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Pupillage seekers jump by 50% during pandemic

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Over 3,300 wannabe barristers applied for 246 training spots this year

The already intense competition to secure pupillage appears to have stepped up a gear during lockdown, with new stats revealing a sharp rise in the number of wannabe barristers submitting applications through the Gateway.

The Bar Council has revealed 3,301 bar hopefuls chased 246 pupillage spots through its centralised Gateway in 2021. It handled a whopping 20,647 applications in total, with the average graduate applying to around six sets. In 2020, 2,142 applicants competed for 237 pupillages.

So, the latest stats show that while pupillage numbers are up slightly, despite the pandemic, the number of aspiring barristers chasing these coveted training spots is up much more sharply — 1,159 to be exact.

It’s worth noting these figures do not include applications submitted outside the Gateway.

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Last year, a number of chambers postponed or cancelled their recruitment plans in light of the economic uncertainty brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. In response, a group of elite commercial sets came together to provide emergency funding to ensure several of the training spots, most of which were in criminal law, could still go ahead.

At the height of the uncertainty, the Bar Standards Board warned there could be a drop in pupillage numbers over the next two years in response to the pandemic, with opportunities in areas of law most affected by court closures, particularly criminal and family, hardest hit.

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