The Bar Council’s Top Tips for Applying for Pupillage

The Pupillage Gateway is an online application system for pupillage, operated by the Bar Council. This year, the Gateway has been fully live since 8th January: applicants can start, edit and submit applications via the Gateway until 7th February 2018; interviews and assessments will take place between February and April 2018; and offers for pupillage can only be made on or after 3rd May 2018.

10 Tips for Writing Your Application on the Pupillage Gateway

  1. Start your applications as early as possible and have them checked as many times as possible, by as many people as possible. Check if your law school, a relative/friend or your Inn of Court can pair you with a barrister mentor.
  2. Never lie or copy and paste your applications: they come under intense scrutiny, during the paper sift and interview process, so it’s likely that you will be caught!
  3. Follow a structure for your answers that is clear, concise and easy to follow (e.g. ‘point, evidence, explain’).
  4. Reinforce every submission with a concrete example.
  5. Avoid using poetic language or too many adjectives (e.g. “I am passionate about the Bar because it is a fantastic profession which works tirelessly to provide an outstanding standard of advocacy to clients in need of help.”)
  6. Do not be sycophantic (e.g. “I want to become a barrister because barristers have some of the most powerful minds around and spend their time fighting to free the world from corruption and injustice.”)
  7. Speak in your own voice; you do not need to digest a thesaurus to impress barristers. Clarity and precision are more important, and your application form should match the person in interview.
  8. Do not waste words repeating the question in the answer or telling barristers what they do (e.g. instead of saying “I believe that I will make a good barrister because good barristers need to be good at advocacy and I have won [award]” say “Winning [award] shows that I will be an effective advocate for my clients and the court.”
  9. Most questions require you to focus on and sell ‘you’, by turning your character, skills and experiences into a convincing submission that, for example, you are well-suited to a specific practice area.
  10. Some chambers ask scenario based questions. Instead of explaining your relevant skills with examples and achievements, apply them directly to the scenario (e.g. precise drafting skills).

The Bar Council suggests two questions for chambers to ask applicants…

    1. Why do you believe you will make a good barrister? In your answer, please identify any relevant experiences or skills that you believe may help you in your career (200 words).
    2. Why do you want to join our chambers? In your answer, please give reasons for your choice of chambers and explain why you are interested in our areas of practice (200 words).

Chambers are free to override the Bar Council’s suggested questions and ask up to seven questions of their own, or accept the suggested questions and add up to five questions of their own.

The first suggested question is about you:

Remember not to waste words telling barristers what they do, or what makes them good at their job. Focus on your character, your skills and your experiences.

What do they say about you as an individual, why are they relevant to the Bar and how can you use them to persuade the reader that you will make a good barrister?

Although the second suggested question is about your chosen chambers and practice area(s), do not forget to convince the reader why you are the right person for their chambers and practice area(s):

Conduct thorough research on your chosen chambers and be specific about the factors which motivate your application.

In addition to practice area(s), you may want to talk about diversity in chambers, a case or the work of an individual barrister. However, try not to focus solely on a landmark case or the work of QCs; show that you understand and are suited to the work that you would be doing as a pupil and very junior tenant.

If you have completed a mini-pupillage at your chosen chambers, use it to structure your answer. Show that you paid attention during your mini-pupillage (keep a written journal of mini-pupillages!) and that you have a realistic understanding of what life would be like in that chambers, as a pupil and very junior tenant.

If you haven’t completed a mini-pupillage at your chosen chambers, try to refer to a time when you observed a barrister from that chambers in court or met one via an Inn of Court or at an event. Make sure that you research the type of work carried out by members of chambers, from the most junior end to the most senior end. In addition to chambers’ websites, research the work of specific barristers on legal databases.


Most, if not all, applicants will receive rejections. If and when the process gets tough, remember to treat it as a learning opportunity rather than a failure.

The Bar Council and The Lawyer Portal wish you luck with your pupillage applications.


Published: 16/01/18      Author: Benjamin Burns, Education and Training Policy Analyst at the Bar Council

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