You will be up against tough competition when applying for pupillage, the year of practical on-the-job training at a barristers’ chambers that follows the vocational stage, the Bar course (formerly known everywhere as the Bar professional training course or BPTC, but now known by different names at different providers). In your applications, you will need to show that you are aware of the areas of law that chambers specialise in and that these match your interests. Use our checklist to make sure you’ve done your research before you get started.
Where to find out about chambers
You'll find useful information in the barristers' chambers' profiles on targetjobs.co.uk and in the A–Z of recruiting barristers in TARGETjobs Law available in full online. Chambers' websites also often include detailed information about recent cases and the work of individual barristers. Many of your applications are likely to be made online via the centralised Pupillage Gateway system, and you will find details of all available pupillages on the Pupillage Gateway site, whether chambers accept applications through the centralised online system or not.
Cover the basics: what do chambers do?
Make sure you know the following about the sets you plan to apply to.
- What areas of law they practise in.
- Where they are based.
- Any distinguishing features.
Recruiters at some sets complain that students apply to them without even this basic level of knowledge.
Building your knowledge of different chambers
Can you answer the following questions about each set that you wish to apply to?
- What key cases have barristers at this set been involved with recently?
- How does it feel it differs from other, similar sets?
- Which other sets does it particularly compete with for work?
- Has the set undergone any significant changes recently, for example a merger or change of location?
Network with barristers
Take advantage of any opportunities to speak to barristers from the chambers that interest you. The TARGETjobs National Pupillage Fair, held each year at one of the Inns of Court, is an excellent opportunity to meet representatives from many sets face to face. A handful of sets also run open days, which will give you the chance to meet members of chambers and learn more about their work.
It’s worth investigating whether your university careers service or law department has a database of alumni who are willing to talk to students about their jobs – you may find that it includes someone at one of your target sets. You could also try a spot of networking off your own back – make sure your family and friends know that you’d like to make contact with barristers at certain sets and you may find that they can put you in touch with someone.
Match the chambers' interests to your own
Use your knowledge to show how your interests tie in with the work that a particular set does and explain why you particularly want to work for them. Tying in a set's areas of expertise with legal experiences you’ve enjoyed (for example watching a particular case while on mini-pupillage, studying a certain area or participating in a moot on a given subject) will help convince pupillage recruiters that you not only know what they do but are motivated to do it.