Undertaking a mini pupillages is one of the first steps on a long road to the Bar. Though not a prerequisite for pupillage, having some ‘minis’ under your belt will serve you well in the highly competitive pupillage recruitment process.
So, having attained your first mini pupillage, how can you maximise its value?
Show your interest in the role by asking about points of law, relevant practice areas and even about the lifestyle of barristers practising in that field.
There is, of course, a balance to be struck. There is quite literally a premium on barristers’ time, even more so when supervising mini pupils. If in doubt, stick to this rule: only ask questions for which you could not find the answers elsewhere.
For example, do not ask how many pupils the chambers takes on each year – you can find this online in a matter of seconds – but do ask about the form of training and assessments pupils undertake or about how much work a junior tenant might expect in a certain practice area.
Seek out tasks
During your mini pupillage, you should try to seek out tasks where you need to exercise the skill required of a barrister.
If you want your mini pupillage to be as productive as possible, do have that discussion with your supervisor but also try to create something tangible that you can point to as evidence of your aptitude at a later date.
Demonstrate proactiveness and offer out your services where appropriate. Even during quiet patches, there should be things to do, whether it’s more administrative based tasks at chambers or reading up on cases/legal issues.
This comes down to common sense. Be professional. This means turning up on time, being polite and thankful for the opportunity, and being respectful of your supervisor’s space.
Read up on your assigned barrister. Being able to discuss their past work and cases will help to build rapport.
Carry a notepad and pen at all times. Keeping a note of court events, client meetings and assigned tasks demonstrates proactiveness and engagement
Be enthusiastic and confident! Don’t be afraid to ask relevant and well-timed questions to demonstrate interest and engagement
A follow-up email to say thank you can go a long way. Leave them with the same impression of keen professionalism that you would want to convey at a pupillage interview later down the line.
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Whilst they may not trust you with important paperwork during the first day, you should engage with the advocate you are following and make it clear that you want to help out as much as possible.
If your barrister is involved in a court case, ask to review any associated bundles and documents so you have a better understanding of the various facts
Whilst the first six of your pupillage will involve you assisting your pupil supervisor, during the second six, you’ll work on minor cases. Impress the advocate you are following on your mini pupillage by demonstrating a motivation to work on these small cases at the start of your career.
Supervisors expect their pupil applicants to be realistic about the work they will do, so showing this understanding as a mini pupil will make your supervisors take you more seriously. And if you are disappointed and deterred by this at your mini pupillage, do not reveal this to the advocate you are shadowing! Remember that the Bar is a small place and you may come across them again even if you apply to a different kind of chambers.
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It may sound like a cliche, but it’s an important point. Students often forget that mini pupillages are also about evaluating whether a chambers is right for them. The only way to do this is to show your personality (while obviously maintaining professionalism), not whatever personality you think the chambers would appreciate.
Not only will being yourself help you relax, but it will also help you find out whether the advocates working in chambers are the kind of people you would like to surround yourself with. When your pupillage interview comes around, you’ll be able to tell interviewers exactly why it’s their chambers you want to complete your pupillage in.
Words: Kristin Klungtveit & Ravi Jackson
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