC at last month’s ‘If I knew at Inner Temple’ event.

Chawla was referring specifically to Wales and the Midlands. But other regions, such as the North East and the West Country, don’t fare a great deal better. And although there may be more available pupillages in London and the South East, there are also many more BPTC places in the capital.

It’s important to remember that some chambers advertise for pupillages at other times of the year. And if — and it is a huge “if” — pupillage numbers were to hold up this year, then those additional pupillages would take the total number up towards the 436 mark recorded in 2011/2012, the most recent year for which statistics are available. But given the legal aid cuts and the associated chaos in which the criminal Bar is currently mired, a significant decline in total pupillage numbers this year looks likely. 24% of pupillages are in criminal law, the highest proportion of any practice area.

On the upside, let’s not forget that as many as 50% of BPTC students don’t figure in the pupillage hunt. Most of the international BPTC students (who make up almost 30% of people on the course) return to their home countries to look for work. And a significant proportion of the 20% of BPTC students registered as EU-domiciled are likely to go elsewhere after graduating. So the odds of getting a foot in the door at the Bar aren’t as utterly horrendous as they can seem.

But with an overflow of unsuccessful applicants from previous years to compete against, alongside hotshot wannabes applying ahead of actually starting the BPTC, bagging a pupillage remains a long shot for students without top academics (i.e. a first class degree) and excellent advocacy ability (demonstrated with public speaking prizes). Remember, you can always qualify as a solicitor first and then go to the Bar.