The journey towards a career at the bar is competitive, and doing law work experience is one way to improve your chances. For barristers, this usually comes in the form of a mini-pupillage. However, with COVID-19 restrictions in place, many of the available mini-pupillage programs have been suspended, decreasing the number of places available for aspiring barristers. It is therefore essential to gain experience through alternative avenues. The good news is that multiple chambers have confirmed that they value alternative experiences in the absence of a mini-pupillage.
Pre-COVID, court visits presented an easily accessible experience that could be used to build an understanding of the profession and draw from during various applications and interviews. While the reduction of court appearances and visitor allowances means there are less opportunities for physical visits, technological advances ensure the experience is still attainable. A large proportion of court proceedings are available online, giving you the chance to develop legal knowledge of both barrister tactics and court proceedings from the comfort of your own home.
While many schools and universities provide an array of events intended to develop legal knowledge outside the (virtual) classroom, which should not be overlooked, it’s important to build a repertoire of external advice as well. The virtual aspect of these various webinars has multiple advantages; firstly, where access to these events may have previously been capped, there is more space and no travel restrictions, allowing largely unfettered access. Secondly, the webinar setting has highly increased the ability for different organisations and educational institutions to expand their number of events, providing a greater learning opportunity for aspiring barristers.
Experience in mooting is invaluable for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, the set-up provides a glimpse of courtroom etiquette and what is expected from barristers. Understanding that will provide foundational knowledge you can use during a pupillage, and further, the call to the Bar. Secondly, mooting provides the opportunity to develop oral advocacy training, a skill that will be essential for a career at the bar, therefore any essential for any successful bar-related application. Further, mooting being assessed provides reputable evidence of the development of oral advocacy that can, as a result, be demonstrated in applications. Finally, mooting most convincingly demonstrates interest in the profession and an aptitude for the skills necessary.
While many volunteering opportunities are limited as a result of COVID restrictions, some legal clinics offer the opportunity to volunteer remotely by taking client interviews and aiding with any necessary research. Not only does this experience demonstrate a wider interest in law, but it also supports the development of skills necessary for success at the Bar. Developing client relationships, as a result of the self-employed nature of the profession, is the basis of a career at the Bar, and taking client interviews allows its practice within a forgiving environment. The experience also develops an understanding of the process of giving legal advice and the research required to do so, invaluable for any career at law.
Each of these examples of relevant experience demonstrates the same thing; it is not the specific experience that makes an application stand out, but the value gained from each experience and how it is applicable to a career at the Bar. Professionals at the Bar will all say the same thing; nobody is looking for a ‘full-grown’ barrister but rather someone who has the values that will make a successful barrister: determination, motivation and integrity.
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