Would you turn down pupillage at a top chambers to go travelling?

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By Thomas Connelly on

A Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) graduate has penned a blog about declining a top intellectual property set’s pupillage offer in order to see the world.


Pupillages these days are so rare, and BPTC so graduates so plentiful, that the idea of someone choosing to reject a chambers’ offer and do something else entirely is almost unheard of.

But this is exactly what recent BPP Law School BPTC graduate Emily May Alford has done, declining an offer of pupillage from what she describes as a “top London Intellectual Property Chambers” in order to go travelling for 14 months.

Writing on her blog ‘Emily’s Think Space’, Alford, who converted to law from a biology degree at Imperial College London, explains:

“Last year (in 2013), I went through the process of applying for pupillage and was lucky enough to actually be offered one with a top London Intellectual Property Chambers starting in 2014.

“In essence, I was first back-up for my pupillage and thus was only eventually offered it as someone else decided not to take theirs, but to be in the top 2, I believe the principles are the same. Although in the end I decided not to take up my offer of pupillage, I feel very proud to have got that far.”

Alford, 27, proceeds to offer a host of tips to wannabe barristers based on her pupillage hunt experience, which saw her bag her pupillage after applying to a mere five chambers. She then returns to consider in more detail her decision to turn her back on the Bar.

“If you really can’t stand legal reasoning and you hate slogging through cases and textbooks, then law may not be the profession for you, as this really is a core part of the job and what you will spend the majority of your time doing.

“I wished I had asked myself these questions as in the end, I worked out that I didn’t really like the law or the English legal system and this was a huge part of my decision not to pursue my pupillage. Ask yourself genuinely, do you really like the law?”

Elsewhere in the post Alford reflects a touch ruefully on the cost of the BPTC, and the fact that students who don’t go on to do pupillage can be required to pay back any scholarships they have received.

“Possibly the most significant though is the cost of the BPTC, the essential year you must complete before you can complete pupillage. At BPP, this cost me around £17,000! It’s a lot of money, and again, another year of supporting yourself in all other ways too. And yes, scholarships may help, but it’s all money that at some point you have to pay back. So really only embark on this journey if you have the money or the family support to be able to embark on these few years of training.”

Helpfully for Alford, as she notes in the about section of her blog and her Twitter profile, she is a “rock star daughter”, with her dad none other than Queen guitarist Brian May. Brian is worth a reported £85 million ($145 million).