Pupil barristers take to Twitter to mark first day on the job

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Social media posts come as Gateway reopens today

A pupillage ‘goody bag’ (image credit: pupil barrister Ella Embleton)

Excitable baby barristers have taken to Twitter to mark their first day of pupillage as the Gateway reopens for a fresh round of applications.

“Definite night before first day of big school vibes”, wrote Ben Hammersley, a pupil barrister at Crown Chambers. Hammersley received words of encouragement from bar veterans The Secret Barrister, Adam Wagner and Joanna Hardy, and revealed he had his “bag packed, shoes polished, and laptop charged”.

But not all rookies are having to sharpen up for their first day. As coronavirus cases continue to spiral out of control and the nation looks set to enter a third lockdown, Danae Larham tweeted that she was prepping for pupillage by charging up her laptop, setting up Zoom and donning her slippers!

“When I thought of what my first day of pupillage would be like, I never envisaged I’d be in self-isolation in the middle of a pandemic,” wrote fellow pupil barrister Jazmine Lee. “Nonetheless, this is a big day and I’m raring to go!”

The Pupillage Gateway is open: Find out about life at the leading chambers across England and Wales by checking out Legal Cheek's 2021 Chambers Most List

Other rookies were restless and couldn’t wait to start their first day. Hannah Turner, a pupil barrister, sensed a “restless” night ahead as she “checked whether [her] laptop is definitely on charge at least 10 times”. Meanwhile, Anoushka Twining was ready for bed six hours earlier than normal in anticipation for “tomorrow to start”. “I did not realise how amazing it would feel to remove the word ‘future’ from my Twitter/LinkedIn bio!” she added.

Elsewhere, Ella Embleton, a pupil barrister at Broadway House Chambers, shared a snap of a “goody bag” created for her by her parents. A hair brush, insoles, car de-icer and painkillers were among some of the contents. Fellow Twitter users and barristers further advised she pack a spare pair of tights, a filled stapler, and snacks which are “an absolute essential”.

Today also marks the day the Bar Council’s Pupillage Gateway, the online application portal for pupillage, reopens. Get ahead and find out about the leading chambers operating in the UK, including gender diversity stats, pupillage awards and the proportion of Oxbridge-educated new tenants, with the Legal Cheek 2021 Chambers Most List.

Good luck to everyone starting pupillage or putting in applications today!

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Of course all the pupils interviewed are White.

Of course.


Lord Bond

Chambers do interview non-white candidates, following the ‘cv-blind’ sift stage. However, the problem, it seems to me, is the attainment of pupillage of non-white candidates following the interview stage. This is notwithstanding identical educational achievements, work and life experience.

Can Chambers really say that they champion diversity when the majority of their pupils are white men / women? I’m frankly astounded that this is even the case in diverse Cities in the provinces. It’s a sad indictment to be frank.



Just cut the crap. BAME pupillage numbers nationally are representative of the nation’s BAME population. That is an fantastic achievement. What exactly are you moaning about, mumbling on about “a sad indictment”? Like Trump’s voter fraud, just because you say it enough does not make it true.


Lord Bond

No, thanks. How about you educate yourself on the disparity between BAME candidates, despite achieving better academics and better work experience, still being overlooked for pupillage to average white candidates who have ‘potential’?

I can’t help but think a young, confident black woman or man with ‘potential’ will hear ” you were good but there were better candidates” b.s. I am disillusioned with BAME recruitment at the Bar because it is not being reflected in pupillage offers – a perfect example of this is the demographic of all those interviewed in this article. If you can’t see it for yourself, then I can only LOL at your ignorance.



There is presumably a bit more nuance to all this. For example, does anyone have stats on black/afro-carribean representation at the London commercial bar in particular?

My anecdotal experience would be that there is nowhere near proportional representation (by population as a whole, a fortiori by cohort), in contrast to candidates of East or South Asian heritage. But the answer (as to whether there is under-representation) should be objectively verifiable, with the difficulty – if there is under-representation – very much in the ‘why’.


Lord Bond

Any comparison of BAME pupillage attainment with the net BAME UK population leads to a poor analysis. An appropriate data sample is the BSB’s most recent enrolment vs pupillage attainment between BAME and white candidates, which clearly demonstrates disparity on the grounds of skin colour. Please think twice when comparing apples with pears. That is all.


Nope, Lord Bond, that is apples and pears because your dates is massively skewed by those participating without an intention of practising the UK. Please think twice when comparing apples with pears.

I would never end a post with “That is all” because it is just an inane variant of “enough said”, “end of” etc that the most basic tag on to their online posts to try to give their views some false sense of definitiveness.


The % of pupils who are BAME is the same as the % of the population who are BAME. This fact doesn’t go away just because it is constantly ignored.



I agree with the comment above. Even if what you say is true, it is not a complete answer. The Bar is not all the same, and neither is BAME. A common complaint back in the day (and maybe now!) was that women were shunted (consciously or subconsciously) near exclusively towards the family bar; it may be the case that similar is happening to certain segments of the BAME pop/Bar.



That effect would largely be a function of socio-economic factors not discrimination based on race. Address the former by addressing the former, not by labelling it wrongly.


@A That is wrong, both racial and socio-economic factors are at play. If you look at the BSB’s recent report, those of mixed white and asian heritage have a lower chance of progressing through interview when achieving the same grades as their white counterparts, in spite of the fact mixed white and asian are more likely to be from a privileged socio economic background compared to their white counterparts.


Jan 6 2021 10:32am: actually, the mixed white and asian candidates are less likely to be privately educated, and this means they are in turn less likely to be attractive to chambers than their privately educated white counterparts: the latter are by definition better educated and more polished, and a better bet for chambers.


Lots of BAME pupils don’t get tenancy, and you know this.

If proportion of BAME pupils is allegedly the same as the proportion of the BAME UK population, then why isn’t this diversity reflected in the proportion of BAME practicing barristers, particularly in lucrative civil/commercial sets?

We know that BAME barristers earn less than White barristers across every practice area. Shockingly, most barristers couldn’t seem to care less about that.

Why are there chambers in London with only one or two BAME in the whole set? Are BAME pupils not taken on as tenants or recruited once they start practicing?

You don’t get to breathe a sigh of relief and dodge the embarrassing lack of diversity and poor treatment of BAME people at the Bar because a few more BAME pupils were taken on in the last decade.


Random passer-by

Legal Cheek giving us an article by an old Etonian to get tips on how to apply for pupillage. Thanks very much Legal Cheek, I’m sure the rest of us really stand a chance.

(Will be shocked if this makes it through the mods)



I’m just replying to note that one person has negged this post 26 times.

Old Etonians get a bit sensitive when people point out their privilege and advantage, don’t they?



You have no evidence of spamming. It is more likely that 26 people think you are talking rubbish. People get a bit sensitive when they hear nonsense.


Random passer-by

I wrote the first comment. I did not write the follow up. I’ve learned to ignore the spamming, which does happen here. I stand by my comment. Why are we getting careers advice from a guy who got a £40k a year education, and all the benefits of contacts and relationships that brings. His advice is pretty useless to most people.


Jan 6 2021 11:33am: his example is actually useful as it shows that the competition is stiff. Someone with a 40k per year education is going to be bright and very well educated, and confident. Someone from the local comp cannot compete and would do well not to waste their money and focus instead on a career more easily within their reach.

Random passer-by

Thanks Ben. Says it all.


Great pick-up there, Anon.



Do you know what I did on my first day of pupillage? I turned up, did my job and realised I knew sweet FA. I felt no need to tell anyone about it, and certainly no need to broadcast it to the world.



If we’d had Twitter back when I started, my first tweet would have been “How can there be *two* Haringey Magistrates Courts!!!”



As a black female on the pathway to hopefully obtaining a Pupillage, I was horrified on viewing some of the Chambers websites and members only to find that the majority of them were all white, males! As a first impression, it doesn’t give you much hope of attaining a place within such an establishment if there is no sight of a ‘like’ individual already there. I understand that someone must be ‘the first’ but what impression is it giving in this day and age, where there is clearly no integration of ethnic minorities? I didn’t even apply as I know I would never have gotten through the initial selection stage, let alone welcome someone like me. Luckily, there are many others who are colour blind.



Your loss really. At some point you just have to help yourself rather than waiting for other people to forge a path.



Or she could build a TARDIS and change recruitment policies of 20 years ago.



But that’s the point – BAME candidates get the same A Levels/degrees (or better) than the White barristers interviewing them and still there are chambers in London with only 1 BAME barrister in the whole set.

What more exactly do you expect non-White candidates to do to prove they are ‘good enough’?



If a set takes on 2 tenants a year, one would expect, roughly, one BAME tenant every 4 years and one black tenant every 16 years (with 13% and 3% national representation respectively). That would reflect the nation as a whole. Then there is the effect of normal distribution which would mean that while the foregoing periods are averages having a set with no BAME tenants for 6 or 8 years or no black tenants for 20 or more years would not itself evidence any racism, but would be expected as part of a normal distribution curve. Let’s look at data not your skewed percentages. Put that way, the Bar has done fantastic in recruiting from minorities over the last decade and we should be congratulating the profession not criticising it.



One of the issues you have in trying to explain these stats to people, is if you are a BAME kid growing up in London you assume that there are just as many BAME people elsewhere in the country.

I remember a friend who lived in London all his life – parents were immigrants from Ghana. We had this conversation age 22/23 and he couldn’t believe that there were no black people who lived in my small town in the 90s, and that I’d barely seen a black person until I travelled to a bigger city in my teens.


I’m certainly not going to congratulate the London chambers that have only 1-2 BAME members.

I didn’t have only 1-2 Non-White faces in my whole school year, my last London office job or amongst my BPTC tutorial group.

Neither am I going to congratulate White barristers for failing to confront the fact their BAME colleagues earn less in every practice area.


Jan 5 2021 2:08pm:

“I’m certainly not going to congratulate the London chambers that have only 1-2 BAME members.” You should congratulate them, as the BAME presence is consistent proportionally with the number of BAME people in the country.

“I didn’t have only 1-2 Non-White faces in my whole school year, my last London office job or amongst my BPTC tutorial group.” Sure, but remember that those people were competing with others, including other BAME candidates. Maybe those BAME people were less able than those other BAME candidates who did get a pupillage?

“Neither am I going to congratulate White barristers for failing to confront the fact their BAME colleagues earn less in every practice area.” Maybe those BAME people are less able than their White colleagues? Remember that solicitors do not instruct people on the basis of the colour of their skin, but on ability.


How is a black female going to banter about how things were done back in the day at Eton/Winchester/Harrow/Westminster?*

(*is precisely their subconscious thought process, actually conscious and vocalised for a minority of them).



Tim, I do know colourblind and ASD barristers. Lots too who had extra exam time for dyspraxia/dyslexia (e.g., allocated 5 hours to complete a BPTC an Opinion Writing exam).

But it’s worth mentioning too that they didn’t mention their disabilities on their pupillage application forms.



Tim, you do your own cause a disservice. You are obviously lying, or spectacularly badly informed, when you assert that “not one disabled person has ever become a barrister”.

Here’s just one example to show that you’re wrong: District Judge Afzal OBE was sworn in as the first blind District Judge in the UK in 2017, having been called to the Bar in 1999. He practised at No 5 Chambers in Birmingham until being appointed as a judge.



On my first day as a white man pupil, I got a lift into chambers from my dad who is also the head of chambers. I lounged around upstairs drinking coffee for a while, then I went home when my dad had finished work. Pretty boring, no need to alert twitter about it.



Woke satire is shit.



Don’t do it.

Early 2010s call here, practising in a civil set that regularly tops rankings.

Desperate to leave the law. Just can’t see what on earth I can realistically do as an alternative. God I hate law so much – though this is quite possibly a symptom of being stuck doing ‘civil’.


Lord B

I hope this is said in jest? I want to practise in civil law – what area of law does your Chambers specialise in / what is it about the work or your Chambers which has become an intolerable grind?



What a cowardly response.



Nothing more dull than a lawyer moaning about being a lawyer but keeping on wanting the income and social status. Either jog on or stop the melodrama.



You are sort of right.

Nobody likes a moaner.

However, mortgage to pay and children’s mouths to feed.

The moral of the story is, don’t ever think that PI is going to be enjoyable or fulfilling, no matter what anyone tries to tell you.

If I could leave law and do something vaguely interesting I would. Problem is by your mid to late 30s you get more or less pigeon holed.



You aren’t pigeonholed and neither do you lack the intellectual capacity for something else.

You’re scared to walk because the other miserable barristers you started together with will would likely call you a ‘failure’ and ‘weak’ for realising life is more than Twitter ‘likes’, instead of supporting a decision to save your mental health.

Says a lot about the profession, doesn’t it?



Well put!

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