What do you need to know about mini-pupillages and legal work experience?
When considering a graduate career at the Bar, it is vital that you know not only why you want to become a barrister, but also why you want to work in law and in which area(s) of law. One of the best ways to be able answer these questions is to undertake one or more mini-pupillages. These short placements, which can last anything from a couple of days to a week, will provide you with the opportunity to experience life in chambers. As part of your ‘mini’ you may visit courtrooms to see barristers in action, complete short research or drafting exercises, or discuss cases that members of chambers are working on.
Read our guide to why mini-pupillages are the best way to boost your work experience for the Bar .
You will also have the opportunity to meet barristers and ask questions. This gives you the opportunity to get a ‘feel’ for the set, its culture and its work. Some sets may encourage socialising and group visits to the local pub, others may function in a more formal fashion. Just remember, as much as you are learning about chambers, they are learning about you as well.
In order to make the best impression, read our guide with five top tips for making the most of your mini-pupillage.
How many mini-pupillages should I do?
There is no minimum number of mini-pupillages that is needed for a pupillage application, but you want to show that you have some experience in the area of law in which the chambers specialises. For example, if you have three mini-pupillages at commercial sets of chambers, it might raise some questions and doubts on the pupillage committee if you apply for an entirely criminal law practising set of chambers. It is good to apply for more than one type of mini-pupillage, but a pupillage panel would like to see that you have decided on, and devoted some effort to, your chosen area of law before you apply for the real deal. Three or four is generally a good number to have undertaken by the time you apply for pupillage, at least one of which should be in your chosen area.
Some sets offer assessed mini-pupillages, in some cases as a prerequisite to apply for pupillage. These placements may include a legal exercise or problem that you will solve and be marked on over the course of your mini-pupillage.
Find out more about what happens on an assessed mini-pupillage .
CVs and application forms for mini-pupillage
Mini-pupillage applications take place at different times of the year for different sets and the criteria for entry may vary. Some chambers may require you to have reached a certain stage of your studies; most will require that you have at least started an undergraduate degree. Some sets will prefer a ‘traditional’ CV and covering letter application, while others may use a paper or online application form. Interview processes will vary from set to set. Always check chambers’ websites regularly for updates on mini-pupillage application times and processes.
If you want to find out more about mini-pupillages, why not read Sarah Clarke’s account of her time on mini-pupillage at 3PB.
Legal work experience ideas
As well as mini-pupillages, it is advisable to have legal work experience in another format. For example, you could undertake a vac scheme with a firm of solicitors, try marshalling (shadowing a judge) or work as a paralegal after university. These experiences will help to boost your CV, but may also help you answer the question ‘why do you want to become a barrister?’ (as opposed to a solicitor or a legal executive). When TARGETjobs spoke to some of the barristers in our
'five minutes with interviews', other examples of work experience included: working in the planning office at the local council, a work placement at the Law Commission and an internship on Capitol Hill.
Pro bono legal experience
Do not forget that pro bono work experience is also exceptionally valuable. Volunteering for the Free Representation Unit (commonly known as FRU) or Citizens’ Advice may offer the opportunity to represent clients at tribunal before you’ve even set foot in chambers. Read our
guide to pro bono and other legal work experience to find out more.