13 tips for Pupillage Gateway applicants from a junior barrister

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By Aishah Hussain on

‘Don’t say you are fluent in French just because you once successfully ordered two lagers in Dieppe’

Joanna Hardy, whose pupillage application advice went viral on Twitter

One junior barrister has shared some tips for those of you punting for pupillage ahead of the portal reopening tomorrow, on Tuesday 7 January.

Joanna Hardy, a criminal barrister at Red Lion Chambers, tweeted 13 titbits of advice on Thursday based on her own experience. The below thread, which we have pulled out from Twitter and republished as bullet points, makes for an amusing and helpful read:

1. Keep it simple

You’re an advocate. Welcome to the squad.

Advocates don’t use four adjectives and the synonym function until their eyes bleed. Or, at least, the good ones don’t.

Keep it punchy, short and tailored. Repeat after me: Word. Limits. Are. Not. Targets.

2. Don’t exaggerate

We know it’s competitive but don’t play loose with the truth. Your integrity is your everything.

Don’t say you are fluent in French just because you once successfully ordered two lagers in Dieppe.

Advocates don’t overstate their case.

Chances are, on your second day, someone will have an obscure and time-pressured informal translation and they’ll ASK YOU FLUENT PERSON BECAUSE YOU ARE SOOO FLUENT.

Heaven help you. Don’t come crying to me.

3. Help your reader

Spot the difference:

“I was absolutely thrilled and delighted to be awarded the very prestigious and highly competitive Smith Scholarship in 2017”.

“2017 — Smith Scholar. (Awarded to the highest scoring student of 300)”.

4. Don’t name drop unless it is relevant to something

Who you did a mini-pupillage with and what you learnt from them is relevant. Who you happen to know, without more, is irrelevant. Don’t do that.

5. Bullet points — sometimes — are your friends

We’re all interested in how you write. And, chances are, you’ll have the opportunity somewhere on a form to shine with your beautiful, persuasive prose. But, occasionally, a bullet point list can be marvellous. Balance your form.

6. Check your referees are cool with you using them, that they know who you are and can say something sensible

Just do this. Please.

7. Get a brutal person to read it

This cannot be your mum. Your mum will just beam with pride at you, add all the adjectives, persuade you you’re fluent in French, get you to mention that nice QC you once met down the road and it will all be awful. Anyone but yer mum.

8. Own your story

Not everyone gets to the pupillage starting gun by following the same path. Your experiences have shaped you. Tell us about them. Please. Personally speaking, I’d much rather hear about your time as a barman in a challenging pub than about your yachting moot*

*Then again, I don’t do yachting law. And mooting is always great. But you get the gist.

9. Be frank and clear about extenuating circumstances

This is a level playing field:

If you need adjustments — ask.
If you had a difficulty — tell.

In my experience, chambers are excellent when considering and assisting with these areas.

10. Tailor your form

Please, please don’t cut and paste. I don’t know why but we CAN JUST TELL that you have sent this same paragraph to everyone and just swapped the name about. Like those awful boyfriends/girlfriends when you were 17. Write a fresh one. Thank me later.

11. Once you’ve sent it, do something else

Don’t call chambers every day. Don’t email chambers every day. Don’t go online and obsess over who has heard and who has not. Stay healthy and calm and well-rested and prep for interviews.

12. Twitter sources

Some great sources on Twitter are @pupillagehub, @pupillagepodca1 and, obviously, for the hive of collective support our pal @BarristerSecret — but also start your own support network. It’s not an easy or a particularly fun time. Surround yourself with decent, supportive folk.

13. I don’t envy you

You’ll need all your luck, skill, the very best of spirits and good humour. But I do wish you all the very best as this pupillage season opens. Good luck ?

The 2020 Legal Cheek Chambers Most List

Meanwhile various other barristers made it clear that their DMs were open for any questions from prospective pupillage applicants. The trend, started by Max Hardy, a criminal barrister at 9 Bedford Row who bears no relation to Joanna Hardy, encouraged students worrying that it’s not ‘what you know but who you know’ to message him for advice.

Others quickly followed suit:

Take advantage of their generosity students and good luck with your applications!

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