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Top white-collar crime QC entangled in online intern swap embarrassment

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Lawyers are flocking to recently launched site in a bid to bag little Hugo and Henrietta pre-gap yah work experience. But is this just hi-tech nepotism?

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A top criminal law barrister has denied that he planned to circumvent his chambers’ formal mini-pupillage application process by signing up to a recently launched website that matches professional parents looking to swap work experience gigs for their children.

Julian Christopher QC of 5 Paper Buildings in the Temple acknowledged to Legal Cheek yesterday that he had made an entry on the site (pictured below), called myInternSwap.com, in a bid to find his 17-year-old son, who is currently at the City of London School (annual fees: £15,000), a placement at … well … almost anywhere.

5Paper

In exchange, Christopher (pictured below) indicated that he would offer the child of the parent laying on the work experience for his son a week’s stint at chambers.

barrister

However, mini-pupillages have become increasingly popular first steps to full pupillages at the bar, even though they bear a strong resemblance to good old fashioned work experience. Nonetheless, 5PB runs a strict application process for mini-pupillages. According to the set’s website:

Due to the increasing number of students expressing an interest in experiencing a mini-pupillage at 5 Paper Buildings, it has recently been decided to formalise the application process.

The chambers has put in place two “windows” for mini-pupillages — 1 February to 31 August, with an applications deadline of 30 November; and 1 September to 31 January, with a deadline of 31 May.

Commenting to Legal Cheek, Christopher said:

I can confirm that I did place the entry … However, I have not made use of the website, and would not do so without putting an applicant through the formal application process.

Since Legal Cheek contacted Christopher yesterday, his entry on the site has been deleted.

However, Christopher is by no means the only senior member of the legal profession to have touted work experience offers on the site. He’s just the only one so far to put his full name to an entry.

Indeed, lawyers are flocking to what is billed as “the new old boys’ network” in the hope bagging their children all-important work experience. But some might suggest that it just looks like a modern, hi-tech version of old man nepotism.

MyInternSwap.com allows professional parents to contact each other directly to exchange work experience opportunities for their offspring, presumably with the possibility of circumventing lengthy application processes and continued knock-backs.

Another internship that was up for grabs on the work-experience site yesterday (pictured below) — but since deleted — was listed at US corporate-finance law firm Dechert.

The user named “Adam” offers up to one week of valuable experience at the firm’s London office, providing the other side can offer the Dechert lawyer’s 16-year-old — who attends all-girls St Margaret’s School in Hertfordhsire — some experience in marketing or publishing.

Dechert

Even esteemed members of the judiciary couldn’t resist the site. One post claims to be from a judge “specialising in family law” matters.

Offering flexible experience for one lucky candidate, the anonymous judge is seeking an internship for a 17-year-old offspring focusing on areas including medicine, science and arts.

Intern

A host of other postings from anonymous lawyers can be found on the site, offering time at their offices in return for sons or daughters gaining valuable work experience elsewhere.

According to the Guardian newspaper, the brainchild behind the site, Nick Simmons — who runs a design agency in London’s Notting Hill — was inspired to create MyInternSwap.com when his daughter Izzy told him her friend Marina was looking for some work experience in the design industry.

He told the Guardian:

I agreed to give Marina a placement, and by way of saying thank you her mother found Izzy experience at the thinktank where she worked.

Simmons continued:

It’s a tool we hope will kick the old boy network into touch and help democratise the process of securing valuable work experience. This is not a zero-sum game, and myInternSwap is not cannibalising a fixed pool of placements.

According to Simmons, those from less-advantaged backgrounds will be able to use the service for free. That is, presuming those parents have a family member or friend in a position to offer internships.