At 19, I wasn’t sure which area of law I wanted to go into. I chose to apply to 3PB because it is a very large set that accepts instructions in all areas. I checked my application thoroughly as I knew that errors would stand out, especially to people whose profession requires a keen eye for detail. I was then accepted for a mini-pupillage with my chosen chambers.
Different ways to get experience of the Bar
Each day began at 9.00 am. On some days, I went to court with a barrister; one of my most memorable experiences was watching Lachlan Wilson (a 3PB employment and education barrister) in action. He was very generous with his time; we went out for lunch, had a chat, and he gave me some advice on how to go about entering the profession.
On other days, I stayed in chambers and read over cases, giving my views on each one. I was even asked to practise writing a legal advice for a client as a sort of test. The barrister supervising me then critiqued what I came up with and gave me some pointers on how to improve.
I generally left chambers by 5.00 pm. Sometimes, I went to the Witness Box pub with a few barristers after work. I found that socialising with people who were already practising as barristers was one of the best ways to get a taste of the job. They all had similar stories and gave some good insight into how to handle particularly high-pressure situations.
One such situation I have been told about is someone arriving at court and speaking to the defendant as their barrister, only to realise that they were supposed to be prosecuting! In situations like that, I was told that it’s important not to panic but to think quickly and logically. This is something that gets easier as you progress through your career; you just have to look at stressful experiences as learning curves.
Once I’d finished my week-long mini-pupillage, I still wasn’t sure which area of law was for me. However, it made me realise that I definitely wanted to practise in an area that involved a lot of court work. Some barristers spend most of their time in chambers doing paperwork, but I knew that wasn’t something I’d enjoy.
How to make a success of your mini-pupillage
I’d advise prospective mini-pupils to apply to a diverse selection of chambers; until you’ve experienced a few different areas of law, you can’t be sure which area you want to specialise in. Find out what each chambers’ strengths and specialties are, and tailor your application accordingly.
Once you’ve been accepted, make sure that you turn up well-presented and on time. Barristers will be giving up their time to take you to court and set you tasks, so don’t annoy them by being late.
When at court, never try to give your views or advice to clients. Sit quietly and politely, and don’t interrupt; you’ll learn a lot just from observation.
Finally, don’t be afraid to chat to people about their careers. I was initially worried about getting in the way, but the people turned out to be a friendly bunch and were more than happy to talk.
Sarah Clarke is a barrister at 3 Paper Buildings (3PB). She studied jurisprudence (law) at the University of Oxford and was called to the Bar in 2005.