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Top QC teams up with rookie barrister to launch ‘how-to-get-pupillage’ blog

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Refreshingly honest guide goes live

A top QC and a trainee barrister have launched a new guide to securing that elusive pupillage, and fellow lawyers are lining up to praise it.

Pupillage and how to get it promises “unvarnished” and “no-nonsense” advice to help students to find and obtain pupillage. The site includes advice on choosing the right set, completing the application form and interview prep — such as how to handle common advocacy exercises like the “balloon debate”.

Its authors, Goldsmith Chambers pupil Beheshteh Engineer and Leeds-based silk Simon Myerson, say that they were inspired to write the guide because “there was no one single resource of high-quality pupillage advice available” elsewhere.

Lawyers seem to agree, taking to Twitter to praise the website. The Secret Barrister said that “if you’re a law student with aspirations of going to the bar, you’re going to want to get on this”. Meanwhile, Serjeants’ Inn ChambersKatie Gollop QC said that “it’s brilliant and you can have total confidence in it!!”

Myerson, who took silk in 2003, is something of a pioneer in the pupillage advice field. He first set up an online guide in 1996 as a chambers pupillage officer, converting it to a blog in 2002. The new website carries no advertising or sponsorship and appears to be a purely altruistic exercise. The content is largely written by crime pupil Engineer, who says that she nailed pupillage first time despite coming to law from a “non-traditional background”.

The 2019 Chambers Most List

What’s the big attraction? The site is entertainingly written, practical, and pretty informal. In addition to detailed advice on different aspects of the application process, pearls of wisdom include:

1. “Most of you won’t get pupillage. There are about 5,000 applicants per year and about 430 places”.

2. “Some chambers will produce recruitment literature; most is just guff but some is good”.

3. “Chambers absolutely do check your social media profiles”.

4. “If a set has juniors that boast 1st class degrees from Oxbridge and you don’t have one, your chances of getting pupillage at that set are very small.”

The Legal Cheek Chambers Most List shows potential pupils exactly how Oxbridge-y each set is. By contrast, Engineer studied theology at King’s College London as well as picking up a human rights master’s from SOAS.

Myerson tells Legal Cheek: “We’re really delighted to be launching the site. Beheshteh’s guide is a brand new thing — an online resource that looks at the questions in a structured way and can be easily accessed. The blog will drill down into the issues and provide a forum for discussion. Our joint experience means that we should be able to avoid too many errors.” He continues:

“The bar is really important — a cadre of independent advocates unafraid to lend their talents to unpopular causes is what helps keep a democracy democratic. The important thing is to ensure that the bar gets the best people — not just those best placed to access it. If this helps a bit (and we think it will help quite a lot), we will be happy.

The Pupillage Gateway, a centralised application portal used by many barristers’ chambers, opened for 2019 applications last week with a deadline of 7 February.

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65 Comments

The Court of Pie Powders

“If a set has juniors that boast 1st class degrees from Oxbridge and you don’t have one, your chances of getting pupillage at that set are very small”.

Nonsense. Magic Circle and other top commercial chambers have a number of juniors with non-Oxbridge undergrad degrees as well as a number with them. What matters is having a first from a good uni (the stronger the first the better obviously).

Also, once again LC need to include postgrad on their ‘Most List’ before pushing it on people. A first-class UCL grad with a BCL arguably stands a better chance than someone with just an Oxbridge undergrad. Until LC somehow learn to factor it in it will continue to be a misleading list.

(11)(13)

The Court of Pie Powders

But any chance to attack Oxbridge I suppose…

(3)(0)

Simon Myerson

I’ve got a Cambridge degree…
I do stand by the advice we give. But come to the site and discuss it. You’ll be welcome.

(5)(4)

The Court of Pie Powders

I was more referring to LC’s tendency to jump on the ‘isn’t Oxbridge so evil’ bandwagon in this instance (i.e. the concept of ‘Oxbridge-y’ which just puts off good applicants) rather than the website authors whom I know are trying to make a sensible point, but just in a way that concerns me.

I’ll readily accept some Chambers in some practice areas are very cliquey when it comes to universities. But your claim is that if the chambers “*has* juniors that boast OxBr 1sts” then your chances as a non-OxBr 1st are slim.

I see on the website it is elaborated to ‘most’ juniors, which I think is less concerning. However, I think it is too simplistic to say that *some* or even *majority* OxBr 1st juniors at any given set = no chance for anyone else. Sometimes numbers swing wildly. I’ve seen MC sets take a lot of OxBr one year and then very few the next. That’s the nature of good candidates competing, and my concern is only to ensure the non-OxBr ones don’t get discouraged by coming here and then thinking that some OxBr juniors means they won’t get in.

(4)(1)

Anonymous

Simon, have you ever come up against a Greenberg Glusker LLP solicitor-advocate in single combat?

(8)(0)

Anonymous

Stupid question. He wouldn’t be alive if he had.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

You are obviously not a lawyer as you have misconstrued what was said.

Myerson said:

“If a set has juniors that boast 1st class degrees from Oxbridge and you don’t have one, your chances of getting pupillage at that set are very small”.

You then attempt to refute this by using examples of sets (unnamed) which “have a number of juniors with non-Oxbridge undergrad degrees”. By definition, therefore, the class of chambers you identify are not within the class of chambers identified by Myerson.

You would not get away with this sort of sloppy thinking in Uxbridge County Court, let alone the Commercial Court.

(13)(3)

sue r pipe

But what of the news that the recently honoured Lord Harley of a Counsel has set up a new Chambers and is offering pupillage to all applicants who can demonstrate a rudimentary knowledge of the workings of a steam locomotive, with the option of becoming a Judge of the Privy Arbital Court after three months successful practice at the Pro Bobo Bar?

(3)(1)

Anonymous

I’d like to see how Myerson would stand up to the rough and tumble of a Birkenhead stage three.

(9)(0)

S**d and P*******ce AKA “The Big Boys”

Come on then if you think you’re ‘ard enough!

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I think it’s a good rule of thumb. Of course those chambers will consider anyone with excellent academics. If you were top of the year at LSE or something you should apply. But you will not be a contender if you have a 2.1 from a middle of the range Russell group uni (though you may have a good chance at other sets where there is less emphasis on academics).

(4)(0)

Anonymous

That’s why he said IF. If a chambers does have non-oxbridge juniors then it is not a firm where the juniors are from Oxbridge. If all the juniors are from Oxbridge then the guidance applies and the statement that if you do not have an Oxbridge degree you are unlikley to get pupillage at that particular set is logicaly true. This is called reading.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

BUT DO THEY HAVE A YOUTUBE CHANNEL???

(18)(0)

Simon Myerson

No. Should we?

(7)(1)

Anonymous

Yes – it’s a pre-requisite for being in LC nowadays.

(16)(0)

Anonymous

Wait so the Bar is preferential to Russell group universities. Thanks LC you fuckers are definitely taking social mobility in the right direction

(7)(3)

Anonymous

The truth hurts

(5)(1)

Anonymous

Fascinating that getting a degree from an academically selective institution helps in a career that requires intellectual rigor, who’d a thunk?

(3)(1)

Anonymous

“Top” QC? As opposed to what, exactly?

(2)(2)

Anonymous

“people like Pannick” who publish “outrageous articles”. That’s who.

(8)(0)

Simon Myerson

Bottom?

(8)(0)

JDP

You sound like my trainee.

(18)(0)

Anonymous

How to get a pupillage? – get good.

(7)(0)

Anonymous

“…they were inspired to write the guide because “there was no one single resource of high-quality pupillage advice available” elsewhere.”

That means you, Legal Cheek.

(31)(0)

Simon Myerson

It doesn’t really. We have different roles. And the Chambers Most list is a real contribution to sensible research.

(3)(10)

Anonymous

So Legal Cheek is, in fact, a “single resource of high quality pupillage advice”?

(6)(0)

Anonymous

Also, the Chambers Most list is fine as far as it goes, however because it only ever deals with a small number of sets (presumably the ones that have some sort of commercial arrangement with Legal Cheek), it can never lay claim to being comprehensive or, for that matter, unbiased.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Fair point. Does anyone know how they select these sets? It’s obviously not just “those who pay most to pupils” as there are sets missing from the list.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

The majority of sets are missing.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

The Chambers Most list covers a small minority of chambers. It’s usefulness is limited.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

It would be reassuring to know that those of the 4570 who applied to Leeds chambers without any family connection to the privileged schools in the area, nor the freemasons lodges, or other secret or exclusive societies, missed the cut fair and square !

I wonder how many Old Leodensians there are in the unsuccesful 91 % ?

I bet they and the old Etonian applicants in this year’s round are cursing their luck at this vlog. 5 years at 32k per year per child and then we finish uni only to see the playing field level before our eyes 🙂

Leeds Grammar is a day school, so it’s cheaper, but it is of a similar age (and , I think, the privilege brings results at key life stages)

What do others think ? Any stats about the percentage of fee paying school applicants in the 4570, and which schools ?

(2)(0)

Anonymous

This site has existed in some form for years. The silk created it.

(0)(1)

Anonymous

Sound advice from Simon Myerson. Look at the juniors and ask yourself if your academics square with theirs. Broadly, if you want to do Commercial or Chancery work, you will need an Oxbridge undergraduate degree. This is because the work is the most intellectually challenging the Bar has to offer. Plus, you will be instructed in the main by City lawyers who tend themselves to be Oxbridge, and they go to their intellectual equals at the Bar; they would hardly ask a Warwick graduate for advice on the law. I stress you need to have been an Oxbridge undergraduate, because Chambers rightly do not consider someone who, say, has been to Nottingham and then laundered their degree via a Cambridge LLM, to be Oxbridge. On the other hand, if you are not Oxbridge, you will stand a chance at anything other than a Commercial or Chancery Set. Personal Injury, Crime and Family, for example, do not require a first rate mind, and Chambers specialising in such work therefore are less picky; plus, your instructing solicitors will be from West End/regional/High Street Firms, and therefore of a similar level/background in terms of intellect and university.

(10)(18)

Anonymous

Pupillage is basically the way that barristers restrict competition and preserve a closed shop. The law is not an intellectually challenging profession even at the upper end. All competent practitioners with real experience doing high-end work know this. It’s usually the duffers who think there is something tremendously difficult about their work, precisely because this is their own experience.

(15)(12)

Simon Myerson

I am afraid that simply incorrect. As a general rule, it is sensible to accept the advice of the people who have the experience. Your position appears to be that everyone who doesn’t tell you what you want to hear is lying. That isn’t a terribly safe way to approach life, and it does ensure that you will be constantly disappointed. It’s actually better to focus on what’s required rather than pretend that because you may not have it, it isn’t necessary. Cheers.

(6)(2)

Anonymous

To be fair to the poster, Simon, your response would mark you as a duffer. Cambridge to Leeds, what ground breaking cases have you ever been entrusted with ? Are we likely to see you in the Court of Appeal judging over, say, the extent of the public sector equality duty ? No. But you are content to play your part in the justification of a closed shop.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

So this. Imagine the Supreme Court writing a blog about applying for a tenure there.

They have to get around the elitist fact that even though a silk from a Leeds set could do it, it just isnt the done thing…You would be with us against the outpouring drivel then, Simon, why not admit that it is drivel lower down ?

If X Park Square gave anyone with a good degree and the BVC a pupillage and a tenancy for 3 years, they would be able to hold down a practice. They just dont get chance. Same with you, you could write a court of appeal judgment, with all the help they get, you just won’t get the chance. You’ll survive because you got on the ladder, but you won’t help the ones who didnt, instead you trot out elitist tosh. Come on, comrade…be a brother from another mother. 😁

(0)(1)

Simon Myerson

I treasure this. Thank you.
But actually, I’m more inclined to judge my success by a 31 year marriage (so far) and 4 happy well-adjusted children. I love my job and I feel incredibly fortunate to do that. I’m proud of the work I’ve done and of modest professional achievement. I’m happy for you to search me on Baiili as to cases.
More pertinently, a great many of the people you wouldn’t consider duffers are my friends. I can’t think of a single one who would adopt your scale of values. First, as regards the importance of cases, each is hugely important to the people involved. Your characterisation of their work as easy, only good for a closed shop and drivel is unhappily condescending. Those aren’t attitudes that make a decent lawyer of any kind.
Secondly, the assumption that anyone could do the job is simply untrue. Look at the problems LiPs have and the failure of Mackenzie friends to achieve professional status. Nor is it true that anyone with 3 years experience can do the job well. That’s exactly why pupillage is so competitive. Your attitude is redolent of rejection and a failure to accept that it may be because you weren’t good enough. But what’s worst is that underlying it is the proposition that the client doesn’t matter and the barrister does: you’re saying “I could do this as well as you. Let me have a go”. That’s absolutely the wrong approach. Representing others is a privilege for you – not an entitlement you have. I’m afraid you demonstrate exactly why you failed.

(9)(1)

Anonymous

The part you struggle with is the main point of the piece. The 4570 rejects are not lips or Mackenzie friends, they are graduates with a bvc.

By definition they were judged competent or very competent to start pupillage by people who were qualified to the judge them as such, but who were not restricted by a closed shop on pass marks.

Virtually every professional you can think of, and many blue collar jobs such as a mechanic or an electrician, act for someone. So climb down from your pedestal on that, it is business as usual.

What else have you got…is it a great feat to represent Adam Johnson in a he says, she says trial ? Or uber in the argument about workers v employees ? Or Trump in a dispute about whether Presidential power extends to border wall commissioning ?

Again, the suggestion is, no, but it is a closed shop. If it wasn’t, anyone could read the documents and the law and present the case, pro or con.There are videos of supreme court hearings to look at nowadays, so you can see that the great are fairly hum drum, in actual fact. Just like accountants, surveyors and mechanics.
To have a wife and family is good and if you settle for the jewish free school or Leeds grammar, rather than facing the inevitable rejection of trying for eton and st Paul’s, then you live within your station in life. But most of those 4570 wished to rise above their station, and they werent allowed to by the profession. Their tutors would let them, but not people like you.

Try that.

(2)(3)

Anonymous

No reply, just a thumbs down.

Overpromoted, in a word.

(0)(0)

Simon Myerson

The BVC offers no guarantee of pupillage at all. The marks you gain relate to your ability to pass the examinations. Every profession requires apprenticeship. Most professions have more applicants than entrants.
Your assumption that anyone can do it isn’t borne out by experience or reality. And watching someone who is very good and very experienced make it look easy and then saying you could do it is madness. You’d not make the same comment about surgery…
If you’ve done mini-pupillages and hold that view then I’m afraid you’ve learned nothing. If you haven’t, then do some.
The comments about stations in life are simply irrational.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Can i do a minipupillage with you then please ?

Anonymous

Isn’t it the “BTPC”.

Otherwise, I’m sure it’s going to be a wonderful blog.

Anonymous

It is true. Provisional practitioners are, by definition, failures. If Myerson was any good, he’d be in London. So don’t take advice from him. He hasn’t a clue about how to make a success of a career at the Bar.

(1)(2)

Anonymous

20 k breach of trust allegation and strike off of two solicitors by the regulator. Sm QC wins high court appeal.

140k contract dispute to ca from construction court, if i recall.

A procedural report in a defamation settlement.

A few appeals re claims against the army

Preston and Nottingham were the root of the facts in a couple.

Which is the case which best shows your skils, so we can learn please ? I think it came up with 46, which is a lot. Those were the top of page 1.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Typical, crap, mixed-bag provincial practice.

(0)(0)

Clown

The fact you don’t know the difference between “Provincial” and “Provisional” is a mega lol when putting down the competence of someone else. Hysterical.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

I think that the poster was meaning provincial in the sense of unsophisticated, outside of the capital, Simon. It is also an alternative word to narrow minded.

I guess the sting is that those sorts of cases which Anonymous listed could have been dealt with at a more junior level than a silk , if london barristers had been used.

Nevertheless, the idea that the poster is a clown redresses the balance of the text as a whole.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Whoops, it was not Simon that posted Clown. Sorry about that Simon. That is the post below,which is from an earlier reply.

Simon Myerson

Well, not quite. It is simply wrong to pretend that an Oxbridge degree (and I have one) is a mark of intellectual quality. The proposition that the top intellects can safely be sorted out aged 19 is, pretty self-evidently nonsensical. It is true that an Oxbridge degree suggests a degree (sorry) of intelligence. That’s about it.
It is also true that some solicitors and some barristers suffer from confirmation bias, and want to recruit people who look like them. That is a problem which we are tackling at the bar, and solicitors are tackling it as well. And it certainly isn’t true that every commercial case is difficult and every family case is easy. A moment’s thought will demonstrate that can’t be right. As a general rule, I don’t regard one area of law is being more difficult than any other. And I do say that with the long experience of practising in a genuinely mixed way.
But thank you for the compliments. It is true that we are really trying to help. All contributions that are genuine are welcome. I take yours in that spirit, which is more than I can say for some of the rather silly things that are said below. But, ‘twas ever thus.

(12)(1)

Anonymous

“It is simply wrong to pretend that an Oxbridge degree (and I have one) is a mark of intellectual quality.”

An Oxbridge degree is not a mark of intellectual quality? Christ, you really have no judgment.

Do not take advice from this failure at the provincial Bar.

(1)(3)

Anonymous

Why does Simon Myerson spend so much time blogging and surfing the internet, even seemingly Googling his own name in order to find himself mentioned on this site and comment upon it, unless he has a lot of time to spare…

(4)(1)

But, as an advocacy tip, the simplest solution is usually right, on the one that involves demeaning someone else is usually wrong. Cheers.

Well, it’s called Twitter. It just pops up on your phone if they’ve tweeted about the site they asked you for a quote about. Then you have a coffee and reply to comments.
Of course, I’m sure you’re alternative theory is also possible. But, as an advocacy tip, the simplest solution is usually right, on the one that involves demeaning someone else is usually wrong. Cheers.

(0)(0)

Lorna

See also Sean Jones QC. 20,000+ tweets and somehow has time for legal work and a family. Far, far too much time on his hands. I think he doesn’t look erudite, he comes across as a sad and ultimately insecure individual.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

This is all so juvenile and it is thoroughly disappointing a so-called QC is involved – says a lot about how far we have fallen as a nation and as a profession. All candidates should be given a chance whatever their background. It is legitimate to consider Oxbridge as one factor – but only one – among many other factors that may be more important. I hope young Britons reading this will not be discouraged and will step forward to demand that fair treatment is given to all and that all are given a fair chance to show what they can do. I know many of you younger ones have been told to be anti-Brexit, and this comment is not intended to be political, but this country desperately needs a shake up to get rid of some of these entrenched and self-serving interests and attitudes.

(2)(5)

Anonymous

Agreed

Brexit was the one chance to vote for a total blow up of the system

You will never be allowed to vote for anything again

I’ll take my chances thanks

I love the smell of Brexit in the morning

GIRFUY

(2)(6)

Anonymous

Thats not what he has said. He has said that at some sets they will only recuit Oxbridge graduates. That is true. It may be wrong that they do so, but that does not change the fact that is true at some sets. There are other equaly good and in some cases better sets that do not do so. Logically the thing to do when the applications you can make are limited, is if you could apply to set A or or set B and you will be rejected by set A (whether fairly or not) then you should apply to set B. Simply applying to a load of sets who will reject you in neither in your interests. Nor will you ever change any prejudices at the Bar. As you will not be there, when you could have been if you followed what is pretty simply advice.

(10)(1)

Anonymous

Agreed. And there is more to this than mere career aspiration: the rule of law. People deserve the best representation and require the professional rigorously to regulate and control entry into it. Someone from, say, Warwick university might fancy being a barrister but they are simply not bright enough to do it. That it why the Bar should be restricted to Oxbridge graduates who are, by definition, the cleverest and best educated people.

(0)(3)

Anonymous

Even if that were true, intelligence is one factor needed to be good at being a barrister. If you can’t also be pretty organised, keep solicitors and clients sweet, juggle mutiple cases, turn out advices quickly and so on then you won’t be very sucessful in practice nor will you enjoy it much.

There are plenty of very bight people who leave the bar as they find they are not suited to or just don’t like doing the things you have to do in practice. The point is how someone does in their A-Levels at 18 doesn’t really indicate whether they’ll hack it or even like it in practice.

Most sets won’t care whether you went to Oxbridge or not. Some sets will only take Oxbridge gratautes. But it is competative so if your degree isn’t a decent one then you’re chances are low. Lots of Oxbridge graduates also fail to get pupillage every years, the same as other graduates. Because its over-subcribed and hard!

At some sets the Oxbridge degree may get you through the door. But I’ve seen applicants from all backgrounds royaly screw up an advocacy exercise or blow an interview because practice is very different to being a student and the selection process is trying at least to find out if the applicant would be good in practice.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

It should be “Top QC teams up with *top* rookie barrister”, innit?

(4)(1)

Long Bottom Eddie

Most of this thread sounds like a bunch of whinging half wit entitled tosspots. At least Myerson has made an effort and a pretty big one at that. The advice may sound blunt, but that’s the bar and this life. A good degree from a good uni is a far more positive function of social mobility than any diversity engineering could be.

(10)(0)

Anonymous

You are not a “top QC” if you practise outside London.

(2)(1)

Working class state educated Silk of a Single mother, who just tried hard and got lucky.

That has to be the most idiotic statement thus far made. Many London silks practice on the circuits regularly, and many from the circuits practice in London. Most of the top silks of yesteryear weren’t southerners or PLC, swaithes today are not. Who wants to live in a filthy squalid city when the beauty of the countryside allows for a better work life balance. Simon Myerson is a great silk and a top fella. His heart is always in the right place.
The chambers in Leeds he practices in is a very diverse and very successful set. They only pick the very best. Most there earn multiples of what their London based contemporaries do. Most have far better degrees, but most importantly all are there though their ability and force of personality. Most are state educated. Simons forum is telling a truth based upon the unhappy state of affairs, but not one that can be changed by him, you or me. Eventually it will give way to merit based decision making alone. But even then those of less merit will still squeal “not fair, I want want want want”

(5)(0)

MARA Agent

Hi there, as usual great post, I just think there should be more to the situation than what is presented. How can we apply such rigid policy to such sensitive and emotional issues

https://equiborder.com

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I’m glad Myerson has some help this time, as I found his old blog unhelpful when I was applying for pupillage.

I found Myerson’s writing insufferably smug. Also incredibly elitist, and essentially sticking two fingers up to anyone who doesn’t fit a specific mould whether that be in terms of school education, university education, or the place in which you grew up.

As a working class man from Scotland who obtained a London pupillage, just as well I ignored most of the blog and resorted only to posting mainly catty comments on it.

(2)(3)

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