9 things we learned from the #PupillageApps Q&A

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By The Careers Team on

The best bits from last night’s Twitter discussion about how to bag a pupillage


1. Lots of barristers hate the ‘Why do you want to be a barrister?’ question

Still, it exists, and you have to answer it. This seems like a good starting point from BPP Law School BPTC lecturer Ishan Kolhatkar, who used to practise criminal law at 2 Hare Court.

2. Oxbridge domination of top sets may be self-perpetuating

There is a belief at the bar that non-Oxbridge graduates are put off applying to the top sets that have a high proportion of Oxford and Cambridge graduates among their tenants. It was given further weight on Twitter yesterday.

Of course, while you’ve got to be in it to win it, there is concern that some chambers still prefer Oxbridge.

Maybe it’s time for the elite end of the bar to prove this is not the case by taking some active steps to widen its recruitment net.

3. You have a decent shot at the bar if you went to a non-Russell Group Uni (and got top grades)

For all its diversity failings, the bar is actually pretty good at producing stats on its members. And as the City Law School pupillages account showed yesterday when linking to the latest Bar Barometer survey, 25.1% of pupils in 2011-12 (the most recent year for which figures are available) went to non-Russell Group unis versus 64.2% to Russell Group (including Oxbridge) unis.

What the Bar Barometer fails to show is how many of those non-Russell Group graduates received firsts. Legal Cheek reckons the amount is probably disproportionately high.

4. Chambers of all types like students that think commercially

If there was one theme that dominated the discussion it was commercial awareness; in these days of changing business models and legal aid cuts, the term is becoming as much of a buzzword at the bar as it is in the solicitors’ profession.

The head of Leeds’ Zenith Chambers even suggested that pupillage hopefuls have a go at writing chambers’ business plans.

5. Mindlessly accumulating legal work experience is a waste of time

Wannabe barristers are expected to have done mini-pupillages …

… but a handful of short placements is fine. Some barristers actually prefer real-life experience.

6. There is no need to over-research chambers

There was general agreement with Gerard McDermott QC on this point from barristers, but there was also acknowledgement that you have to play the game.

7. You stand out by telling stories — with clarity

In a crowded field, students were urged to try to entertain (or at least not bore to death) pupillage panels.

In doing so, clear, unpretentious language was recommended.

8. Work the form

With no section for university module results on the Pupillage Gateway form, students with strong academic results need to find a way subtly to mention their top grades in the written answer questions, as University of Law bar careers adviser Anna Williams suggested:

In completing these questions, there is no standard template that must be adhered to. Some recommend straight prose, others a mixture of bullet points and longer form answers.

9. Chambers check applicants’ social media

In case you thought they didn’t, #PupillageApps confirmed that they do.

#PupillageApps: The full discussion [Twitter]

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