To get a practising certificate to be a barrister, you need to get a pupillage. Securing a pupillage can be competitive, but there are things you can do to improve your chances.

Finding a Pupillage

You can find pupillage vacancies on the Pupillage Gateway, on chambers websites and on various law-related jobs boards. Pupillage vacancies will be advertised at different times throughout the year. For example, the Pupillage Gateway only starts advertising pupillage opportunities in November. It is important to keep track of deadlines when finding a pupillage to avoid missing application deadlines.

Choosing a Chambers For Your Law Pupillage

When applying for a pupillage vacancy, you will need to ensure that the chambers advertising a pupillage covers the area of law that you want to practise in as a barrister. You will also need to check that the pupillage is in the right location and is the right fit for your lifestyle and your personality.

You can learn more about choosing the right chambers for you in our ‘What is Pupillage?’ guide.


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Applying For a Pupillage

Chambers recruit up to 18 months in advance for pupillages. Applications open in early January and close in early February. In England, Northern Ireland and Wales most chambers accept applications via the Bar Council’s Pupillage Gateway. All pupillage vacancies must be advertised on the gateway. You can learn more about Pupillage Gateway applications in our dedicated guide.

You can also apply directly to chambers by sending in your CV and a pupillage covering letter. There is no limit on the number of applications you can send directly to chambers. If you apply for a vacancy using the Pupillage Gateway, you can send a maximum of 20 applications.

How to Impress With Your Pupillage Applications

Pupillages are very competitive. You will need to demonstrate an excellent academic record, legal work experience, employment advocacy and extra-curricular activities, among other things. When writing your pupillage applications, you should consider the following things in order to impress chambers:

  • Does your application demonstrate a genuine commitment to the Bar?
  • Does your CV show advocacy or mooting experience?
  • Does your application show evidence of undertaking a mini pupillage or other legal work experience, such as marshalling?

As a general rule, pupillage applications should include any legal academic and work experience, non-legal academic and work experience, languages you speak, responsibilities and interests and answers to competency and suitability questions.

You should include everything you can that will help you stand out. Degree and exam grades are a necessity, while the Bar is increasingly looking for multi-language barristers.

Your application form or CV should follow a formal structure to make them easier to read. You should outline your educational achievements – including your grades – in reverse chronological order. You should differentiate these between legal and non-legal experience.

Then you should add any mini pupillages, mooting, debating, marshalling and voluntary experience that you have. Always have someone proofread and check your application before sending it.

Chambers place a lot of weight on academic qualifications and work experience, but every application they receive will contain these details. To stand out, you need to demonstrate your character and personality, because this gives you a better chance of being invited to an interview.

You might have an innocuous hobby or pastime that, if approached from the right angle, could be demonstrated as a skill that can be used in legal practice. For example, you might play in a band performing to people – this demonstrates advocacy potential.

Your pupillage applications should lead with experience. Mini pupillages and pro bono work should be at the top of the list, but don’t dismiss part-time jobs, internships, apprenticeships and other experience.

Demonstrating that you can keep to a regular work pattern, you can interact with people and make key decisions are all useful for showing chambers that you are organised and trustworthy.

It’s important to outline exactly why you want to be a barrister on your pupillage applications. Don’t answer this question with meaningless platitudes. Chambers want to see hard evidence to back up your reasons for wanting to be a barrister. Draw on your experiences and link up your reasons with actual events or actions in your life.

If you are applying to more than one chambers, don’t use the same application for each one. You must tailor every application to the specific chambers that you are applying to, so that it covers their areas of law and mentions cases they have worked on.

You need to demonstrate why you have chosen to apply to a certain set of chambers. When writing about areas of practice, be very specific about certain aspects of cases they have dealt with. This demonstrates that you understand the chambers, their ethos and what they stand for.


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Pupillage Interviews

If your pupillage applications are accepted, barristers’ chambers will invite you to an interview. Pupillage interviews are an opportunity to showcase your skills, personality and character in person. Interviews are also a chance to make a good first impression and make yourself memorable.

While every chambers will have a slightly different approach to interviews, most will have two rounds of interviews, which often follow a similar format. The first stage is a panel interview with two to six members of a Chambers’ Pupillage Committee.

In addition to typical pupillage interview questions, you could be asked ethical or legal questions covering a wide range of current affairs. You could also be asked to complete a task, such as a written or oral advocacy exercise.

The purpose of pupillage interviews is to assess your commitment to the Bar, and your ability to deal with difficult legal questions under pressure.

There are things that you can do to prepare you for pupillage interview questions to help you stand out:

  1. Know your CV, your application and the chambers you’re interviewing with, inside-out. Your CV, your application and your knowledge of chambers will form the basis of the questions asked by those interviewing you.
  2. Plan to solve a problem question. Many chambers will give you a problem question when you arrive to present whilst in the interview. Examples of this could be written work which you may be questioned about, arguing as part of an advocacy exercise or a discussion point to undergo with the interviewers.
  3. Keep track of current affairs. It is also really important to know your current affairs – particularly those which directly relate to the specialism of the chambers.

Check out these nine tips to help you ace a pupillage interview.

How Hard is it to Get Pupillage?

The competitive nature of pupillages means that some of your applications are likely to be rejected. If an application is rejected, ask for feedback. The feedback will help you identify any gaps in an application. In the gap year between the pupillage application window reopening, keep engaging with the Bar.

You can attend networking events, engage with your Inns of Court, take part in mooting competitions and stay up to date with current affairs.

If you receive an offer from a chambers where you want to undertake a pupillage, accept the offer and keep preparing. Even though you have received and accepted an offer, it could be several weeks or months before you start pupillage. You should use this time to research and network to ensure that you are fully prepared for the demands of your pupillage.


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