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10 must-dos for Pupillage Gateway applicants from the barristers who assess them

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Avoid jokes and jargon, embrace business blurb and Blaise Pascal — and spend ages filling out the form


On Wednesday evening a host of barristers gathered at City Law School to offer their pearls of wisdom to a crowd of bar wannabes preparing to submit pupillage applications when the centralised Gateway system opens on 1 April.

The event, which was very comprehensibly live-tweeted by the @CLSPupillageAdvice account, featured contributions from Hardwicke’s Morayo Fagborun Bennett, 9 Bedford Row’s Michael Edmonds, 11 Stone Building’s Gary Lidington and Paul Skinner of Henderson Chambers.

Here are the most useful pieces of advice …

1. Commercial awareness is for wannabe barristers as well as solicitors.

… even wannabe criminal barristers.

2. Somehow you must figure out what the hell a ProcureCo is.

3. Mooting-obsessed law geeks: make something up about your love of tennis or something.

4. Jokes on your application form have to be really good ones.

5. Think of completing a Pupillage Gateway form as like working for free, nine-to-five, for three weeks.

6. Invoke the spirit of great figures from the worlds of philosophy and literature while completing your application form.

7. You should not write long-answer questions like a journalist …

8. Nor should you write long-answer questions like an academic.

9. Incomprehensible jargon and Latin: that’s for when you’re qualified.

10. And finally … get someone to proof read your application (who knows the difference between ‘practise’ and ‘practice’?)



The point about the Orwell essay is a good one. Not just for pupillage apps – it should be prescribed reading at the start of any essay-based university course.


Not Amused is going to be up in arms re getting someone to read your application.


Yeah you need to know about the business but for gods sake avoid ‘business-speak’ like the plague. It’s idiotic and barristers are supposed to be masters of language.

City Mouse

Yes we agree.
The session raised the idea of talking in the same language as Chambers. Knowing about conditional fee agreements, QASA etc not talking in management speak and also being aware that you have to market yourself !
You also need to show Chambers that you know you will have to develop a practice. Being in the business of being a successful barrister. No blurb required.

Simon Myerson

Do remember that – despite efforts to overturn this – we are both a profession and a vocation. A sense of justice and the wish to assist justice is still important.

Concerned Tutor

“Never use a long word where a short one will do.”

Can we have this as advice for essay writing too please!!

Concerned Tutor

And judgments, academic books and papers come to that!

Not Amused

These things are fine as long as young people take what they are told with a pinch of salt. I always advise anyone I advise (on careers) that at least half of what I have said is probably wrong.

People, particularly barristers, always have opinions. Be willing to sort the wheat from the chaff.

But in the spirit of not being amused, I don’t like this “may take from 50-100 hours of work” if it is true. Bloody disgrace. The poor kids, this is far too high a burden. Lazy recruiters should interview more and rely on forms less. And as someone spotted, no I don’t like the idea that “It is almost impossible to check your own spelling ” – what do you think your clients will pay you for?


That was remarkably restrained, for you

Barrister to be (Hopefully)

Not Amused, you are correct in your first point. Half of all advice you are given regarding pupillage applications is either irrelevant or just incorrect. Important to understand what advice is relevant to your situation.

On the second point, the concept the Pupillage Gateway provides one form for 12 applications is nonsense. There are eight competency questions not five and the chambers can add another two. That is ten, 200 word statements which have to be chambers specific, adding in further tailoring of all work and educational experience. In the end you are completing twelve separate applications in two months at around 100 hours.

If the word expresses the point you’re trying to make correctly and succinctly, its length or linguistic complexity is irrelevant.

Not Amused

“Not Amused, you are correct”

More of this I say!

I’m a great believer in short words and short sentences and a massive hypocrite. It’s personal choice though, which so much advice is, and a personal choice is never objective truth no matter how grand we get (something I may make my latin motto should I ever be in risk of a peerage – don’t hold your breath though).

I do think the burden on young people is too great now. I think that this decade has been characterised by the well intentioned rule. Individually it is fine. But cumulatively we have created all sorts of ridiculous burdens – regulation, I’m looking at you.


It was good session.

Barrister to be (Hopefully)

I appreciate agreeing with you on this blog isn’t exactly normal, but the moon tried to block out the sun this morning…so I guess it’s just one of those days.

Janet Bettle

1. Target your chambers
2. Get a very good degree
2. Get prepared months before you make the application – law related activities (mooting, debating) and things that show you’re an interesting person we would like to have around for the next few years
3. Research your Chambers – who is known for what ? Who is the Head? Who’s written books/articles? Read them!
4. Work out how you can fit into all this – and how you can move things forward (but don’t sound too arrogant on this front).


I assume the competency questions come later in the application? So far on gateway you can fill out your details, referees, interests, qualifications and legal experience etc. which they say will be transferred over when the gateway opens in April, but they don’t have a section with competency type questions.
This is my first year using it, so I can only hope there will be a section for all of that in April? I must admit, I was a bit concerned about the apparent brevity of the application.

City Mouse

@Anonymous you can see the competency type questions on the sample form on page 7 and 8. or grab one from the City Law School office.


Thank you very much City Mouse! 🙂

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