Top chambers postpone mini-pupillage schemes in response to COVID-19

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By Aishah Hussain on

But some sets are offering virtual minis and webinars

Temple, London

Mini-pupillage at a number of sets has been put on hold due to coronavirus.

Devereux Chambers has confirmed the temporary suspension of its mini-pupillage scheme. Devereux offers three schemes each year and has said it will not be considering new applications for mini-pupillage for the time being. If candidates have already applied for a mini-pupillage, their application will be held and processed once the scheme re-opens.

A mini-pupillage is a work experience placement for budding barristers to experience life in chambers. During a placement, which typically lasts from around a few days to a week, they might attend court, assist with drafting or sit in on conferences with clients. The mini-pupillage can form an important part of the pupillage selection process, and some but not all are assessed.

Minis at Exchange Chambers, which has a presence in Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool, have been postponed “for the foreseeable future” due to the current set of circumstances. Exchange offers two, three-day schemes, with one running in the spring and the other in the autumn.

Hailsham Chambers has suspended its mini-pupillage programme amid the outbreak of the coronavirus. It said that alternative dates will be offered to those who have already had their placements postponed, and that it will inform prospective applicants about the next round of mini-pupillage applications in due course. Hailsham offers two minis each year.

The mini-pupillage scheme is also suspended at Serjeants’ Inn Chambers due to COVID-19. The common law set has asked candidates not to make any applications until the process re-opens in due course. Serjeants’ Inn offers about nine mini-pupillage places a year, with each lasting a period of three days.

Maitland Chambers has also had to suspend its mini-pupillage programme. It said it will provide an update regarding the scheme once lockdown restrictions are fully lifted. Maitland minis are one-day long.

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Given the government’s social distancing guidance and advice to work from home amid the pandemic, it’s understandable that some chambers have had to shelve their work experience programmes until later this year depending on what the situation is then.

In view of this, Legal Cheek reached out to a number of sets to see whether mini-pupillage is being moved online — much like the virtual vacation schemes now being offered by corporate law firms in recent weeks and months.

Legal Cheek understands that something similar is happening at the bar. Our sources tell us that some chambers are in fact offering virtual mini-pupillages, while others are hosting webinars for prospective mini pupils to find out more about the bar and their chambers. We understand that some, however, are still considering how best to move forward with their mini-pupillage programmes, the dates of which tend to align with court terms.

One chambers told us that they’re keeping in touch with potential future pupils by being active on social media and running virtual events. In one example, the set invited them to a virtual evening drinks-do. Exchange Chambers’ ‘Commercial Department Informal ‘Virtual Pub’ Evening’ took place last month. It was an opportunity for successful mini-pupillage applicants to ask junior tenants and current pupils questions and for advice over their tipple (or soft drink) of choice.

A spokesperson from the set, which offers six pupillages each year, the highest of any set in England and Wales, said the situation is under constant review and that it will be hosting other virtual events in the future.

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