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7 Pupillage Application Tips

Most chambers report on their websites that they receive around 150 pupillage applications each year. If you estimate that a typical application runs to around 8 pages, that amounts to 1200 pages that need to be individually reviewed.

If a member of chambers reviewing an application devotes just 1 minute to each page, he or she would need to spend 20 full hours of reading time to get through all the applications. This is time that comes out of billable hours, the evening or the weekend.

It is this reality that all pupillage applicants should have in mind when they put pen to paper (or hand to keyboard). The name of the game is to make life easy for the person marking your form – here are some top tips on making your application stand out!

1. Pick your best points

Cherry-pick your best points. Do not feel that you must relay every piece of information about what you did on a work experience placement. Use only the tasks you were set which evidence the skills that you need to be a barrister.

A useful exercise is to think about what you would write down if you could only include one piece of information; developing a hierarchy of what you want to convey to the person marking your form is good practice.

2. Less is more

When it comes to length, less is more. Do not feel obliged to use the maximum word count for each question. Being able to make your point succinctly demonstrates that you have the advocacy skills necessary for practice.

3. Make sure your formatting is clear

Do not be afraid to use formatting tools to present your application in a clearer way. Bullet-points can turn clunky paragraphs into punchy sentences and headings can make an answer much easier to read. Consider the following example:

“Mini-pupillage at XYZ Chambers

During this two-week mini-pupillage I shadowed three senior members of chambers. I was required to read through various cases, one of which concerned the correct interpretation of section 100 of the Fictional Act 2010, for which I drafted a Defence. I accompanied a member of chambers to the Upper Tribunal to observe an unlawful dismissal case, after which I created a summary of the key parts of the ex-parte judgment.”

Now consider the abridged version:

“Mini-pupillage at XYZ Chambers

The second example is not only more readable, but highlights the truly important parts of the mini-pupillage.

4. Be conscious of style

If you can impress with some rhetorical flair then go ahead, but if you are in any doubt, err on the side of caution. Writing in a clear readable style is more important in law than being able to turn a phrase. It is also a far more efficient way of writing applications.

5. Learn how to tackle competency questions

These types of questions can be a pitfall for many applicants. An example of a competency question is as follows:

“Tell us about a time where you had to persuade someone of something. What obstacles did you encounter and how did you overcome them?”

The way to tackle these questions is by using the S-T-A-R method, which stands for Situation – Task – Action – Result.

First, outline the situation. Give a specific and concise description of the context. Second, state the task. This means the outcome that you were trying to achieve. Third, describe that actions that you took or the contribution that you made to achieving the outcome. Fourth, state the result and what it demonstrates about you as a candidate.

6. Check your spelling, punctuation and grammar

Check, check and check again.

7. Get some second opinions

Get people whose advice you trust to review your applications. Take everything they say with a pinch of salt – you need to make your own mind up on what to write – but often a second opinion can be valuable.

Finally…

Pupillage applications are a gruelling process. Just keep swimming.

Words: Ravi Jackson

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