If you are currently studying A-levels or equivalent and want to pursue a career as a barrister, you should start working on your legal CV now. This article outlines the types of barrister work experience that are available to you in year 12 – before you even start studying law.
In recent years, an increasing amount of law chambers around the UK are keen on providing barrister work experience for Year 12 students who are considering a career in law. These placements are designed to offer students a unique opportunity to learn about the role of barristers and the legal profession as a whole, as well as the chambers itself. Depending on the chambers you apply to, the placement usually lasts a few days to a week.
During the placement, you can expect to work closely with clerks and barristers while carrying out duties such as legal research, court visits among other administrative tasks, which reflect the inner workings of a barrister.
What’s more, you will gain practical benefits such as legal skills, communication skills and problem-solving skills that are not only important for barristers but help to demonstrate your skillset on your future mini-pupillage and pupillage applications.
In selecting applicants, chambers are actively seeking talented students who are underrepresented at the Bar (i.e. BAME students) and those who would be the first generation in their family to attend university. This is to promote equality of opportunity in the legal profession.
Sitting in a public hearing in the public gallery of a courtroom is a form of barrister work experience you can do in year 12, as it gives you a chance to observe how cases are being conducted by barristers and a judge gives court judgement.
While it is especially common for aspiring lawyers to visit Crown Courts or Magistrate Courts to observe criminal trials, you may also observe a tribunal hearing for employment-related disputes.
As members of the public, students are generally welcomed to turn up on any weekday and report to the public office. On arrival, the officer will advise you on which courtrooms are running on the day.
However, to avoid disappointment, you could also telephone the administrative team the day before you intend to visit. It would confirm the number of cases are listed for the next day and the main jurisdiction.
Participating in debate competitions goes hand in hand with gaining barrister work in year 12 because there are several benefits such extracurricular activity can offer. The nature of debate competitions will boost your confidence in public speaking, enhance your oral skills, sharpen your ability to analyse issues and defend your arguments. These are key skills you will need as a barrister.
Essentially, debate competitions are very similar to ‘mooting’ competitions at university which simulate a court hearing, and chambers would expect candidates who are applying for a mini-pupillage or pupillage to have participated in similar competitions at college and university.
Therefore, while you are actively seeking barrister work experience, try to join a debate competition at your Sixth Form College.
While chambers primarily look for legal work experience in a candidate applying for a mini-pupillage or pupillage, non-law related work experience including volunteering work are of equal value.
You can demonstrate a wide range of transferable skills (e.g. leadership skills, time-management skills, ability to initiate) through any work experience that you have done to showcase your potential for a career at the Bar.
These would also favour your application to law schools as universities’ admissions appreciate applicants that are well-rounded in assessing your potential to study a law degree.
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