‘Should I mention my TC offers in pupillage applications?’ 

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By Legal Cheek on

14

Former aspiring solicitor now seeks career at the bar


In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, an aspiring barrister questions whether they should mention their previous success in securing a training contract.

“Hello Legal Cheek. I’ve a slightly strange conundrum which I don’t think you have covered in the past. I am in my final year of my law degree and initially wished to become a commercial solicitor — so much so I completed three summer vac schemes and was lucky to receive two training contract offers.

I’ve since had a change of heart and hope to become a barrister. I won’t go into details as to why, but I know this is now the route into the profession for me.

Should I mention these offers when applying to chambers? Or does it suggest I might not be fully committed to the Bar route? It would be good to get your readers’ thoughts.”

If you have a career conundrum, email us at team@legalcheek.com.

Join us on the afternoon of Wednesday 24 January for a virtual pupillage application masterclass in partnership with The University of Law (ULaw) and featuring barristers from leading sets Gatehouse, Henderson, Landmark and Radcliffe Chambers. Apply now.

14 Comments

Wigmore

Why? What has it got to do with a career at the Bar and why you want to join that particular set?

To me, it would seem like you are not dead set on a career at the Bar and may sideline your application for someone showing complete commitment.

Your in-house counsel

The first and main question they will ask is why the change of heart. If the answer you give might undermine your argument that you want to be a barrister, then don’t mention them. Nothing more we can say without knowing your reason for the switch.

I did several mini pupillages and used them in my TC applications. They helped because I could make the argument that I had seen the other side and knew that I preferred the role of a solicitor because of X and Y reasons.

JA

I would yes. As long as you can explain why the change of heart. Perhaps experience during those schemes gave you access to seeing barristers in action and helped form your view as to how you wanted to switch paths. The fact you had offers shows the chambers that yo performed well and are therefore a desirable candidate. Phrase the application in such a way to enhance why it means you want to be a barrister rather than a solicitor and I think you will be an attractive candidate.

Commercial pupil

Definitely mention the vac schemes and explain what you learned from them / how they helped you conclude you want to be a barrister. All legal experience is relevant to an application, although mini pupillages are generally the best form.

I wouldn’t mention the offers. The one thing you definitely shouldn’t do is give the impression you’ve got any offers outstanding as a backup – otherwise it looks like you’ve got eggs in multiple baskets and aren’t committed to being a barrister. It adds nothing to your application other than being some kind of subtle brag that you got a training contract offer, which a pupillage panel really wouldn’t care much for.

Mr Charles

Absolutely under no circumstances should you mention them. I would be surprised if you got passed a paper sift as it places a massive question mark on your motivation.

realist

You might be able to get away with it if you use them strategically, e.g. if you had the opportunity to go to court on your vac scheme, or were involved heavily in litigation. Bit dodgy to flex your alternative career plans otherwise.

Alex

I wouldn’t worry about giving the impression that you are hedging your bets – chambers wants lawyers first and foremost and I was very sceptical about applicants who didn’t have a fallback position as a solicitor – I question whether they really want to be lawyers. However, I’m concerned that your motivation for wanting to mention offers in particular is to give the impression you are a valuable candidate and therefore they should have your hand off. That’s likely to backfire. If asked whether you have any offers elesewhere, by all means mention the TC offers, but don’t volunteer it unasked.

Commercial junior

I’ve met vanishingly few pupils and junior tenants who had a “fallback position as a solicitor” when applying for pupillage.

Alex

What a terrible inditement of the junior bar

Cynical associate

To give you an idea of where this advice is coming from, I went the other way and went to Bar school before doing a training contract. I now supervise vac schemers and am in the teams that make the final assessments and hire decisions at the end of those schemes at my firm.

I would say mention the offers, but don’t mention* that they’re still open or that you’ve taken them up (if either of these apply). You don’t want to create the impression that you’re flaky on the Bar, but it’s also not a good idea to remove work experience from your CV and since they know that hiring decisions are made after vacation schemes they will want to know how they turned out. If you don’t put anything down, it implies you didn’t make the cut, which is worse than making the cut.

Also, a training contract offer at the end of a vac scheme is a sign to them that someone has looked at you up close for a couple of weeks, liked what they saw and didn’t identify any red flags. It takes a lot of potential risk out of the equation for you as a candidate as far as they’re concerned.

*If asked you absolutely should be honest about it.

Trommers

Mention the vac schemes (relevant experience, shows interest), but not the offers (not incrementally impressive, and indicates lack of commitment to being a barrister)

Derek

If it is a reasonably important part of/adds to your story around why you want to pursue a career at the Bar, yes. If not, then no because it could make it look like you don’t know what you want.

Anon

Personally I think it’s worth mentioning.

The top sets expect their candidates to be in high demand from other sets, so why not law firms?!

It shows despite having firm offers from city law firms you are choosing the Bar. Very few people would turn down a sure thing in the city for a gamble at the Bar.

So I think if anything it shows you’re choosing the Bar despite having very good alternative options.

Criminal Tenant

Vac schemes yes, TC offers no.

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