COVID-19: Mini-pupillages move online

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Much like the virtual vacation schemes now being offered by corporate law firms

Mini-pupillage at a number of chambers has moved online.

This comes after we reported that some sets have shelved their schemes until further notice due to coronavirus.

4 Pump Court opened its (virtual) doors to 16 mini-pupils for one day this month. The group took part in two discussions featuring the chambers’ most junior tenant, its joint head of chambers, joint head of pupillage and a member of its clerking team.

In between, the mini-pupils were each paired with a junior member of chambers: first for a chat about chambers and their career aspirations; and then for an exercise on remote advocacy. The virtual format enabled one mini-pupil to tune in from as far as New Zealand to participate in the paired sessions earlier in the week at a more convenient time.

4 Pump Court hopes to resume in-person minis from the autumn. The barrister ‘supervisors’ felt the format allowed for more focused discussion during the remote one-to-one sessions compared to a traditional mini-pupillage. It also exposed the mini-pupils to more members of chambers at a wider range of seniorities, they found.

Landmark Chambers will similarly welcome mini-pupils to its set, albeit online. The planning and environmental law specialist is piloting a virtual mini-pupillage scheme this week for some of the applicants from its last application round.

Over the course of two days mini-pupils will be supervised and complete work with feedback provided over Skype. Throughout these days the pupillage committee will check in with mini-pupils to answer any questions they might have and to find out more about life as a pupil or baby junior. To conclude the week, the mini-pupils will come together for a virtual coffee and webinars delivered by senior members from chambers.

Falcon Chambers held a virtual mini-pupillage via Zoom last month. Four members of chambers of varying levels of seniority and a senior member from its clerking team joined 37 mini-pupils for a series of talks. The talks provided “a taster of life at the bar and in chambers” and “the opportunity to have their most pressing questions answered”. They aimed to replicate what would ordinarily be given to mini-pupils over the course of their time in chambers.

A spokesperson from the set, which specialises in property law, said “we are already planning more online sessions, so watch this space!”

Secure your place: The Legal Cheek Virtual Pupillage Fairs 2020

A mini-pupillage is a work experience placement for budding barristers to experience life in chambers. During a placement, which typically last from around a few days to a week and tend to align with court terms, they might attend court, assist with drafting or sit in on conferences with clients.

Given the current public health pandemic and the government’s advice to socially distance ourselves as well as work from home where possible, it’s understandable that some chambers have had to put their work experience programmes on hold or come up with new ways to inspire their future pupil barristers — much like the virtual vacation schemes now being offered by corporate law firms.

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What is the third-six market looking like? Asking for a friend… Any sets deferring tenancy decisions?



Got a first from a top place? If not, your “friend” is in deep do do.



I don’t know why that second comment has so many down votes- it’s true. Chambers are not taking on. Work on the ground in criminal sets is thin at the moment. Senior members are picking up work the junior juniors used to do. Returns aren’t happening because everyone is keeping their own cases. Trials are not set to resume properly for months. Why would anyone want to share out scarce work even more?



Any views on whether this is also the case at the Commercial/Chancery Bar? e.g. sets such as Essex Court, 7KBW, Erskine, South Square, Maitland…



Any views on whether this is also the case at the Commercial/Chancery Bar? e.g. sets such as Essex Court, 7KBW, Erskine, South Square, Maitland…


A Pupil

Second comment downvoted because undergrad degree (even a ‘first from a top place’) not as important in third-six apps as what you did during 12-month pupillage and who is writing your reference.



Nonsense. You need both the academics and the references. Someone who did not get tenancy and does not have top end academics is never going to get a sniff, especially as there are always plenty of “stars” who did not make it in their first set.


None of this matters. Bottom line is how much work you bring in. If you have a set of sols who regularly instruct you and the chambers believe that their existing starving members can get overspill you’ll be sitting with the job in no time.


Any views on whether this is also the case at the Commercial/Chancery Bar? e.g. sets such as Essex Court, 7KBW, Erskine, South Square, Maitland…



These are sets which rarely need/want to take on third-six pupils



And if they do, they are only from the other circle sets when there was a very tight decisions and one or two supervisors give them glowing reviews.


Sorry if this wasn’t clear. I was asking whether anyone knows if those sets (or similar sets) are not retaining their pupils as well? I have heard anecdotally that retention at good criminal/civil sets is expected be poor this year.


Not on pupillage committee anymore but despite that can confirm leading commercial/chancery sets’ recruitment won’t (or at least shouldn’t) be affected by the pandemic. Only 4 pupils/tenants are recruited annually, and always with the intention that they will spend c.40 years in chambers.

Even if these new tenants might be competing with junior juniors (which isn’t the case to the best of my knowledge), that simply wouldn’t be a factor. By way of example, recruitment generally held up (indeed increased) in 2008/2009 and years following.

No idea about criminal or common-law sets though anecdotally understand that the general reduction in court-work means these sets (and juniors within them) are having a harder time.


sorry – that should read 4 pupils/tenants maximum!

Chad Chadington

Cannot wait for the comments on the article about A&O dropping their NQ from 100k to 90k


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