Advice

Should I stop chasing pupillage?

By on
187

‘I feel like I’m going backwards’

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one bar hopeful is losing hope.

“Hi Legal Cheek. I’ve just completed my third cycle of pupillage applications. I have a high 2:1 in law (non-Russell Group) and an outstanding on the BPTC. In my first year of applying, I didn’t receive any offers. I wasn’t surprised, I knew my CV wasn’t strong enough. In my second year of trying and now with some legal experience (minis, shadowing and an internship), I secured two interviews but no offers. I’ve just finished my third round of applications without receiving a single interview offer. This despite gaining further experience (two more minis and six months as a paralegal). Should I give up? I feel like I’m going backwards…”

If you have a career conundrum, email us with it to careers@legalcheek.com.

187 Comments

Sorry

Do you have a full time job? Paralegal for a bit

Anonymous

And reassess your career choices. Being a barrister is now in the sub-set that includes astronaut, premier league footballers and Victoria’s Secret models.

Anonymous

Do not give up! The whole system is pretty random. I got offer on first attempt in the first place I applied to (having a law degree from a foreign uni and UK LLM), while some Oxbridge educated friends spent couple of years applying for jobs. Honestly, do not see any logic in this, this is largely a matter of luck.

Duncan

Are llms hard? Do they require far more work than an LLB or same effort? Thanks

afsoinsofn

depends where you go. in my view, LLB was harder

Anonymous

Same for me! But my LLM was at a lower ranking uni than my undergrad, so that may be the reason

Anonymous

No, they are a piece of cake. It is basically a gap year. No one cares about an LLM. The only one year course in the UK with any cachet is the BCL.

Anonymous

What if you do your LLM at, say, LSE or UCL, specialising in international or commercial law? Would that be “a piece of cake”?

And money isn’t a problem, I’m very well off thanks to daddy

Anonymous

Total piece of cake. No-one in a pupillage interview is going to care unless you did the BCL or went to the States.

Duncan

Are US LLM’s more difficult? Or more demanding? Say at harvard or NYU? As opposed to British LLM’s?

Again, dw I can still afford it 🙂 my concerns are how strenuous the courses are and where I may achieve a high grade!

Anonymous

US LLMs are simple as the JD course itself is a post-grad course, so most law schools simply offer JD classses to foreign students as a fee-garnering LLM package. No-one will care what grades you get. The thing that will make a difference in interviews is most likely to be whether you gained one of the more prestigious UK scholarships to attend one of the top 10 US-law schools. And that is something a spoilt little rich kid can’t buy so easily with daddy’s cash.

madgrad

Cambridge LLM carries a lot of weight too, and its a doddle.

Anonymous

It doesn’t carry “a lot of weight”. A Cambridge LLM is for those too lazy to do the BCL or those who want to play in Cambridge for another year. Last time I interviewed someone with a Cambridge LLM my only question on it was “Why didn’t you do the BCL?”

Anonymous

Life’s hard.

Anonymous

And then you eventually realise that while your mother said you can be anything you to be she was talking bollocks.

Anonymous

Yours obviously never taught you to proofread!

#epicfail

Anonymous

Oh bless, it uses hashtags, while trying to be smart about typos. How ghastly.

citylawyer

I think it depends on what area you are looking to practice in. I suspect that it might be possible to get pupillage with your credentials at a decent criminal set or possibly a lower tier common law set even after a couple of attempts. However, based on your background alone, obtaining pupillage at a decent commercial or commercial chancery set is far more difficult as the standards are incredibly high. I know friends and colleagues with great CVs (with Oxbridge Firsts, mooting expereince, prizes etc.) who really struggled.

Anonymous

Do the PSQ. At present you appear to have no experience of advocacy at all and no relevant experience in any field of law. The PSQ will allow you to earn a reasonably good income for a start and give you client contact.

Anonymous

“reasonably good income” is quite subjective here.

Anonymous

did you have to put that? Or are you a very bored second year trying to look smart by making silly comment- virgin.

Rick

I AM NOT A VIRGIN!!!!!!

Anonymous

Standard rate is £100 per police station with an average of 2 to 3 per 8 hour rota. So you will come out with about £30 to £50 per hour. Your BVTC / LPC gives you exception from the 1st Stage so you only have to do the Portfolio. Its better than paralegaling which is your only other option when not yet qualified. Worst case, you do it and have an extra income source and gain some experience. Best case it helps you qualify.

Archibald Pomp O'City

How rather refreshing to see a comment with useful advice rather than a dismal attempt at wit.

Anonymous

Spoiler. Cheers, sons crying. Nice one.

Anonymous

It may be that your CV is going backwards, in the sense that the sort of things that chambers look for may now be a bit out of date. For example, my set looks at advocacy experience and positions of responsibility, among other things. If you haven’t done any advocacy since the BPTC, then it might now look a bit stale. If you can fit FRU or solicitor’s agent work into your work schedule, that could keep things fresh and give you something more to talk about at interview.

Kronos

Give up, move to LA, and apply to join Greenberg Glusker LLP!

It’s clearly a top, top titan of a firm – why else would it be mentioned so frequently in the comments on Legal Cheek?

Anonymous

It features because of pointless unfunny trolling.

A concerned citizen

You need to be euthanised, for the good of humanity. I can promise you that it will be completely painless – unlike reading your painfully unfunny GG comments for the fiftieth time.

Anonymous

You with the euthanasia obsession who has commented here several times before in exactly the same way, please get help before you hurt somebody, or yourself.

Anonymous

Brothers! Sisters!

A universal basic income is the hallmark of a civilised society! No one should need to work! People work too hard as it is!

Embrace your idleness and campaign for Jeremy Corbyn!

We need to tax City Greed at 75% and redistribute it for legal aid and a basic income!

VOTE LABOUR! FOR THE MANY, NOT THE FEW!!!!

Anonymous

Stranger! Stranger!

A lack of a safety net is the hallmark of a fair society! Everyone should need to work! People work too little as it is!

Embrace your greed and campaign for Theresa May!

We need to cut back on disabled greed and hand that money back to the City boys and girls!

VOTE TORY! FOR THE TOP, NOT THE BOTTOM!

Anonymous

Do you also post the GG ‘jokes’?

Anonymous

🎶OH J-JEREMY CORB-BIN🎶

Anonymous

Maybe it is JDP going crazy after LC started to delete all his/her (?) comments.

Anonymous

Do not give up! It is correct to say it is a bit like a lottery! The 5 year limit can often be extended if you have relevant legal work experience as it is in place for continuing professional development reasons. Real life work is what will set you apart – chambers want to see that you can do the job as everyone has the BPTC, minis etc keep working and finding examples through your work of how you are developing the skills needed to be a Barrister

Anonymous

I know and feel your pain! Keep on going, widen the scope, network more and sharpen your application. Getting there one time means you have something someone will want.

Anonymous

I’m coming to the end of my fifth cycle of pupillage applications. I have a first from a non-Russell Group university, a Masters from a Russell Group University, an Inn scholarship, a handful of relevant (but now dated) minis, a VC on the BPTC with a couple of awards, international mooting experience, and two years of paralegal experience. There has been some pro-bono stuff sprinkled here and there, too.

I’ve made close to 100 pupillage applications over the last five years, and obtain more and more interviews with each passing year. I obtain at least one final-round interview every year. This year, I have had ten first-round interviews, and converted four of them into final-rounders. I would have quit years ago if I wasn’t getting close. It is a maddening existence.

My comments may not be particularly helpful as, like you, I’m on the outside looking in. But from my years of pushing through the drudgery, one thing has become clear – one’s ‘fit’ with chambers is very important.

However, ‘fit’ is a difficult thing to achieve. At the paper stage, it is hard to sell oneself to chambers if you have no direct experience of them or their work. Some chambers make matters worse by having little online presence, and therefore little material with which you can establish links.

Even if you do have some connection with chambers, you may sometimes get the wrong end of the stick, or your app will land in front of someone who actually doesn’t think very much of you anyway.

On that note, in the past I have gained access to some of my application mark sheets from some chambers. I have seen big disparities in the way members of the same committee award marks. There is and will always be a subjective element to the process.

At the interview stage, technically excellent interviews may not result in offers because you do not have the personality that particular chambers is looking for in a pupil. I’ve experienced that a number of times, and it’s reflected in the feedback I’ve received. It is a frustrating reality, and something you can’t really remedy.

Once lots of chambers start rejecting you, the question of whether your personality is not suited to the work of a barrister is raised.

But perhaps that is just paranoia forged from years of rejection talking. It might just be because far too many people are funnelled in to the BPTC, with nowhere to go thereafter. It might just be because it has disrupted the last few years of my life, but I believe the pupillage demand/supply gap is a major issue the Bar as a whole needs to address. It wouldn’t be so bad if the BPTC grads had somewhere to go reflective of their work and achievements – but a lot of them don’t.

My advice is based on my current plan of action. Continue making your applications, but with each passing year drift further away from jobs traditionally thought of as more closely aligned to the Bar. Find a job in the Civil Service or an NGO, and start getting on with life. I’d advise looking into qualifying as a solicitor, but in recent years the avenues for BPTC grads have been blocked, and so it may be better to wait for 2020 or beyond. Hopefully the SRA qualification shakeups will introduce a new path for us.

Good luck out there – life for those of us stuck in the pupillage purgatory isn’t all that fun.

Barrister but a shit one

Let us know if you get your pupillage! Sounds like you thoroughly deserve it.

Anonymous

It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, I’m afraid. And to be honest, I’m at peace with it. I have become thoroughly disillusioned with the Bar, its processes and its people.

As I stated above, ‘fit’ is important, and it has been made painfully clear to me that irrespective of my achievements, passion and persistence, I don’t fit in anywhere at the Bar. Many who complete the BPTC just don’t. Time to find somewhere I do.

Anonymous

Best of luck to you.

It is so easy to forget that you have other options in life and ultimately, those that truly matter (your partner/kids/family/dog) won’t ‘love’ you more for being a barrister than not being one.

Plenty of unhappy, alcoholic barristers out there with broken marriages and kids they never see seeking validation and attention anywhere they can get it. Don’t make your career your identity.

Anonymous

This is so true! But of course if you have done the BPTC your family – whether that’s your parents, partner or kids – will generally want you to succeed at the goal you set yourself in the first place, so this sometimes just adds to the pressure, especially if they have given you support by providing finance / letting you take time out of paid work / borne the brunt of the household chores.

Anonymous

My elderly dying uncle (my only living relative) said it would be the proudest day of his life to see me on my feet in court.

The sheer stress of not being able to get pupillage means that I am suffering from bed-defacating.

Anonymous

Yep. I can see just how upset and frustrated my parents are, mirroring my own feelings. Thankfully, like me they have come to understand the process of obtaining pupillage for what it really is, rather than take my inability to obtain it as a reflection of my work ethic or aptitude.

Anonymous

We’re all in the same boat. Paralegal experience is good, a real-world insight into the practice field is always good marks. Minis in all aspects of your chosen field add weight. But pro bono, moots, debates and real world advocacy experience haven’t been mentioned in your profile. Focus on those if they’re lacking. You’ll also need a whole lot of luck, unfortunatley. It’s a maze that we’re all trying to navigate.
Was once told there is a huge difference between mooting and advocacy – every LLB/BPTC grad has the former. Not everyone has the latter. It’s the latter that is key: FRU, police station rep etc.
The Bar loses talented and capable advocates not because they are not chosen for pupillage, but because they give up rather than keep fighting.

Anonymous

One of the hallmarks of a good litigator is knowing when to give up and when to keep fighting.

Anonymous

Perseverance is the key.

Everyone loves a trier.

Anonymous

This is key because remember in the saturated market chambers are now keen at looking at how long will you stay with us/will you commit to the Bar long-term.

Anonymous

God no! I don’t want to see someone who tried too hard. I want to see effortless success. If someone works too hard to achieve the entry tickets then they and their mind are too dull.

Scep Tick

Change your surname to Denning or Browne-Wilkinson or Sumption or any other QC or judge you can think of. They’ll be queueing up for you.

Bendy Hendy

Personally, I recommend kidnapping a QC’s child. Don’t give it back until you’ve got what you want plus a pair of plimsolls. For god sake done forget the plimsolls.

Big Jobbie the Dominator

Get back in your box, Hendron!

Did I give you leave?

Fred

Give up one the bar but not the job.

I assume it’s the actual advocacy you enjoy and although it wasn’t something I initially thought I would enjoy, I do now. So I can see the appeal, but there are other ways into the court room if that’s what you want to do. The Bar buy it’s nature tend attract the sort of people, who’s faces fit etc and maybe yours doesn’t. Mine most definitely wouldn’t fit in any set of chambers I can think of but I still spend a grate deal of time on my feet in court.

So as long as you don’t mine not have ‘of counsel’ tacked on the end of your name look at the other legal professions

Anonymous

U cant even spell mate never mind apply to chambers

Anonymous

Can you try devilling/pupillage in Belfast? Or even Dublin at a stretch?

Anonymous

There are only a small number of places and you have to sit an extremely competitive entrance exam. Is your dad or uncle a QC? If not, then no devilling for you. Plus there is almost no work once you are in.

Anonymous

I think the uncomfortable and often unspoken truth is that if you start off with a non-Russell group university undergraduate degree you are going to have a tough time of it. As others have stated the odds are already pretty slim for Oxbridge undergraduates seeking pupillage and if you are non-Russell group you are really fighting an uphill struggle.

Part of the problem is that BPTC providers like the UoL and BPP don’t give a s*** where you did your undergraduate degree. Clearly they just want your tuition fees. They will promise misguided applicants the world and offer them encouragement to get those fees. From an economic standpoint that is very unlikely to be a worthwhile gamble – although obviously I appreciate that there will be a small number of examples of non-RG undergraduates who have made it to the bar. You need to have an objective look in the mirror as you will probably be better off applying for something else instead.

I also think “perseverance” on its own won’t get you anywhere and adding some additional mooting experience to your application the following year is unlikely to make a difference. The academic snobbery prevalent throughout the bar will mean that your application will realistically almost always come second to someone who has an Oxbridge undergraduate degree. I predict a pupillage application reviewer’s eyes will be drawn to that part of the form first over any extra-curricular experience.

Anonymous

Hello, I got an offer of pupillage in my fourth year of applying, actually from a very prestigious Chambers (far more up-market than many I’d been desperate to join). I don’t think you should give up, but I do think you should have an alternative plan and work towards that. If you can’t be a barrister what would you want to do next and realistically could do? It may be hard work but can you work towards both goals?

In addition to FRU work and your paralegalling, try writing legal articles, because that shows oomph and will look impressive.

Don’t give up, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket either. Good luck! xx

Anonymous

It took me 5 years of applying. I was often rejected without interview at low ranked chambers, and ultimately secured pupillage at a top tier set. It is almost entirely pure luck. Do get someone senior to look over your application – there might be improvements you can make to your written application.

You have nothing to lose in carrying on trying for pupillage, but in the meantime try to secure a job you enjoy so that you don’t hate life in the interim whilst applying for pupillage.

Anonymous

The advice of juniors up to 5 years’ call is likely to be much more helpful as they will have seen it from both sides.

Most “seniors” at the Bar probably have no idea what the process entails and, frankly, would have absolutely no chance of getting pupillage today.

St82A7

Time to give up, go into legal recruitment with all your peers.

You’re non-Russell group, who spoon fed you the lie?

Anonymous

Don’t do endless FRU cases. The saddest part of spending time there was watching excellent advocates take on 20+ cases and still get nowhere because of academic snobbery over which university they picked aged 17.

You have one life. I stopped applying after 4 application rounds to set up a business. I’ve travelled to 40 countries since then and only wish I started sooner. Lost two stone of weight from law school and felt like a new person. Dating-wise, I definitely got more attention by not being involved with the law as I think I came across as much more relaxed, happy and approachable. It’s been incredible and beyond anything I could have ever imagined.

No depression, sexual harassment, insecurity, racism, worry over getting paid by solicitors, couriers sending papers at midnight or aggressive members of chambers. I don’t walk around feeling stressed all the time or thinking I have anything to prove.

Confront reality. The Bar is full of narcissist, emotionally-broken, alcoholic, entitled snobs. Read what’s on Twitter and be honest about whether you’d like those whinging, manipulative attention-seekers as friends. No amount of followers, cases won or booze ever makes them feel whole.

You have one life. The peace of mind you get from stepping away from the pupillage chase to actually do the things you want to do with that life is beyond monetary value. I’m grateful every day for those opportunities.

Anonymous

Despite your repeated attempts to sound happy, you still sound very bitterly resentful towards the Bar. I hope one day you truly are happy in your career and can move on from this hatred towards barristers.

Anonymous

There we go – an ad hominem attack because I chose not to live a stressful and nightmarish existence.

Why do you think so many in the profession harass one another or turn to alcohol? I don’t think it’s because they’re particularly happy and fulfilled.

Anonymous

hahahaha you moan about ad hominem attack when your entire original post was a personal attack on barristers..

Anonymous

And now I’m meant to realise my grave mistake and mourn what I missed out on..?

OP, go out there and get those dreams you have. Putting your life on ‘Pause’ because you’re waiting for pupillage is ultimately beneath your talents.

Anonymous

Well it wasn’t so much a mistake. You tried and failed to secure pupillage. I hope you can move on with your life, a life outside law (and not reading Legal Cheek). I know people who are happy with their alternative careers after failing to secure pupillage. Despite your protesting, you do not seem to be happy..

Anonymous

I now need a barrister’s permission to read Legal Cheek and to voice an opinion…?

This really doesn’t help the ‘Barristers are actually lovely people’ argument.

Anonymous

Don’t think that was the argument. You have never practised at the Bar and have no idea what barristers are like nor do you have any idea what practice at the Bar is like. Yet you post as if you do.

Anonymous

So you think people who have never practiced at the Bar have no right to an opinion on the behaviour of barristers? As if we don’t know any very well from the BPTC, public Twitter accounts, pro bono advocacy appearances, relationships or working for them??

Amazing how some barristers physically can’t handle any criticism. There’s the narcissism and insecurity at work again.

Anonymous

So you think people who have never practised at the bar know what its like? 99.9% of barristers do not have twitter accounts, the BPTC is not practice and unless you are a clerk you will never have worked for a member of the bar. Amazing how some failed applicants can’t handle the idea that perhaps they just were not that good. There’s the narcissism and insecurity at work again.

Anonymous

You think the only way a barrister could employ another person is as a clerk???

You aren’t really in practice, are you?

Anonymous

If you are so happy with your lucky escape, why are you on this site?

A barrister

Sadly, I have to agree with your assessment of members of the profession

Andon

If you are so “over” the Bar and are pursuing a non-legal career, it is a bit odd that you are still perusing and commenting on Legal Cheek. Methinks the failed BPTC graduate doth protest too much.

Anonymous

Is your practice so poor that you have plenty of time to look at Legal Cheek too…?

Andon

On the contrary – my practice is so healthy I only need to work a 3 to 4 day week most of the time. But anyway, I posted at 7pm. A better questions is, is your social/sex life so poor that YOU have plenty of time to look on LC at 11pm on a Friday night?

Anonymous

So much pointless aggression thrown around. No job is worth that.

Feel genuinely sorry for your wife and children.

Anonymous

One can overcome the problem of having attended a university with a lower reputation for undergrad by doing really well, ranking very high in their year and pursuing the Oxfod BCL or Cambridge LLM and getting a First or Distinction.

Anonymous

FRU is advertising a paid legal officer internship for 15 months – good way to earn and learn/boost your CV. They say most previous legal officers have obtained pupillage. http://www.thefru.org.uk/vacancies

Anon

The ones who didn’t get pupillage after being an ALO were ethnic minorities.

We need to stop pretending that race is ignored at the Bar.

Anonymous

To be fair the vast majority had pupillage already.
The comment re ethnic minorities is not true. I have a good friend who did the FRU thing and got pupillage after and he is definitely white!

Anonymous

Yes, being White and an ALO for pupillage is usual.

Of the two ethnic minority ALOs in the last 10 years, one made 5 rounds of applications to get it and the other didn’t get it at all.

Anonymous

Nice opportunity, but only available to those with advocacy experience in the Social Security Tribunal. Considering it’s a pre-pupillage job, that’s a small pool of individuals.

Pupil Barrister

I obtained pupillage after 6 years of doing my BPTC. Get another job that you like and never stop trying.

Anonymous

It took you 6 years to do your BPTC?

Anonymous

SEN.

Don’t discriminate!

Anonymous

You could do a PHD in law and teach part time. You can now get government funding for a PHD and as I understand it, academics are exempted from the pupillage stage. So Dr and Counsel is not a bad way to go. Off course if you do land a pupillage you have 7 years to complete your PHD and many respected barristers have completed one into their career.

Not sure

What is your source for academics being exempted from pupillage? Wouldn’t this take OP much much longer to get through without any guarantees after they finish the PhD?

Anonymous

https://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/media/1823342/transferring_qualified_lawyers_guidelines_2019.doc

Applications by Law Teachers
Applications by teachers of the law of England and Wales for relaxation of the usual requirements for Call to the Bar and entry into practice

Helpful I hope

I had a Professor, Jeremy McBride, who qualified via this route. He was a full Professor with decades of background of high quality research and analysis of EU law. He was taken on by Monckton chambers. You have to do a lot more than just be a law teacher for this to be an option to develop a proper career at the bar.

Anonymous

See rule 5.8. It’s very unlikely an academic would be exempted from everything. It’s much more likely they’d be exempted from the BPTC, but have to sit Part B of the BTT and complete a reduced first six but probably a full second six.

Random passer-by

Do not do a PhD in law unless you wish to be an academic and you really love your subject. Every person I know who has done a PhD in non-science/engineering subjects and who is not an academic has regretted it. Also every tutor/professor I asked about doing a PhD said I shouldn’t do it, and they discourage all students from doing it unless those students come back with some very solid reasons why they want to do it. It is a very solitary, difficult, frustrating existence to produce a piece of work that very few people will read. Honestly, you are better off doing an LLM and then even doing a second masters by research such as the MJur or MLitt or something like that, which will only take one year and is essentially an extended masters dissertation. A PhD is a 4 year journey, the more time you take to travel and visit other universities or to publish other articles etc. the longer the PhD will take. In industry, PhDs in science and engineering are desired by Biotech companies, Engineering companies, Oil and Gas companies and even investment banks so there is some end goal. But in law, no chambers will want you because of the PhD. Forget solicitors firms. In fact they will want you for all the things you achieved during your PhD, which I pointed out will delay you finishing the PhD and which you could do working anyway (the publishing, speaking at conferences etc.)

Anonymous

@Random passer-by; “it is a very solitary, difficult, frustrating existence”, seems exactly like practicing at the bar.

Random passer-by

To some extent true. I’m not a barrister so cannot comment, but it does appear that barristers interact daily with colleagues and clients, particularly when the case is close. Your PhD supervisor could be wonderful and engage you in amazing things, i.e. James Crawford when he was at Cambridge or Rosalyn Higgins at LSE back in the day. However many don’t give a sh*t and will barely make time to see you every 6 months. Your project is not their concern, and they will not get you involved in any of the work they do. I just honestly believe that unless one wishes to be an academic or has very rich parents and a lot of time to kill to pursue an intellectual passion, a PhD in a non STEM subject is pretty useless and bloody difficult. The number of people who don’t finish it is also quite high.

Anonymous

Become a sex worker

Anonymous

How much do you make from the oldest profession?

Anonymous

Shipping pays well

Anonymous

What’s “shipping”? Sounds filthy. I want to try it, but not if it pushes the hourly rate up too much.

Rose

Don’t waste your life. I spent years trying to get a pupillage while working. If you haven’t got it by the third round call it a day. Go and get a life. Being a barrister is not who you are, it is how you earn money. It is a sad thing to see your life spent on a unicorn quest.

I worked as an in house counsel because I had an external training qualification (working with European lawyers, with Brexit no longer an option). I was fluent in other languages, had an upper second, bags bags of experience, mini pupillages, loads of interviews.

They almost always take the white male from Oxbridge instead of others.. and send the “you are the third canditate we want but we will take only two” letter…or they used to, nowadays you are lucky if you get a personal rejection letter.

Mind you I have a few barrister friends who do pupillage committees, thanks to personal efforts of some members, chambers are more willing to look at others, candidates who are not middle / upper class white males from public schools.

One more thing, the real reason for lack of pupillages is twofold,

1. The increase in the number of bar vocational course providers after 2000, it is a money maker for providers. It is easy money, they sell the dream and hundreds of students go for it. Nobody explains the reality of it to 20 year olds.

Before there used to be 4 or 5 schools, nobody had false hopes than, if you got in and finished with a good grade plus minipupillages etc. you had a fair chance of getting a pupillage, 1 in 4ish.

2. That silly court case years ago stopped unfunded pupillages. Monstrous example of misguided social engineering.

Before that non Russell / non Oxbridge people had a chance because there were about 600plus pupillages offered on avarage. This is an excellent example of how supposedly “equality” motivated act brings about catastrope.

You need to understand now when you apply, you are asking self employed people to take on a complete stranger, pay him/ her, teach them the secrets of the trade and then share your black book (solicitors in this case) with them. No self employed person in any other business would possibly agree to this. This is the problem with compulsary funded pupillages.

If you have already invested in law school and the BTCP or whatever they call it now, most likely you are either already in depth or have parents supporting you, so losing it all for a year of 10-20K minimum pay seems really stupid. Whoever decides to go for it needs to do the maths before starting on this quest. This is not a job guaranteed route.

Go and study medicine if you want to do something useful, at least unless you muck up really badly, you will end up as a doctor, and have a job for life that pays.

Anonymous

Yes. Final straw for me was seeing someone get pupillage at a set where three of the Head of Chambers children had been to the same London private school as he had.

He had never been in employment after uni and started pupillage straight after the BPTC.

Anonymous

Of course, the chap in question got a first and few prizes from Cambridge. But boy was I bitter with my 2:1 from Scumbag College.

Anonymous

But I went to Cambridge too without my parents paying for my education?

Anonymous

Did you get a first and did you win some prizes in finals?

Anonymous

So a poorly educated peasant. No wonder the person from a private school was preferred.

Anonymous

Wish you had the balls to say that to the clients who help pay your mortgage.

Anonymous

The ‘silly court case’ actually held that pupils are not workers and not entitled to payment. The majority of pupillages are awarded to women and 16% of barristers are from ethnic minorities. In fact there used to be 1 School of Law, not 4 and about 900 pupillages not 600. Perhaps your complete ignorance was the reason you did not get pupillage.

Obvs

Yes

Anon

The most important question to ask yourself here is do you really want it, ‘it’ being a career/life as a barrister with all the unique ups and downs it hold. If you feel like you’ve had enough experience/done enough research to know the answer to that question is yes then do not give up just yet. No doubt you have heard countless stories of ‘I got pupillage after 4/5 tries’ and although they can just become noise listen and take heed of them!

My experience has been pretty much identical to yours except for the fact that in this round (my 3rd attempt) I only got one interview and went on to get pupillage at that set. This isn’t me showing off but making the point that had I not applied to that set I would be in the exact same position as you, yet clearly a chambers was willing to take me on.

Look at your CV, take the next year (plenty of time) to improve on anything you feel you lack and really consider what chambers you are applying to. You sound like you’re doing all the right things and the fact you are feeling this way is in itself a good sign of self reflection/humility. Keep trying because what’s another year or so in limbo compared with the rest of your life wondering ‘what if’.

Anon

Anyone else notice how any criticism of FRU vanishes from the comments? Funny that.

Anonymous

A lot of people on Legal Cheek are antagonistic towards FRU. Why is that? I don’t understand

An Employment Barrister

“They were offered mediation because English law does not provide volunteers with enforceable protection against racism, sexual harassment or disability discrimination.”

Incorrect.

Anon

EA 2010 excludes volunteers. Tribunal before a judge is not an option as it is for an employee.

In theory, volunteers could try the County Court to claim they were sexually harassed at the charity. I’m not aware though of any case law where a volunteer was successful using this route? Please correct me if I’m wrong.

Pretty grim to be volunteering to help prepare a claimant’s sexual harassment case for tribunal, then to be harassed yourself with no option for a judge to hear any evidence.

Fillable Hour

I’ve noticed too that the barristers/authors who seem to promote it the most don’t prepare cases there or spend any time in the office.

Funny that.

A

Some people don’t enjoy the office environment because they believe there is a culture of favouritism and bullying.

Others have made formal complaints about sexual harassment by other volunteers and found mediation with the charity and their QCs horrible to experience.

When these opinions and facts are expressed by vulnerable women, they are censored from the comments section. There is nothing libellous about expressing an honest opinion. There is no libel either in mention true facts that the charity has been involved in mediation with its volunteers.

Do you see why they lose sympathy?

Anon

Feel awful for the people who have been bullied and sexually harassed there.

What a disgusting and horrible way to treat volunteers. Very much hope the Charity Commission or Bar Council steps in and helps these poor people.

No-one should be sexually harassed or have to go through mediation whilst selflessly giving up their legal skills and time to help others. I see comments disappear too when victims try to speak up. Awful.

Anonymous

The reason you don’t understand is because the comments explaining always get deleted.

You have to be quick to discover what it’s about.

Cry me a river

If you are giving up after 3 rounds you a) don’t want it very much d) don’t have much self belief.
I say this as someone who took what felt like a million years to qualify as a solicitor. Call it arrogance, self belief whatever I honestly thought I would make a damn good solicitor. I believed in myself when noone else did.

Anonymous

It’s all about you isn’t it?

Anonymous

Your parents must be so proud.

Anonymous

OP @ 7:44pm: What a twatty generalisation. I have known people for whom three years of applications they worked incredibly hard to make stick created enormous disruption to their personal lives and financial stability. Don’t cast them aside like they didn’t want it badly enough.

Pupil to be

It took me 3-3.5 years to get pupillage. Got a lot of first rounds, but struggled to get second rounds the entire time. Then in my final year of applying, I did an Oxbridge master’s in law, having got a first from a non-Russell group university. Whilst on the course, I managed to get two offers, all within the space of a week, and narrowly missed out on a third.

So in some ways I feel like I have to agree with some of the comments above: the Bar still loves Oxbridge, regardless of whether you graduate from an Oxbridge undergrad or postgrad degree. But I have to categorically disagree with some of the suggestions that if you have been to a non-Russel group uni (which, in reality, means very little these days, if it ever did mean something) will hamper your chances of getting an offer, if not multiple offers; and you could say I’m a good example of that.

So my advice would be: do a master’s in law (doesn’t have to be Oxbridge, but I’m sure it would help if you could). Having browsed hundreds of barristers’ online profiles over the years, whilst applying for pupillage, I’d say 80%, if not more, of the junior tenants I’ve seen have master’s of some form or another. It just seems to be the trend, if anything. Good luck and keep at it!

Anonymous

You are only Oxbridge if you went there as an undergrad. Decent Chambers are not fooled by degree launderers. My advice to you is to forget the Bar. You are simply not bright enough.

Anonymous

Given lots of members at the likes of One Essex haven’t attended Oxbridge as undergrads (e.g. can recall quite a few going to UCL and KCL for their LLBs), then went to Oxbridge to do their masters, you seriously telling me they (incl. me) aren’t bright enough for the Bar / not Oxbridge? hahaha

You’re probably an Oxbridge reject and ended up at Manchester Met. Bitter much?

Yep

Some of those have fathers at the Commercial Bar.

Go on, do some Googling

Anonymous

Abracadabra, you’re right!

Anonymous

Agree with your first two sentences, spiting you for the last. Calling someone “not bright enough” because they didn’t go to Oxbridge is fucking stupid.

Anonymous

If you didn’t go to Oxbridge, you are, by definition, intellectually second rate and have no place at the Commercial or Chancery Bar.

Anonymous

second-rate* – no need to be so rude

Anonymous

Truth hurts.

Anonymous

I really wish you had the balls to tell the clients you honestly think they are ‘intellectually second rate’ for not going to Oxbridge.

Really, I do.

Anonymous

I see you’ve discovered the “up-rate own comment, delete cookies, repeat until it looks like much approval” trick.

Sad.

Anon

Indeed. Really are some messed up people at the Commercial and Chancery Bar

Chris Poulson

“If you didn’t go to Oxbridge, you are, by definition, intellectually second rate”

So if you went to Harvard or MIT does that make you second rate?

Or, if you decide that Oxbridge isn’t your cup of tea what then?

I understand why you make the assertion but it is a faulty one.

Anonymous

Honestly, I would move on after three cycles and only two interviews. I’m sorry, but I think that is a strong indication that it’s unlikely to happen for you. As someone who has sat on pupillage interview panels I can say that it isn’t a lottery. Some candidates do stand out on paper and in interview. Your qualifications are getting stale and it will become harder to find a good job over time. Be flexible and consider other paths (law firms, civil service, teaching?). The bar is not the only fulfilling career – but you might find it harder to get onto a good career path if you spend too long chasing this dream.

Anonymous

Why does everyone suggest the Civil Service like it is some kind of easy option? Do you realise how incredibly competitive it is to get into the Civil Service at all, let alone a graduate track such as the Fast Stream? If I recall correctly, the Government Legal Service legal trainee scheme also has a ratio of something like 3,000 applications to 30 trainee solicitor / pupillage places.

Anonymous

Yes, give up. Can’t you take a hint?

Anonymous

He’s right. You aren’t up to it.

Anonymous

I was one of the shifters this year at my chambers and the standard was extraordinarily high.

Your academics sound fine – apart from top end commercial sets a good 2.1 and an outstanding will not disqualify you. However, a few minis and some legal work experience is unlike to distinguish you from the pack. We interview about 30 people out of 150 odd applications, so it is critical that you stand out to have any chance of getting an interview.

If you are not getting first interviews there is a problem with your application. My advice would be to get a mentor if possible who can review your application.

Anonymous

As a barrister who sits on interview panels, the comment above is spot on and the best contribution here.
– get mentors;
– build a network of lawyers around you;
– have something on your CV that shows you will be a good barrister not just that you can tick the boxes; and,
– keep up your study of the law at a high level.

Anonymous

All very f*cking difficult after you complete your studies, when you have bills to pay and no time to fanny about networking.

Anonymous

First anonymous at 11.42 here. Thanks for the vote of confidence! Apologies for the typos – it was late and typed on my phone.

Anon 11.17: you’re absolutely right, it is very difficult. The problem for applicants is that many people do manage (and I should point out that the vast majority of applications I reviewed did not appear to be from independently wealthy people). If it helps, I was a mature applicant. I was working full time and had a young family and I managed. It is not necessarily about time spent on various activities, but more about quality.

JC

I gave up on pupillage pretty quickly.

I was working while pursuing an LLB via correspondence – I ended up with a desmond (2:2). By that time, I had worked as a paralegal for 3 years at a Japanese IP law firm then another 2 years in-house at a multinational company legal dept (IP once again) in the China. Despite English being my native tongue, I’m also fluent (reading, writing, speaking) in 4 different languages.

During the BPTC, I did 3 minis and marshaled twice. I had no interviews after the BPTC (got a VC) but applied and got accepted on scholarship for a US LLM. I went to the US immediately after the BPTC and 3 months before I graduated, I got a job offer from a Japanese multi-national tech company as in-house counsel that paid a little more than a Magic circle pupillage. They also give me time off to study for the NY bar exam which I passed.

Once I started, I still applied for pupillage even though I was already working as a lawyer. But while filling out a 20 page application asking for essays on stupid questions like “what legal experience do you have?” I realized my heart just wasn’t in it anymore and stopped.

A year later, I got headhunted by a US law firm that tripled my pay and I decided to officially give up on pupillage. I still follow legal cheek and other UK law to stay up to date but personally, I think the pupillage system is due for reform.

Also In response to the worthless advice you’ll get:
– Network of lawyers – I kept in touch with all my mini’s and even the ones outside the UK.
– Mentors – refer to above.
– Do more minis – I was a paralegal for 5 years then 3 minis + 2 marshals.
– (Specific to IP) Get a STEM degree – And expend more money and time? Why not just change careers?

Anonymous

This is awesome. You seem much more well-adjusted than most in the English legal profession and I’m really pleased for your success!

Anonymous

Not awesome. Just a second class mind who wasn’t up to being a barrister.

JC

It’d be easy to continue this as a flame war so I’m just gonna say I’m happy as a “second class mind” and wish you the best in your career and hope you make silk!

City Sol

Nicely said mate. Best of luck with your career, you have really seized opportunities when presented, something I wish I did from a professional perspective when I was younger. So much of success is really being flexible, taking opportunities and going after a niche before it becomes popular.

Judging by the comments I’m seeing here, I’m going to be very careful with who I instruct at the commercial bar. There is enough talent there to look beyond just that and try to work out the character of some of these barristers, particularly the baby barristers. I will also now be more frank with my discussions with and feedback to clerks about the client skills and perception of said young barristers, even if I’m not instructing them. What a lot of young people don’t realise is that everyone can be replaced no matter how many prizes you won at Oxford.

Tired of the BS

You a right to be careful in who you instruct and to look beyond chambers’ marketing.

Approach the law schools, legal charities and anywhere where members of the junior Commercial Bar have been forced to interact with people who aren’t White or from Oxbridge.

Ask these places for the names of people who have been the subject of formal complaints for sexual harassment, creating disruptions during lessons or shouting in front of clients.

Don’t instruct those people.

Anonymous

#humblebrag

Goldmember

Heehee!

Ze little fellow can’t take ze hint!

Anonymous

The Bar’s not all that. Don’t waste any more of your time.

A real barrister

But it is, though!

I enjoy every day of my job!

Anonymous

Given that firsts are like confetti now especially form lower ranked universities, I’d expect a 2:1 from a third tier uni is not going to get interest absent exceptional additional evidence of talent. 2:1s from the third tier are basically 2:2s before the age of grade inflation. Sorry, but this story writer is meh and meh does not make it.

Anonymous

OP, what area are you looking to practice in, it makes all the difference as does the location of the chambers. I got an offer of pupillage at a decent/ good civil common law set after over two years of trying. I applied back in the day of OLPAS

I had what I thought were great academics, and that along with excellent 2 years
high level paralegal work from a major city firm, and an excellent reference from the Senior litigation partner who was highly recommended in the Legal 500.

I had a 2:1 from University of London, missing a first by 1percent, AAB at A Level, one of which I did in a year. Won a major national mooting competition, judged by Lord Justice Brooke. One of the A Levels was in Law, I received the highest mark in the Country. I thought Blackstone, Essex Court, 2O Essex Street, Serle Court, similar Chambers would be impressed. Very quick rejections followed

I did assessed/”unassesed” minis at Littleton, 4 New Square, 35 Essex Street as was, 39 Essex Street, Crown Office,Old Square Chambers, Hardwicke, Devereux. I received no offers. I came very close at Littleton ( 3rd reserve), and last round at 39 Essex, and Old Square. I was gutted, as these were the ones I really liked the chambers, the work and the people. Yet in fairness I was lucky do get that far( when comparing academics alone). They liked me a lot, and that helped, and my opinion on an area scored the highest

I applied again to all three the following year, and when I asked ‘ why I had been rejected” they simply said, we do not as a general rule accept second time applicants , the standard gets higher and higher, and that is the issue.

If I had applied to a mid-tier mixed civil common law set I would have done better I am sure, and even better if it were a regional set in Brum or Leeds. You need to tailor your application to your academics and experience, anyone who tells you different,is not being candid.
Yes, you can always find an outlier of Joe Bloggs with a 2.1 from Kent, who ended up at 4 New Square or similar, but that is so rare as to be discounted.

Good Luck

Anonymous

didnt ask for your life story.

Anonymous

Quite. There is more at stake here than mere career aspiration: the administration of justice. And that principle means that only the best minds practice in the most difficult areas of the law. The public need protecting from people with degrees from Warwick who fancy doing Commercial work. That is why such second rate minds rightly don’t stand a chance in such a field. Plus, your instructions will come from Magic Circle and Silver Circle or top US firms, whose partners and associates are predominantly Oxbridge; and they are not going to seek legal advice from someone less clever than they are.

Bob

The NSW Bar is far less bureaucratic and less ruined by artificial barriers to entry. Have a law degree, get admitted, pass the exam, do the Bar Practice Course. Chambers are easy to find. Appear in court from day one. Pay for chambers with pride. None of this nonsense about chambers paying you. Proper traditional independent self employment as a barrister.

Anonymous

What are the best non Russel groups? A lot of them trump Liverpool, Newcastle and Manchester, ranking wise.

Anonymous

That’s a bit like asking what the best soccer team is in League One. Once one has sunk that far down, who cares?

Anonymous

‘soccer’ virgin alert

Anonymous

Sorry, but “soccer” is what how one refers to the sport if one attended one of the better public schools. Using the term “football” is like asking for a room called “the toilet”. Those who chastise the term tend to the more ignorant English types.

Anonymou

Well said! A member of the lower classes chastising a reference to “soccer” as an Americanism is sadly a sign of the march of the ignorant Little Englanders.

Anonymous

‘what how’ what Btec public school did you attend?

Anonymous

“What how” is a typo. Slagging off “soccer” is a class marker. Big difference. You can proof read your way out of typos, but coming from the wrong background is harder to repair.

Anonymous

SOAS is very good

Anonymous

For radicalisation.

Anonymous

Kent, Surrey, and Reading area all very good non RG Uni’s ,and to be fair, much more “prestigious” than a lot in the current crop of RG Uni’s.

A lot of major law firms, management consultancies, Big 4, and Chambers actively recruit/visit them at recruitment fairs.

Anonymous

I would agree with Reading- Maybe even throw in East Anglia

Anonymous

I know quite a few barristers that went to Kent, apparently it’s very good.

Real question

Sorry which member of the Russell Group are those three Unis ‘much more prestigious’ than? I accept those Unis are all doing well, but no need to exaggerate.

Anonymous

Reading is an original red brick and can hold its own with regard to history and standards.

Anonymous

Liverpool, Sheffield, Newcastle.

Anonymous

Manchester

Anonymous

What is this? A crap version of Mornington Crescent where one randomly names northern towns where people go who failed to get into universities that people who failed to get into Oxbridge go? York it is then.

Anonymous

Birmingham

Anonymous

Southampton

Anonymous

What all of the above said, not Manchester though. Manchester is massively liked by big grad recruiters. That said not for the Bar so much.

Anonymous

Absolutely. You would be laughed at by a decent commercial or chancery set if you went to Manchester.

Grad advisor

You believe that grad recruitment at a City firm place LLB grads from Kent, Reading, Surrey and UEA above Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Southampton and Leeds grads? Sure. Any students reading this, do not be swayed by this nonsense. Go to the best Uni you can, which means Oxbridge-London/Durham-Russell Group, if you want a strong chance at a career in City law with a 2.1.

Grammar School and Red brick (and proud!)

The original red bricks hold their own regardless of how they fluctuate in the league tables.

Birmingham
Bristol
Liverpool
Leeds
Manchester
Newcastle
Nottingham
Reading
Sheffield

A decent 2:1 from any of them with debating, mooting, minis, am-dram and an Inns Scholarship will get you pupillage in a half-decent set somewhere.

Anonymous

Apparently these places now call a “decent 2:1”, “a first”. A 2:1 is really a 2:2.

Anonymous

“A decent 2:1 from any of them with debating, mooting, minis, am-dram and an Inns Scholarship will get you pupillage in a half-decent set somewhere.”

There’s no formula to this. It’s about more than what’s on your CV.

And?

I am head of recruitment at my chambers and unfortunately I have to say that such a CV is not going to get noticed. Every man and his/her dog has a 2:1, has done mooting, minis, marshalling etc. Those CVs just blend into the background, so unless a candidate has done other stuff which is really special such as overcome some sort of adversity, has a very interesting hobby or job (“oh, it’s another paralegal, *yawn*”), has advocacy experience other than FRU, mock trials, mooting etc, or is doing something incredible with their life then there is absolutely no reason to interview them. Simply put, they may think they are good candidates but when they are in a pool which consists almost exclusively of people who are on the right hand side of the bell curve, they are merely average and invisible…..

Anonymous

It’s true. Except my dog has a 2:1. And he’s head of recruitment at his chambers

Anonymous

That does seem to be the case, making it all the more outrageous that BPTC providers are getting away with selling false dreams to hundreds of people with no chance of obtaining a pupillage and nowhere to go professionally in the absence of one. Call them naive or I’ll informed, but it’s a fucking disgrace.

Anonymous

I went to Oldham Business School and became to President of the Privy Arbital Court so up you all.

Alex

Cross the pond. Pick a state. Pass a bar exam, some places are harder than others, but doable and no favoritism, or preference in experience, or race, or age. Once passed – pick a first real lawyering job, yes, most likely a low pay at first, but a pay nonetheless, and climb up from there. Or, at any moment from passing the exam on, start on your own. And you may even consider coming back to UK later with this practical experience at bar in US. But the point is – no pupilage in US , work and get what you deserve on your merits. I did it, and from even a lower starting point, had learn the language, and started on my own in 2011, still happy doing it.

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