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How to Write the Perfect Pupillage Application

For the overwhelming majority of wannabe barristers, your pupillage application is the first thing that a prospective chambers is going to see of you.

Then, for around 75% of applicants and only 2 minutes later, it’s the last thing they’re going to see of you when they put your file on the ‘rejected without interview’ pile. Those 2 minutes are clearly ridiculously important, but what can you do to make your application stand out?


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Keep it Short

There is no shortage whatsoever of barristers who are happy to write something like this phrase: “Brevity, clarity and concision are three of the key skills necessary to be a good barrister.”

This is clearly true. Barristers do indeed need to be clear, brief, and concise. So it is probably a good idea to demonstrate those qualities in your application!

Think of the poor pupillage committee, sifting through hundreds and hundreds of applications looking for the potential star that they’ll offer that coveted pupillage place to. Every hour they spend churning through the rough is an hour away from doing what they actually want to be doing.

If you give them a short, snappy, bullet-point answer to each of their questions they are going to thank their lucky stars and like you that much more than if you waffle on in half-page paragraphs.

Don’t Be Afraid to Show Off

Got a prize? Put it in. Got a First? Put it in wherever you can!

Don’t undersell yourself – everyone who is going to apply for the Bar nowadays is a pretty special person, and you need to do everything you can to demonstrate why you, and not them, should get that interview place.

That time you spent packing bags at the local supermarket because you and nothing else to do in your university holidays and wanted to raise some money? Dress it up as a community-focused activity benefiting the wider social fabric of your town and suddenly it’s a massive plus.

Barristers, on the job, have to be persuasive. It is your job in this paper application to show exactly how persuasive you can be. If you can take something that’s superficially a black mark against your name, and turn it into a plus point for you, you’re demonstrating the very skills necessary.

The best example I heard of this was the person who applied to a chamber with a 2.2 in their undergraduate degree. Normally, this fails at the first hurdle, but she openly admitted in her application how during her undergrad she’d actually not bothered much with academics and been much more focused on sport, captaining the university’s first rowing team and making the GB development squad.

Later on, after quitting her sporting career, she’d decided to apply to the Bar and since then had demonstrated her intellectual aptitude in other ways (conversion course, writing for newspapers, giving speeches at schools, etc). She got an interview, because she could explain what was bad and turn it into something good that showed her drive and determination to succeed.

Academics Are Not Everything

As hinted above, your undergrad degree and associated academics are not the be all and end all of your hopes to join the Bar. Sure, if you’ve got a First from Oxbridge and a Distinction on the LLM, followed by a research position at the ICC, then you’re pretty well set up.

But for us mere mortals, it is possible to demonstrate your aptitude in other ways. Run a marathon? Written for a newspaper? Taught school kids? It’s all valuable life experience that develops the tenacity and focus necessary to thrive at the Bar, and chambers will recognise this in your application.

 

Published: 08/01/18       Author: Oliver Jackson

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