London chambers offers ‘unpaid’ internship lasting up to six months

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Exclusive: But 9KBW will cover wannabe barristers’ travel expenses

A criminal law set nestled in the heart of legal London is offering aspiring barristers the opportunity to spend up to six months in chambers learning the ropes. There’s only one catch — it’s “unpaid”.

The internship, advertised on the website of 9 King’s Bench Walk (9KBW), a Temple-based set covering, crime, immigration and regulatory matters, offers law grads who are unable to secure pupillage an opportunity to gain “real world legal experience” and “increase their knowledge of substantive areas of law”.

The role is offered for a “minimum period of three months and up to a maximum of six months”, during which time successful candidates will provide “valuable support” to chambers. But not valuable enough to pay successful candidates a salary. The ad describes the internship as “unpaid”, but chambers will cover travel expenses “in and around London and for travel to conference venues”.

📷 A screenshot of the internship position on offer at 9KBW

A spokesperson for 9KBW told Legal Cheek:

“Chambers offers two funded pupillages each year as well as a fully subscribed programme of two-week mini-pupillages. Our available funding is dedicated to providing those funded pupillages, but we also make the funds available to pay all intern expenses, to ensure that the internship can be undertaken at no additional cost to the interns themselves.”

Probed on whether “all” expenses included accommodation for interns based outside of London, for example, the spokesperson added:

“Chambers pays travel expenses for travel in and around London as well as to any other venues we ask them to attend, such as conferences at solicitors’ offices and to any training events. When interns are with a barrister we expect the barrister to purchase lunch for the student. We do not pay for accommodation.”

A spokesperson for the Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, said: “The Bar Council is a signatory of the High Quality Internship Code and believes that it is essential that all internships are offered on an open and transparent basis in order to achieve effective social mobility and access to the profession.”

While internships offer aspiring lawyers an opportunity to acquire valuable CV-boosting legal experience, as the ad makes clear, critics of unpaid roles (particularly ones lasting up to half a year) argue they unfairly preclude applicants without the means to financially support themselves from applying.

This is a problem that stems beyond the bar. Research published last year by the Sutton Trust, a charity that campaigns to improve social mobility, showed that 54% of internships in the “legal sector” offered no remuneration, while a further 17% covered expenses only.

UPDATE: Friday, 26 April — 11:45am

A spokesperson for the Bar Standards Board said:

“The BSB is concerned by the practice of offering long unpaid internships which may hinder equality of access to the bar since many students simply cannot afford to work for long periods without pay. We expect all chambers to have policies which promote equality and diversity and to operate fair recruitment and selection processes.”

The 2019 Legal Cheek Chambers Most List


Former Scouser of Counsel

Our good for nothing regulator I’m sure will allow this to happen! Is the bar an old boys club? No, not at all. Just as long as you can work for free.


Scouser of Counsel

I am still alive, well, still a scouser and still counsel.



Well excuuuuuuuuuuse me, Princess!



Classic 90s



Poor you. My sympathies.



I know you’re lying: the only Scousers in court are defendants.



Ah, but their sartorial standards are higher than the national average- they still wear suits when in the dock!



Track or shell?


The regulator won’t care. It talks social mobility but does nothing, it only cares about women and BAME percentages.


Gerard Devlin

Actually it only cares about women…



🎶I wanna live for-ever!🎶


Someone else

Had a look at their website – joint heads of chambers married to each other and one is the daughter of the previous HoC…

And their pupillage award is 14k.

Not massively surprised in the circs!



What tasks will the intern be asked to perform? Probably similar to a pupil, paralegal or clerk. It is outrageous that chambers would use free labour in this way.



9KBW have been running this scheme for years now. Apparently it’s mostly paralegal/admin work, with some clerking thrown in.

Some would-be pupils couldn’t survive a single month without a salary, let alone three to six.



What possible use to a baby barrister would experience of filing, clerking and admin be?



Depends on how fit you are.



Deary me.



These areas of law that the chamber’s covers isn’t one with a lot of money and large cuts to legal aid. Some context is needed here, but most students blindly hop in.

Being a barrister isn’t all that it’s cracjdd up to be.



Thanks for that grammatical explosion. Lay off the cracj, will ya


Lord Eltham

I don’t see why this is so terrible. Training is becoming much more focused on employment, and is also getting more expensive.

In an article elsewhere on Cheek, you can read that BPP is offering a new module that will surely cost hundreds of pounds to study: “This training will provide different knowledge and deeper skills than those which will be covered by the SQE. They will need to have practised doing the tasks a trainee solicitor will do in a simulated environment”.

So they’re paying to study a simulated environment, while elsewhere 9KBW is providing a real environment free of charge.



Aren’t there employment laws against this kinda thing?



Yes. It’s called National Minimum Wage. And it’s obligatory; you cannot contract out of it.



9KBW are asking intern to carry out tasks for free which they would otherwise have to pay someone to do.



9KBW are not a charity. They are profit making. Someone is going to financially gain, directly or indirectly, from the free work that this intern does.


Ex Intern

I think this article portrays the scheme in a negative light and is unfair. As someone who recently completed a 3 month internship at 9KBW I think it’s only fair to say the following:

– Members often spent as much time (or more) helping me as I did helping them. It wasn’t paralegal work, it was an immersive learning experience

– It was primarily organised for my benefit, I did not spend time doing boring grunt work. I was in court every day observing advocates and learning from them. I had the opportunity to do legal research, draft advice and suggest questions to put to witnesses – but again this was because I wanted to learn and wanted feedback from experienced members

– they were more than accommodating in allowing me to pursue interning part time so that I could take paid work on the side. I was also free to take some time off for pupillage application deadlines and such

– it is one of the strongest things on my CV. And contributed significantly to me securing merit-based BPTC scholarships both with my inns of court and my university worth £10k between them. As I see it, this made work experience well worth it

– Unpaid work experience may be a barrier to people from certain less privileged backgrounds. However, there are paid internships- such as the Kalisher internship, which people from my background are totally ineligible for



Hello 9KBW



Weak damage limitation.



You have just listed a large number of benefits taken from an opportunity inaccessible to the vast majority of people who cannot afford to live without a salary for at least three months. You even go as far to say that this opportunity was key to obtaining a pupillages offer.

How can you not see that this is hugely problematic and completely undermines access to the profession?



Edit: Scholarships, not pupillage offer.


Ex Intern

There are several issues. Different points I have raised go to different issues.

The first issue people have raised is about exploitation. This is why I have raised the various benefits I enjoyed. This is why I thought it relevant to point out the RoI for me.

The second issue is access to the profession for those who can’t do unpaid work. This is why I have raised the existence of internships such as the Kalisher internship – which are paid but not open to people like myself.

I don’t see how this prohibits access any more than universities offering masters degrees. It’s takes less time and you don’t have to pay – but it bolsters a CV nonetheless. Many students take a year to study a masters at great expense to make their CVs more competitive.

Lastly I stressed the point that 9KBW allowed me to intern part time and were flexible. These are benefits that make it more accessible. I could still pay my rent by working part time and evenings.



What you describe sounds a lot like a first six pupillage. Would you do that for free?



In this day and age of competition, I think plenty would…


Ex Intern

Personally, yes. So long as I qualify. I left a 60-80k per year marketing job to retrain as a criminal barrister. It’s not about the money. Historically pupillage was generally unpaid, and it’s not like the 6k that most criminal sets offer in the first 6 really funds living in London in any event. The first 6 is just part of the training and qualification process that we shell out tens of thousands to complete anyway.

That being said, I am glad pupillage grants were introduced as they do help access for those who haven’t had a previous career, or parents who can support them. They also mean less pupillages are offered so a much higher proportion of pupils are able to get tenancy.



“I left a 60-80k per year marketing job to retrain as a criminal barrister.”

Awesome decision.



Hmm… enjoyable working day for £50K per annum (me) or boring drudgery for £60-80K (not a massive monthly rise when 40% tax is factored in)….

I’ll stick with the criminal Bar thanks!


You should have studied contract better and earned that every month for just reading stuff.


Its amazing how the tiny handful of barristers who actually do bill £1m+ all seem to hang out on Legal Cheek. Where do they find the time?


*”fewer”, not “less” pupillages



Goes on at selected sets in the regions too. Not advertised but connections can get you in to do an extended mini for 6 months.

Realistically you need the connection in the first place and to have someone to cover your expenses for 6 months (family/spouse).

Flies in the face of inclusiveness.



Regional informal internship?

Would you exchange your day job for this?



Ah! I see what you did there!

Exchange Chambers- fun for all the family!



Lmao like a 6 months long mini-pupillage!


Trainee Sam

I think it’s a positive move, most chambers demand so much more than just good grades for pupillage these days. I think it would be nice for the ‘intern’ to be guaranteed a first round interview or fast track to second round interview for pupillage too.

I know it’s also an unpopular topic but an awful lot of old school barristers got through when pupillage was unfunded and maybe, just maybe it would be nice to see if more pupillages would be available if the bar went back to that and if the Inns offered generous scholarships for unpaid pupillages. What ever way you look at it, obtaining a pupillage and a tenancy is to all intent a purposes a competition anyway, albeit a bloody expensive one to enter….



As an old school barrister I did an unfunded 1st Six. However, my BVC course fees were £4,000 (not £19,000). The Govenment paid my University Course Fees and I got a maintance grant. You cannot compare that to modern students who are £50k in debt at the end of Bar School. I was £5k in debt, so it was no problem at all to fund my first six with a bank loan. I may have got £6k less funding from Chambers, but I got (as did everyone of my generation) £35,000 more funding than the govenment and paid £15,000 less in course fees. Whichever way you look at it I was £50k better off than todays students so doing an unfunded 1st Six was a piece of piss. You cannot compare the two situations.



Essentially the new way to keep out the riffraff. Only upper middle class and gentry posh boys and girls ought to be allowed in this fine establishment, so we’ll make you work for free for six months! That way only those with access to The Bank of Mummy and Daddy can afford to work there. It’s a disgrace that the commoners have been allowed to work here for so long. rahrahrah



According to your logic, the same applies to going to University – three years at £9,000 per annum and living expenses on top – but it has not kept out the rifraf, so the facts are against you.

All those fulminating about minimum wage etc. are living in a bubble; for Arts graduates, unpaid internships lasting sometimes years are the only way into any relevant employment. The Bar is virtue signalling itself to death; its posturing on paid pupillages has (together with a squeeze on incomes in chambers dependent on Legal Aid) had the effect of reducing pupillages to a fraction of the level during the era of unpaid pupillages.

The result is an ever growing pool of those who have passed the Bar exams, but can’t become barristers because of the dearth of pupillages, and that is a much greater problem than a chambers trying to get around the paid pupillage rule by offering an internship. If 9KBW could be open about it and offer a pupillage, it would have immediate value as a qualification, instead of which we have the absurdity of an internship that might lead to a pupillage. The pupillage will be (poorly) paid but the net cost to the pupil will be greater than if the internship could simply be an unpaid pupillage.



You forgot that 9KBW also offers funded pupillages each year.



Brothers! Sisters!

Jeremy Corbyn will tax city greed to pay for unpaid internships for Palestinians!

We need to abolish unpaid internships and improve social mobility!




Grown up

This has grown old.



Hilarious that the 28 members of chambers cant cough up £8.75 a week (2 starbucks coffees a week) to give a decent living wage to an individual intern to have subsistence food and shelter.



Well it is 9KBW after all…



They’re already paying for two funded pupillages a year.



And so they should.

Whats your point?


Just Anonymous

Under section 1 of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998, all “workers” are entitled to be paid at least the national minimum wage.

Here, “worker” includes more than just employees. Section 54(3)(b) of the same Act defines worker as including anyone acting under:

“any other contract, whether express or implied and (if it is express) whether oral or in writing, whereby the individual undertakes to do or perform personally any work or services for another party to the contract whose status is not by virtue of the contract that of a client or customer of any profession or business undertaking carried on by the individual”

I now quote from 9KBW’s ad:

“Chambers interns perform a wide range of duties, under supervision by members, including reviewing briefs, and other documents; legal research, assisting in the drafting of opinions and advices, observing and note taking during conferences and attending at court with members to observe and assist during proceedings.

In addition to the work done with members the intern will be given an insight into the daily management of Chambers clerking and administration, spending time dealing with enquiries, observing the work of a busy clerks room and being trained and guided by the Senior Clerk in all aspects of the job.

There will also be the opportunity for spending time with Solicitors at their offices to observe and assist in the daily workload.”

In my opinion, reviewing legal documents, drafting advices, assisting with clerking and assisting in the daily workload of a solicitors’ office quite patently constitutes “work or services for another party to the contract.” That there is a contract is beyond sensible argument. The so-called interns are quite plainly not acting in a business capacity.

Finally, I also note that, in the same ad, 9KBW requests that all applicants set out “what you may be able to offer 9 KBW in return”.

Given these matters, I would be very interested in hearing why 9KBW thinks these ‘interns’ are not legally entitled to the national minimum wage.



It may be your opinon, but it is not the LAA’s. All the tasks you have described pay an AGF of £0. The intern is being paid the market rate of £0. You are in for a shock if you think as a self-employed barrister anyone is going to pay you a salary or the LAA / CPS will pay you a fee for “reviewing legal documents, drafting advices, assisting with clerking and assisting in the daily workload of a solicitors’ office.” The Standard Criminal Contract offers a fixed fee of £0 for all such activities. The only things which are paid are: A) Representing a client in Court; B) Representing a client at a police station; C) Attendance time as Court Duty.


Just Anonymous

You’re conflating this internship with work as a self-employed barrister.

Section 54(3)(b) (quoted above) does not apply where the other party is acting as “a client or customer of any profession or business undertaking carried on by the individual.”

That is precisely the situation between self-employed barrister and the CPS (or equivalent). The CPS is the client of the barrister, the latter acting in the course of his/her profession. Thus, minimum wage rules do not apply.

Here, however, the intern’s contract is with 9 KBW. Not the CPS (or any other professional client). 9 KBW is not the client or customer of the intern. Rather, 9 KBW is plainly acting as a de facto employer.

Furthermore, I find your argument that “The intern is being paid the market rate of £0” to be fundamentally misconceived. Minimum wage laws are, by definition, a statutory interference with the rate that the market would otherwise set. (You may disagree with that interference, but that’s a separate argument. If the requirements of the 1998 Act are satisfied, then the minimum wage must be paid. It’s as simple as that.



Not disagreeing with you that internships should be paid or not offered at all. However, my point is that as soon as anybody actually qualifies they are going to find themselves in the position where nobody will pay them either a salary nor will they pay them for undertaking the sort of work you describe. Pupils find themselves in this position already, as whilst they have recieved funding through pupillage as soon as they start tenancy all funding is removed and most find they are worse off in their first 12 to 18 months of tenancy than they were as pupils.

The problem with the social mobility argument is that it overlooks the real problem. The problem isn’t doing an unfunded pupillage. The problem is putting yourself £50k in debt to do University and Bar School. I qualified 25 years ago and did an unfunded pupillage. But, the govenment paid my Uni Fees and I got a maintance grant. My Bar School fees were £4k (okay £8k in todays money but still nothing compared to the fees students pay today).

I put myself 12k in debt to qualify and complete an unfunded pupillage. Today’s students with funded pupillages put themselves £50k in debt. Frankly whether you get £6k of funding to do your first six or nothing is neither here nor there in whether people without family support can qualify. It was far easier to qualify 25 years ago without family support and unfunded pupillages than it is today. The barrier isn’t funding or not during pupillage, its the lack of govenment funding doing university and the absurd costs of Bar School. These are things beyond the control of the profession. Pretending that the profession can fix that by funding pupillages is moving deckchairs on the Titanic.



“Pretending that the profession can fix that by funding pupillages is moving deckchairs on the Titanic.” Exactly! Finally a blast of common sense on a thread dominated by Magic Money dreamers.


The absurd cost of Bar School, and indeed the way in which the BPTC providers draw everyone and anyone in, is not beyond the control of the profession. The Inns could (and are supposedly) starting their own courses, which could only be made available to the most capable. In the same stroke, they could undercut the providers.


Yes it is. That is in the control of the BSB. It was the case (back in 1994 when I qualifed) that only the Inns of Court School of Law was authorised to run Vocational Course (as it was then called). That was it. One not-for-profit course provider with 900 places per year.

The BSB allowed private equity companies into the market, so course fees are now 238% higher than they were in 1994. However, the number of places at Bar School is also about 300% higher than 25 years ago. This was in response to complaints that it was not fair that students were being denied that chance to complete Bar School and apply for pupillage. If the position was reset, bear in mind students would be complaining that can’t qualify as they have been rejected by bar school rather than complaing that they can’t qualify as they can’t get pupillage. 75% of applicants for Bar School would be rejected and the filter would be at that stage rather than the pupillage stage.

Not saying that wouldn’t be a good idea. But the proffession has no more ability to change that than it has to make the govenment pay university course fees. As a member of the proffession I can decide to fund interns and pupils properly. I have no control at all over what the Regulator does. The Regulator just decided to lower the burden of proof to the civil standard from the criminal standard. That wasn’t because barristers were demanding that it was made easier for the Regulator to convict us! The BSB does whatever the hell it likes and the profession has no ability to stop it doing stupid and absurd things. Wish we did.


I would rather be rejected at the pre-BPTC stage than spend another year of studying an otherwise worthless qualification, and experience the hollow success of Call without pupillage. I’m sure many of my pupillage-less contemporaries would agree.


Don’t disagree. A simpler solution would be for the BSB to remove authorisation to provide the course to any provider charging more than the ICSL charged (adjusted for inflation). Course fees drop by £11k. Everyone who completes the Course can be offered a pupillage as the £11k saved in not paying the profit margins of the course providers is used to fund pupils through 1st Six. Everyone qualifys and the position is reset to how it was 25 years ago. Most will fail to actually make a living as barristers. But everyone has the chance to do so and even if you don’t make it into self-employed practice, you have at least qualifed.


The news that the Inns are thinking of providing the Bar course shows what a lot of needless trouble and expense the last couple of decades have produced.

Once upon a time, long ago, I attended a place called the Inns of Court School of Law, fees were in the hundreds rather than thousands and whilst the best pupillages were, as now, for Oxbridge Double Firsts, a pupillage could generally be found somewhere for anyone not obviously useless. Few survived into practice, but at least most could qualify properly and have a taste of actually being a barrister, even if it was nothing more than a few outings to do guilty pleas in shoplifting cases at Croydon Mags. Happy days.


They need to bring back unfunded pupillages, and end this farce.

A pupillage is not employment, it is training and it is my basic human right to choose not to be paid to get qualified.

I have no idea why there isn’t a riot going on about this.

Second issue, stop BTCP providers selling false hope to pile up money.




“I wasn’t good enough to get pupillage on merit.

So I think we should return to the days where only the rich could afford to do pupillage, so I can just buy one instead.

Because, muh human rights.”



It’s become so ferociously competitive, I honestly believe it is no longer a truly meritocratic process. I’ve seen and heard many dubious reasons for picking one candidate over another in my time.



I think you over-simplify mattters.

Firstly we have the private universities operating a “take anyone” policy on the BPTC. This includes students who are wholly unsuited to life at the bar and will never secure pupillage. Harsh to say, but true. They are being sold a dream they will never realise and at best have a qualification which looks good on a CV but will never be used professionally. £20k largely wasted. It’s why the Inns need to urgently take back responsibility for teaching the BPTC and make it available only to those who are likely to secure pupilage (and overseas students who obviously offer a means to subsidise the course for others).

However, it means we currently have a large and growing number of candidates applying for a declining number of places, on top of which sets are becoming increasingly picky in terms of which kind of pupil they want. Many sets blatantly operate an “Oxbridge only” recruitment policy (which isn’t exactly “diverse”).

The process is beyond competitive, now to the point that it is in-fact borderline unfair, with some interview experiences being borderline abusive. This was recently noted by Middle Temple who have asked students to report such behaviour to the Inn in order for the Inn to take such behaviour up with the Chambers concerned.

I completely understand the argument for paid pupillage and against unpaid ones (and of course internships). But this is merely an attempt to manage the problem rather than resolve it.

The problem is there are too many students for too few places. And forcing Chambers to pay pupils only further reduces the quantity of pupilages available. It might reduce unfairness at one end of the process but doesn’t address it the other – callees being unable to practice and earn a living in the profession they have just spent £50,000-£60,000 to enter.

Personally I find it regrettable that a pupil cannot enter into a contract with a pupil master on such terms as they agree – including pro-bono, or “loans against future earnings”, or supported by scholarships and/or loans if that is acceptable to both parties.

The whole system needs rethinking. No other profession has the “pupilage” system, and it is a huge barrier to the profession. Forcing sets to pay pupils is not sufficient to make the system “fair”. In fact it may contribute to the unfairness.

Inns spend millions on scholarships which could be better used if teaching the BPTC was brought in-house (ie made cheaper), taught only to candidates likely to secure pupilage, meaning more money available to assist the subsequent funding of pupils – either through pupilage scholarships or provision of accommodation.

One final thought is the Inns need to start charging a modest annual fee to members which could be used to fund pupils, which will open-up again the number of pupilage placements available via scholarships. Because it’s the lack of pupillage’s which are the real issue here.

And I bet 9KBW are now going to be inundated with applications for internships.



The Bar has become really just a closed shop and the competition authorities should do something about it. It has reached the stage where this is a political question rather than merely a professional one – i.e. whether we can and should perpetuate a system that so obviously creates artificial barriers to entry and serves the few so well and the many so badly. The public interest is at stake.

It will probably take a “populist” government to sort it out – but that may come sooner rather than later.



Very true about the BPTC providers selling a false dream for £18k+. Plenty of people with scholarships not getting pupillage either, meaning the Inns’ money is being pissed away.


Became a rockstar instead

Fuck that lol.



So, err, where are you currently doing pupillage?!


Paul the goat manager

Done it. Good few years ago.

Somewhere the clerks get good work and I earn over 250k pa and get instructed by well known national firms.

It is very difficult to get into a good chambers if you come from a bad chambers.

Good chambers recruit from their own pupils or barristers moving out of other good chambers.

It is not impossible to move up from a poor set to a good set but you would need a very good income from decent firms. That, 9KBW will not offer its tenants.


Richard Wood

If you’re getting £250k a year then you’re obviously not doing publicly-funded work like criminal law. Nobody in any criminal chambers earns that kind of money. Do you really mean to define a good chambers as one which only undertakes privately-paid work?


Foo Kong Daiv LLP

We have no association with 9KBW, and please learn to spell.


Scep Tick

How is this not racially discriminatory? The only people who can afford to spend time without pay are those who have money in their families – and the proportion of BAMEs with that sort of backing is much lower than whites.



🎼I wanna live for-ever!🎶





City trainee

Depressing that this still continues. I did a 6 month unpaid internship in a high street law firm a few years ago to try to get a competitive edge at a time when there was a post recession backlog of graduates all trying to get City training contracts and you couldn’t get a paralegal job without an LPC.

I don’t believe Mr “I’m Not Bitter At All” in the comments above who apparently did the 9KBW internship. Yes, in my case, the experience was formative and really helpful for my CV and helped me get an actual City TC in the end. But was it fair not being paid anything to basically do trainee work and having to have a part time job to do in the evenings just to make ends meet? No it fucking was not. And it shouldn’t be allowed to continue. I can’t believe 7 years on there has still been no real attempt to regulate unpaid internships by the BC or the SRA.


Lord North

Crime doesn’t pay, nor do crime internships


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