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Published on July 10, 2019 by Lauren Wade

A barrister stands before a court of law giving evidence to a court of law

BPP University Law School held a Careers in Law workshop last week that discussed the steps involved in securing a highly competitive pupillage.

Current BPTC student, Tajwar Shelim went along to hear more about how to become a barrister. These are the top five things he took away from the event.

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1. How to land a pupillage

Pupillages are tough and as such standing out is key. More than 1400 students take the BPTC every year, and on average, there are approximately 433 pupillages given annually. Those seeking pupillage have five years to attain an offer after completion of the BPTC.

To apply for pupillage, one must go through the Pupillage Gateway, and must have completed the BPTC.

2. Building your CV

There are many aspects that make up an impressive CV. BPP detailed a number of things pupillage applicants should try to include if they want to be successful and make a positive and lasting impression.

  • Mooting/Marshalling – Most law schools, universities and even colleges do some form of mooting. The more you do, the more you gain experience and confidence; the better you’ll be.
  • Connections – Don’t be afraid to approach judges, lawyers and solicitors. Most will be more than happy to give you advice, and some may even let you shadow them for a while if you’re fortunate.
  • Debating/Public Speaking/Model UN – These skills and societies directly relate to helping build a strong career in law. It’s advisable that you involve yourself in them at some point during your academic career to prepare yourself for success in the future.
  • Mini Pupillages – It’s hard when you’re working or studying full time to fit in a few weeks or even months of unpaid work experience. However, if you’re lucky enough to have the opportunity to complete a mini pupillage and shadow a barrister, you should definitely take it.
  • Pro Bono – There is always lots of work to be done. So many individuals do not have sufficient access to legal support, and they need your help. Doing pro bono work will not only benefit them, but it will equip you with invaluable experience and you’ll learn a lot about yourself.
  • Scholarship/Awards – Shine above and beyond the rest, look out for opportunities available and scholarship/awards you’re eligible to apply for. They are there for you; make the most of them.
  • Essay competitions – Show off your skills by producing outstanding pieces of work in the fields you’re interested in.

If opportunities don’t arise, make them yourself. Establish a law/mooting/debating society to increase your experience and go the extra mile.

3. BPTC

Studying the BPTC (Bar Professional Training Course) provides the best possible preparation for becoming a barrister.

The course can be studied over a year full-time or two years if you opt to study part-time.

Dedicated BPTC course providers, like BPP, also offer mock interviews and career assistance to help boost your employability, confidence and experience.

4. How Pupillage Interviews Work

Round 1 

The first round of pupillage interviews provide an introduction and then go on to test you for the relevant and desired competency attributes, as well as your motivation for wanting to become a barrister and knowledge of the profession.

You’re likely to find the advocacy exercise in a criminal set too. It’s important you prepare thoroughly for this exercise, which means knowing the structure and audience for the different types of advocacy exercises you could encounter.

Round 2 

Method 1 – You’ll experience a brief at the chambers or a list of topics to debate or produce a written statement.

Method 2 – You’ll complete a written exercise beforehand, and experience an in-depth discussion at the chambers.

For criminal pupillages, you’ll mostly draft bail applications, plea in mitigation, hearsay, bad characters or opening speech forms.

Remember to be realistic about the time given, and what you can accomplish in that time.

5. How to Succeed in Interviews

It’s very important for an aspiring barrister to know their audience and chambers. Look at profiles of recent tennants and research the work that has been carried out by the chambers.

Have answers prepared for why you have picked a particular chambers, why you’re interested, why they should select you and why you have chosen to become a barrister and not a solicitor.

Competency questions are not to be overlooked either. You can expect to be asked what you think is the most important skill for a barrister to have, as well as examples of when you had to convince others, or a type of challenge.

Sometimes the interviewers will disagree with you, but they want to know you act when challenged.

Words: Tajwar Shelim

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