The COVID-19 pandemic has made it more difficult to become a barrister, as if it wasn’t difficult enough already. Normally chambers take in mini-pupils to give them an idea of how they operate and what the job is like. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions this is not possible anymore.
Fortunately, some chambers are getting innovative. By adapting their mini-pupillage programmes to the remote environment, they enable students to see what life at the Bar is like without risking transmission of COVID-19.
This article gives you a peek into what to expect from virtual mini-pupillages, what you will learn, and which chambers are offering them.
It might feel a bit pointless to conduct a mini-pupillage from your desk at home. Of course, you would rather want to get a feel of chambers, talk to barristers face-to-face, and attend hearings and court cases in person. However, you will learn a lot from virtual ones too. Much of the same activities will take place in the remote environment, and you’ll get insights into how barristers are working during a crisis.
Applying for and participating in a mini-pupillage during this time also shows chambers that you are resilient. You can then point to these experiences in your eventual pupillage interview to demonstrate your commitment to the Bar and that you can handle a challenge. As these are highly sought-after qualities in the barrister profession, it is definitely worth doing a virtual mini-pupillage.
To some extent, most mini-pupillages are similar to the in-person experience. Some chambers such as Wilberforce Chambers offer a two-day remote programme where you will participate in virtual meetings with barristers and current pupils. Most likely, you will be able to discuss paperwork and cases with barristers and do some reading.
Where virtual mini-pupillages differ from in-person ones is that it is less likely that you will be able to get the courtroom experience. Virtual programmes do usually involve various talks and you might get the opportunity to attend remote hearings. However, this is not guaranteed as there are fewer barristers in the office and fewer court cases right now.
Some chambers offer very structured virtual mini-pupillages. 3PB’s virtual programme starts with a pre-recorded video session wherein pupil barristers and staff provide information about their job. You will then have a remote video session with a more senior barrister, complete a piece of written work which you will get feedback on, and observe at least one virtual hearing.
Whilst you may not get the courtroom experience during your virtual mini-pupillage, many chambers offer to do remote advocacy exercises and provide practical advice. In this way, you still get the opportunity to experience some of the advocacy part of the barrister role.
You will also get the opportunity to talk to barristers about what the job is like and what that particular set is like. As the pandemic will (hopefully) end at some point, it is very valuable to get to know different sets now so that you know where you want to apply for pupillage when the time comes.
In addition, you will learn what it is like to participate in virtual hearings and court cases, either from the barristers you talk to or by direct participation. As the legal system has been pushed to catch up with digital methods and systems, it is becoming more likely that some hearings will take place in a virtual environment going forward, regardless of the pandemic. Thus, it can be beneficial if you go into the legal profession with some knowledge about virtual hearings.
This is not a complete list, but it does give you some indication as to where you can apply to get remote experience:
Words by: Kristen Klungtveit
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