Pupillage means being a pupil barrister or student. A pupillage in law is essentially an apprenticeship to becoming a member of the Bar, which then qualifies you to practise as a fully independent barrister.
Pupillage is the final step towards qualification as a barrister. You can begin your pupillage training after completing the Bar training. Pupillage is usually completed in chambers under the supervision of experienced barristers.
Less commonly, a pupillage can be completed at an employed Bar organisation – for example, in-house at a large commercial organisation, in a law firm or in the Government Legal Department/Crown Prosecution Service.
You can find and apply for Barrister pupillage in one of two ways:
You can only apply for pupillage via the Pupillage Gateway through January and the start of February. After this period, the gateway closes to applicants until the following year.
You can submit a maximum of 20 applications for pupillage using the gateway, where you can find a list of pupillages available, including chambers that are not members of the Pupillage Gateway network.
Applications are considered from the end of February to May, and offers start to be made from early May. You are then given a deadline to accept initial offers. Most pupillages offered through the Pupillage Gateway tend to be funded pupillages.
You can also apply for pupillage directly to chambers if they are not part of the Pupillage Gateway. Unlike the gateway, you can submit as many applications as you like, provided you meet the application requirements and meet any deadlines. Some chambers will only accept applications for unfunded pupillages.
Before you start, you will need to register your barrister pupillage with your Inn and the Bar Standards Board, otherwise it won’t count towards your qualification.
If you are a barrister without pupillage, meaning you haven’t been called to the Bar, there are a number of legal jobs you can do minus a pupillage.
Before you apply for your pupillage you will need to figure out what type of chambers you want to work in. To help you decide, you will need to choose the area of law you want to pursue. Ask yourself whether you want to work in common law, commercial law or criminal law.
You will also need to ask yourself whether you want to spend more time in the courtroom or in chambers. Some chambers will cover all three areas of law, while others will only specialise in one.
It’s important to remember that it’s not just about where you work. You will need to make sure that your personality and your lifestyle are a good fit for the chambers that you choose. You should review the website and social media channels of the chambers that you want to work in to find out what they are about and to see what other people say about them.
Choosing a chambers in the right location is also crucial. Most chambers are based in London, but competition for places is fierce, so it’s worth looking outside the capital. When choosing a location, you should research living and travel costs and the type of work and clients that a chambers deals with.
Normally beginning in September/October, pupillage typically lasts for one year split into the non-practising period (commonly called the ‘first six’) and the practising period (commonly called the ‘second six’).
There is an element of time pressure for aspiring pupil barristers because you must secure pupillage within five years of finishing the vocational training component (unless you get an extension from the Bar Standards Board).
Your pupillage will help you consolidate everything you learned during your vocational training component, while picking up other skills along the way. During your non-practising period (first six), you will shadow a supervisor and assist with Court document preparation and conduct legal research.
You will also have to complete 12 hours of advocacy training, which is mainly conducted through exercises in legal argument and speeches, and making or opposing applications to Court – such as injunctions. Plus, you will undergo training in witness handling, case analysis and cross-examination.
You will have to complete a compulsory Pupils’ Advocacy Course and ethics training, and you’ll be assessed at the end of this period. If you impress your supervisor, you’ll receive the go-ahead to continue to the practising component of pupillage (the second six).
During the practising period, you’ll have more autonomy, being able to take on your own cases independently. To complete pupillage, you must complete various compulsory training courses.
Upon completion of the first six, you will need to obtain a formal Certification of Pupillage and a second Certification of Pupillage after the practising period. Once you have completed all the components of pupillage, you will be issued with a Full Qualification Certificate – this is NOT the same as a practising certificate, which you will need to obtain separately from the Bar Council.
A third six pupillage means that technically, you are not a pupil barrister, but a qualified barrister who does not yet have a tenancy following the end of your 12-month pupillage (first and second six). There is no limit on how many third six pupillages you can take in order to secure tenancy.
A mini-pupillage is typically a short stint – anywhere between three days and a week – shadowing a barrister in chambers. A mini pupillage could involve attending Court, going to conferences for meetings with solicitors and lay clients, completing small legal research tasks and discussing your supervisor’s cases.
A mini pupillage offers a great way to have close contact with practising barristers and gives you the opportunity to observe them at work.
A mini-pupillage is typically undertaken by aspiring law students who want to build their work experience and boost their CV for pupillage applications.
Barrister pupils are paid by pupillage award – financial support that is provided by chambers throughout your pupillage. Support varies depending on chambers location and practice areas. London-based sets tend to offer more financial support than regional chambers. Commercial chambers typically offer a higher salary than criminal sets.
As of January 2022, the minimum award for 12-month pupillages in London is £19,144 per year and £17,152 for pupillages outside London.
The awards have been set after consulting the Living Wage Foundation’s hourly rate recommendations, which are announced in November each year.
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