For anyone hoping to go to the bar securing mini-pupillages is an essential but daunting task, involving hours of preparing applications, dealing with covering letters which never sound right, and not infrequent rejection. Even when your successful experiences can vary wildly, and you’ll never know what to expect. However as someone who has grappled with this process time and time again, I’m hoping to give you tips on how to apply for mini-pupillages, where to find them, and advice on how to take advantage of these all-important placements.
Applying for mini-pupillages at first is difficult, in particular applying for your very first mini-pupillage can be exceedingly difficult and from my experience the first one is a crucial stepping stone. After I secured my first mini-pupillage I found more and more chambers opening up, more attention given to my applications and within a few short months had an additional 4 minis lined up for the year. If you can secure one, it’s becomes much easier to find others. So how do you go about getting the first placement? In my experience, there are two answers to that question.
The first is obviously applications, the easiest way to find these is to research Chambers you’re interested in and see if they accept applicants. Take careful note of how they take applications, and when they accept them. From here some chambers ask you to submit a CV and covering letter, while others will need you to take part in an application process. For all applications, keep answers short and to the point. Always answer the question, never put something down unless it is relevant, and speak from experience wherever possible. Reference what you have seen, who’ve you met, and why your experiences have directed you to this application. When it comes to your CV, condense it to one page, with your results, legal work experience and skills listed in as much brevity as possible. Remember the person reading it will be sifting through dozens of applications, and a short snappy, stand out CV will almost always be what they’re looking for. As for covering letters, keep them short, and do some research on the chambers beforehand. Explain why you want a placement with them with reference to their record, their expertise and even standout members, but fall short of shameless flattery. The more memorable, interesting and engaging your application is the more likely it is a Chambers will give it a second look.
The second way to secure a mini-pupillage is networking and mooting, the two of which can often be interchangeable. For mooting look for competitions offering mini-pupillages as prizes, speak to judges after the event and remember that someone who has seen your skills in action may have more cause to offer you a mini-pupillage than someone assessing you on paper. As for networking generally take advantage of all the opportunities available to you, strike up conversations with professionals, get to know them and remember a good contact can land you that first placement. Mooting and networking has secured me two mini-pupillages and it can open a lot more doors than people realise.
A tip from me would be to seek out your own opportunities. Save up, be prepared to travel and you’ll be able to apply all over the country. If you let yourself be restricted by geography or comfort you can miss out on some fantastic opportunities. I’ve taken advantage of mini-pupillages, in London, Essex and Kingston by being prepared to look outside my comfort zone, and arrange travel and accommodation long enough in advance to keep costs down. If you don’t accept barriers to opportunities, you’ll be able to take advantage of a lot more of them.
When it comes to actually undertaking a mini-pupillage you’ll find every experience is different. For some you’ll be shadowing someone with a genuine interest in you and who will take pains to explain the case to you at every opportunity. Some barristers may ask about you and spend time chatting about anything and everything over lunch, others will give you the case facts and see if you can keep up, and every so often you’ll be dealing with an overworked and overstressed barrister who prefers you to keep quiet and stay out of sight. As someone who has had all of these and more my advice is choose your moments, be understanding, friendly and respect the wishes of the person you are shadowing. Over the summer I was assigned to shadow a barrister who didn’t know I was coming until the hour before and had a million more things to deal with than me. On the face, these kinds of experiences sound off putting but can offer a real insight into life at the junior bar, and by waiting for the right moment I was able to ask my questions and get advice from someone who was living the immediate future for most aspiring barristers. Every mini-pupillage is different, and taking advantage and learning from all these different experiences is a sure fire way to ready yourself for life at the bar.