Your application timeline: key dates for getting hired as a pupil barrister

17 Jan 2024, 10:39

Discover what to do when in order to successfully apply for conversion courses, the Bar course and pupillage.

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p>If you wish to qualify as a barrister in England or Wales, you will need to do certain things at certain times. Take a look at our FAQs for quick answers to your burning questions and then head to our action plan for budding barristers in different year groups.

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How to become a barrister infographic: law degree or conversion course, joining an Inns of Court, the Bar course and securing pupillage

When do you apply for pupillage? What is the Pupillage Gateway timetable?

Most chambers use the central Pupillage Gateway online application system. It opens in early January and closes in early February. Interviews are held between February and May, with offers of pupillage being made in early May.

Chambers hire pupils 12-to-18 months in advance, so law undergraduates can apply in their final year and non-law graduates when they are on a law conversion course – that is, before the start of the Bar course. Some chambers allow future pupils to ‘draw down’ (get an advance on) their pupillage award in order to help fund the Bar course, so it’s good to secure pupillage before you enrol.

Browse chambers’ pupillage opportunities on targetjobs.

When do you apply for the Bar course?

Application deadlines differ according to the institution and the course start date – many institutions have an open or rolling deadline but some have a fixed deadline. However, course places are filled quickly, so the earlier you apply the better.

If you do not wish to take a gap year between your previous universities studies and the Bar course, you should apply either in the final year of your law degree or while on a law conversion course.

Browse course providers on targetjobs.

When do you apply for the GDL, PGDL or other law conversion course?

At the very latest, you should apply for conversion courses by June or mid-July if you wish to start in September/October However, you can apply from 1 October in the previous year. The earlier you apply, the more chance you have of securing a place; we recommend applying by February or March.

If you do not wish to take a gap year, apply in the final year of your non-law degree.

When do you apply for Bar scholarships with the Inns of Court?

Inns of Court scholarships are one of the main ways of funding your Bar course, your conversion course and sometimes pupillage expenses:

  • Conversion course: the first Friday in May in the year of the relevant CPE/GDL/PGDL course.
  • Bar course: the first Friday in the November preceding the start of the course.
  • Pupillage year: deadlines vary according to the Inn so contact them directly for details.

When are the mini-pupillage deadlines?

Mini-pupillages are the formal work experience opportunities provided by chambers. Their closing dates vary according to when in the year chambers hold them and how many they offer. Several sets accept applications all year round. Others will have deadlines in, for example. October, December, January and March. Check the websites of the chambers you are interested in, but start your research by viewing what chambers have to say about their mini-pupillages on their targetjobs organisation profiles .

Second-year law and final-year non-law students: your action plan

  • Reflect on your strengths, weaknesses, skills, what energises you and what stresses you out – then, work out whether a career at the Bar would suit you. Our advice features on the differences between barristers and solicitors and what it takes to succeed as a barrister will help.
  • Begin to ponder which areas of practice would best suit you and therefore the chambers with which you should first seek mini-pupillages and later pupillage.
  • Early in the academic year , create or update your CV ready to apply for mini-pupillages and have it checked by a careers adviser. Our CV template for students seeking vacation schemes shows how you can write up both your legal and non-legal work experience.
  • Create a LinkedIn profile and use it throughout the year to follow and connect with barristers. It’s a great way to both network and develop your commercial awareness. Our advice on perfecting your profile and using LinkedIn effectively will steer you in the right direction.
  • Apply for (and participate in) mini-pupillages – deadlines and the number of opportunities will vary, so start looking from October onwards . Discover what chambers say about their mini-pupillages on targetjobs and get insights into how to apply successfully .
  • Particularly if you are unsure about whether to be a solicitor or barrister, consider applying for vacation schemes with solicitors’ firms as well as mini-pupillages. It will enable you to compare the two professions. Deadlines for vacation schemes tend to fall between November and March depending on the timing of the scheme). Search for vacation schemes .
  • If you are a final-year non-law student and you want to progress to your law conversion course immediately after completing your undergraduate studies, apply from October . Course deadlines vary – while many institutions accept students for a September/October start date up until mid-July, we recommend applying earlier (by around February or March) to have a good chance of obtaining a place.
  • If you are a non-law student and starting your conversion course in the next calendar year, apply for an Inns of Court scholarship by the first Friday in May. Other funding providers, such course providers and charities who offer their own bursaries, will set their own deadlines, so investigate your options early.
  • Take opportunities throughout the year to increase your legal knowledge and demonstrate your interest in the Bar, such as through attending court hearings (remotely or in person), taking part in essay competitions (such as The Bar Council’s Law Reform Essay and the Andrew Lees essay prize competition ) and reading recent case studies.
  • Participate in activities that will help to develop the other skills you need for a career in the Bar. For example, you could: join a debating or mooting society; advocate for others as a student/course/faculty representative or through volunteering with a legal clinic or charity; get actively involved in as aspect of running a student society; or gain an understanding of commercial and client relationships through a part-time job in hospitality or retail.
  • Keep on top of your studies: careers at the Bar demand intellectual rigour and pupillage committees expect a consistently high academic performance (unless you have mitigating circumstances).

Final-year law students and conversion course students: your action plan

  • Continue your research into chambers and areas of practice – our targetjobs Law Pupillages Handbook and our research checklist will help. As you do so, reflect upon your motivations for wanting to become a barrister. This is essential preparation for pupillage applications; you will need to show huge enthusiasm for a career at the Bar and for working at a particular set.
  • Update your CV ready to apply for mini-pupillages and to those chambers that don’t use the Pupillage Gateway. Use our CV templates and ask for your careers service to review it.
  • Attend the targetjobs National Pupillage Fair in November and any other law fairs featuring chambers to continue your research into the chambers.
  • Apply for and attend chambers’ open evenings (occasionally open days) to find out more about pupillage at different chambers and ask questions of their pupillage committees. Most open evenings are held in late November , so start looking early in the autumn term.
  • Continue to apply for mini-pupillages, particularly in the autumn term (before the Gateway opens). There is no minimum or maximum number of mini-pupillages you should do – aim to do as many as you need to get a feel for what being a barrister is really like in a particular practice area and to demonstrate your interest in the profession. Browse the chambers offering mini-pupillages on targetjobs .
  • Apply for pupillage between early January and early February . Take a look at our advice on how the Pupillage Gateway works and how to make an effective application . Bear in mind that interviews often happen between February and April – read our advice on what to expect.
  • If you plan to start the Bar course in the next academic year, apply from October onwards . Do your research into the various options and ways to fund your studies. The deadline for the Inns of Court Bar course scholarships is the first Friday in November . Find out more about the Bar course .
  • Join one of the Inns of Court at least 12 weeks before the start of your Bar course – you can apply for a scholarship without being a member, but you must join before you receive one. There may be other benefits to joining earlier, however, including networking and work-shadowing opportunities.

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