Vacation schemes and work experience

Start work as a barrister through assessed mini-pupillage

25 Jan 2023, 13:38

Find out how recruiters at barristers' sets use assessed work experience, or mini-pupillages, as part of the pupil selection process.

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An assessed mini-pupillage is a period of work experience at a barristers' chambers where aspects of your potential and performance are formally judged. The type of activities you'll be invited to take part in on an assessed mini-pupillage will be similar to the tasks you'll be given during an unassessed mini-pupillage, for example, shadowing barristers, completing small research or paperwork tasks and attending court and conferences. However, you will also be given a piece of work that will be marked and kept for reference. This is likely to be a written exercise, for example writing an opinion.

How do sets use assessed mini-pupillage to help them recruit barristers?

The way in which assessed mini-pupillages are used and how they fit into the pupil selection process varies from set to set. Most sets that run assessed mini-pupillages do so as part of the recruitment process and insist that pupillage candidates take one with them. Littleton, for instance, has a policy that everyone that is selected for first round interview has to do an assessed mini-pupillage. A handful offer assessed mini-pupillages but do not insist that potential pupils take one, although if you are applying to chambers that take this approach, you'd be well advised to fit in an assessed mini-pupillage with them if you can. At such sets, you may also find that those who do well on assessed mini-pupillages are eligible to skip the first stage of the recruitment process.

Most sets offer either only assessed or only unassessed mini-pupillages but a few offer both, so make sure you are clear about who offers what and what you are applying for.

Different sets will ask you to complete assessed mini-pupillages at different stages. Some will ask you to complete one before you enter the pupil selection process while others will run assessed mini-pupillages as an interim selection stage between first interviews and second interviews. Alternatively, some sets may ask any interviewees whom they like but who have not spent time in chambers to come in for a couple of days after their interview.

How to approach an assessed mini-pupillage

Follow the same rules for success on assessed mini-pupillages as on unassessed ones. Be polite, professional and enthusiastic but reserve your questions and comments for appropriate times (ie not in front of clients or when the barrister you’re shadowing is clearly busy). Don’t feel you need to have extensive legal knowledge but do make sure you’ve brushed up on the basics before you arrive. Also keep in mind that you’re being judged on whether recruiters can imagine you fitting into chambers and getting on with clients so avoid arrogance, rudeness towards support staff or fellow mini-pupils, or any form of bitching at all costs.

However, remember too that an assessed mini-pupillage is a two-way opportunity – if you’re unhappy during your time in chambers and feel uncomfortable with the way it operates you at least have the chance to reassess whether you’d actually want to work there.

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