What is a mini-pupillage?
In short, it’s work experience in a set of chambers. Normally you will shadow a barrister so that you can see the nature of his/her work. This shadowing will, hopefully, involve attending court (although note, in some areas of law barristers are more involved with written advice and attend court very infrequently). You may also get to sit in on a meeting with a client or a case conference. If you are in Chambers for any part of the Mini-Pupillages (MPs) expect to be set a research task or asked to familiarise yourself with a case file.
What is an ‘assessed Mini-pupillage?
Some chambers offer Assessed mini-pupillages which will require you to undertake some kind of task (usually research) and present you findings by way of a written document and/or a presentation. This ‘Assessment’ is used as part of the recruitment process for pupillage much like solicitors use the Vacation Scheme. They are essentially testing you to see if you have the right skills and approach for their Chambers.
The majority of MPs are not assessed and form no part of their selection process.
How long does a mini-pupillage last?
Most MPs will last for 1 day, 3 days or 5 days. It is highly unusual for them to last more than 1 week although KLS has one QC offering 3 x 2 week MPs.
Why do a mini-pupillage?
Firstly, it gives you the opportunity to road test the job. Could you really see yourself doing this type of work and, importantly, would the way of working suit you. So, you’ll get a great insight into the career and hopefully, also some contacts which may be of use to you as you complete your legal educations and move onto finding work.
How many mini-pupillages are required?
There is no compulsory requirement that you do x number of MPs but…you will not be taken seriously as an aspiring barrister if you have not given time to this important career activity. You must do at least one MP but I would advise that you aim for at least 3. Some students like to ‘collect’ MPs but be aware that too many on a CV can be viewed negatively – the reader may think that you do not know what area of law interests you! I would advise that if you have more than 6 you should seek advice about whether to include them all.
How to find a mini-pupillage
As always, there are multiple ways of finding an MP:
- “Chambers Student” has a useful on-line list of all the chambers openly offering MPs. see – https://www.chambersstudent.co.uk/the-bar/mini-pupillage-vacancies
- The Training Contract and Pupillages Handbook also lists the chambers openly offering MPs. You can pick up this book for free in the Law Reception or at the Careers & Employability Service.
- Some Chambers do not include themselves on the above listings and will, instead (if they offer MPs – and some don’t!) details the MPs on their own websites.
- Finally, sometimes it is a case of who you know! This is where your network comes into play (so take advantage of all the networking opportunities you can). Many barristers will individually offer you a mini-pupillage even where it is Chambers’ decision not to provide MPs. So, when you meet with a barrister – ask!
When to apply
There are some Chambers who will not consider you until you are a BPTC student but most will consider you at any stage. Some prefer you to have studied law for one or two years first but there are many available to first years. However, I would advise that you do not apply for an assessed mini-pupillage until you feel confident in your research abilities as you will have a tough legal problem to answer. For many this will be Stage 3 of the degree or even BPTC year. The Assessed MPs are really part of the recruitment process so you do need to be (almost) Pupil-ready!
Succeeding in your application for mini-pupillage
First things first….MPs are not easy to get! The competition is fierce and you will need to compete at the highest level. So you will need to have an impressive CV and a great covering letter which demonstrates your motivation for a career at the Bar and why you have selected that particular Chambers to apply to. NB: Normally you will be required to apply by CV and covering letter but some chambers’ do have application forms.
An ‘impressive’ CV must have no spelling or grammatical errors! It is not essential that you have previous MPs on it but there needs to be activities/experiences which show that you are a well-rounded person (i.e. you’ve done things other than just going to school and university) and that you have relevant skills and qualities for this career. Things that make a CV for the Bar great include:
- debating, mooting or other public speaking (this is a ‘must’)
- achievements and/or awards (particularly academic ones or ones that demonstrate lots of commitment)
- an excellent and consistent academic record
- proof that you are a ‘doer’ or ‘contributor’ i.e. sporting activities, voluntary/charity work, membership of society, positions of responsibility.
If you need help with your CV use this CV reader – https://careerset.io/kent or make an appointment to speak with a Careers Adviser or Employability Adviser. There is also information on this blog – see the “How to” tab and select “write a CV”.
Financing a mini-pupillage
Mini-pupillages are not normally funded. Some Chambers may give you a bursary towards the cost of travel.
However, the following funding streams which may be of interest (all have criteria that must be met):
- Lincoln’s Inn Mini-Pupillage Grant Scheme (available for any MP) – https://www.lincolnsinn.org.uk/becoming-a-barrister/funding/
- University of Kent Work and Opportunities Fund – claim up to £200 – https://www.kent.ac.uk/ces/funding.html
It’s also worth knowing about the following two schemes which include a paid Mini-Pupillage:
- The Inner Temple PASS Scheme – https://www.innertemple.org.uk/becoming-a-barrister/how-to-get-involved/pass/
- Middle Temple, Access to the Bar Award (the LSSJ Employability team will invite you to ask them to nominate you for this award in Spring term (keep looking at the newsletters) – https://www.middletemple.org.uk/becoming-barrister/access-bar-award
During the mini-pupillage
- Make sure you have a dark outfit for court.
- Ensure that you have money as you may have to travel to court. Train fares can be quite pricey but the barrister you are shadowing will not normally pay (although some Chambers may pay you an award torwards travel – this varies from £10 per day to £250 per week). You will also need money for lunch (if you are lucky enough to get time!)
- Ask the barrister how they would like you to address them – formally or informally. If you find this an awkward question, the first time you meet address them formally i.e. Good Morning Mr/Ms….. thank you so much for allowing me to shadow you”. It is likely, at this point, that you will be invited to call them by their first name. If not, stick with the formal address!
- Ask them whether they will welcome questions or if they prefer you to remain quiet and wait for instructions (it is normal to ask lots of questions).
- Be alert and look interested! If you look bored, tired, fed up etc. what motivation will there be for the barrister to want to engage with you?
- In court – have pen and paper to hand and make notes. Unless you have been asked to make notes about the case for the barrister the notes don’t need to be about the case although you should note the names of the case, the Judge and the counsel (on both sides) as this is a favourite question in pupillage applications. Notes may be about the advocacy skills employed by the barristers (successful and unsuccessful tactics); the process of the court; things that surprise you (this is useful for personal statements for BPTC). In Chambers you will be given work to do. If you are reading a case file you should ask whether or not you are permitted to make notes.
After the mini-pupillage
Make sure you send a thank you letter to the barrister(s) and/or Chambers. Not only is this polite but you never know when you may work with them again or, you may want to apply to them for pupillage. And, thanks goes a long way to confirm that MPs are valued and useful and thus, they’ll offer more to other students.
Further help, advice and information:
If you are a non-EEA national, you may need a visa to undertake work-experience in the UK. The Bar Council can help with this so please click here for more details.