What is Pupillage and how do I apply?

As Pupillage Gateway is open until 7 February 2019, our Outreach Team thought it would be a good opportunity to remind you what Pupillage is, how you apply for it and some general tips on building your application.

The Team have added a summary of useful blogs, podcasts, videos and links that you might find helpful when you come round to writing your application (please not the night before the deadline!).

What is Pupillage?

In order to become a practising barrister you must first complete a pupillage. Pupillage is the final stage of training, commencing after the successful completion of the BPTC. A pupillage usually lasts a year, divided into two six-month periods commonly referred to as “sixes”:

  • The “first six” refers to the non-practising six months during which pupils shadow, and work with, their approved pupil supervisor; and
  • The “second six” refers to the next six practising months when pupils, with their approved pupil supervisor’s permission, can undertake to supply legal services and exercise rights of audience.

After pupillage, tenancy (a permanent position in Chambers) or a position at the employed Bar is sought. However, with strong competition for pupillage and tenancies, some pupils undertake a “third six” in order to secure a tenancy.

Applying for Pupillage

Applications for pupillage may be submitted in two ways:

Pupillage Gateway

Pupillage Gateway (www.pupillagegateway.com) allows applicants to search and apply for pupillage using an online form, and allows pupillage providers to communicate with applicants using email/online messages. This has the advantage of allowing direct communication between applicants and chambers in a controlled and fair manner. The aim is to create a level playing field for all applicants, as the same application form is completed and distributed in the same way to providers.

A particular advantage of Pupillage Gateway is that applicants can search for pupillage on the website using a number of search criteria (e.g. location, areas of specialisation). Any changes to the originally advertised pupillage vacancies are posted on the site, so all information is up-to-date. There is no charge to applicants using Pupillage Gateway. The website runs one recruitment season per year, which opens in January each year and closes at the end of February.         

Each applicant may make up to twelve applications to chambers of their choice.

Pupillages not on Pupillage Gateway

Pupillage providers do not have to participate in the Pupillage Gateway recruitment system. However, you can still use Pupillage Gateway to search for non-Pupillage Gateway chambers but you then have to apply directly to the chambers as stated on the advert. You can apply to as many non-Pupillage Gateway chambers as you like. With no centralised system for these, deadlines will vary so you must check chambers' individual websites for details.

When to apply for pupillage

Candidates may apply for pupillage one or two years in advance depending on how close they are to completing the academic stage. For example, candidates who are completing the second or penultimate year of their law degree, or candidates about to embark on a conversion course may apply only to those chambers that offer pupillages two years ahead. This tends to be in commercial or civil sets of chambers rather than those in criminal or family law. Candidates who are in their final year of a qualified law degree or CPE/GDL may apply to chambers offering pupillage one or two years ahead.

Building your pupillage application

Think about your different experiences, both legal and non-legal. Try and create a collection of different examples you can use on your application. Try and match the experience to the different skills you might need as a barrister.

  • Do you have a check list for collecting all of your experiences?
  • What was the outcome of that experience?
  • What else could you do to gain experience and plan?

You can use this bank of experience to help build your application. Don’t forget that chambers can now adjust the questions on Pupillage Gateway so make sure you read the questions carefully and answer them directly.

Common tips for a pupillage application

  • Did you give yourself sufficient time?
  • Have you spoken to people about helping?
  • Draft your application in advance then read it back and get someone else to proof read it.
  • Check grammar and don’t rely on spellcheck
  • Don’t leave it until the last minute to submit
  • Contact your referees in plenty of time
  • Download a copy of your application and read it before your interview

Other places to look for inspiration

Ishan Kolhatkar (@BPTC_Lecturer), Deputy Dean, Education Services at BPP University as written a blog post on selecting chambers and completing applications form. Check it out here.

Check out The Pupillage Podcast (@pupillagepodca1 ) hosted by Beatrice Collier and Georgina Wolfe (both at 5 Essex Chambers), brought to you by Middle Temple. It’s available on SoundCloud, iTunes, Spotify & ACast and here.

The TARGETjobs Law Pupillages Handbook 2019 contains lots of information about obtaining a pupillage. Check it out here.

Cornerstone Barristers has a video here by Clare Parry on top tips for Pupillage applications.

Legal Check has an article with twelve tips on how to secure pupillage here.

For the most up to date information regarding the pupillage timetable, please keep checking: http://www.pupillagegateway.com/

If you have any more suggestions to add to the list, let us know by emailing outreach@innertemple.org.uk

Want to keep up-to-date with Inner Temple or join one of our events?

Our upcoming Insight Events are a great way to hear first-hand from members of the profession about their experiences and find out how the Inner Temple can support you.

Our upcoming Insight Events are:

  • Van Mildert College, Durham University on 29 January 2019
  • The City Rooms, Hotel Street, Leicester, LE1 5AW on 7 February 2019

To book for these events or find a similar one near you check here

Lastly, our Outreach newsletter can be a great way to learn more about pupillage events, chambers’ open days and general tips and insights. Sign up here.