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Mini Pupillage Applications – On Paper and At Interview

As all wannabe barristers know, mini pupillages are crucial to a successful pupillage application. By spending a few days in chambers, you demonstrate that you’re genuinely interested in practising law, learn what life is like at the front line, and also get an idea of which area of law you’d like to practice in. It’s also a chance for a chambers to assess you and receive informal feedback from the barristers you sat with as to whether you’d have a chance in their competitive pupillage application rounds. So no pressure there then!


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Mini Pupillage Applications: The Paper Application

Not every chambers offers mini pupillages, but those that do tend to guard their places carefully. After all, from the chambers’ point of view, it’s a substantial waste of their time, money, and effort to get someone into their chambers who has no interest in applying there at all, or who simply isn’t suited for the Bar. Paper applications are therefore important – treat it like a mock-pupillage application. You have to demonstrate to the reader that you will make a good barrister.

How do you do this? Academics are vital, as always, but your wider life experience is also crucial to demonstrate that you’d get along well with clients and other members of chambers. Prior legal experience is a must – done any pro bono volunteering? Put it in. Written an article for The Lawyer Portal or your student law review? Highlight it. Read something remotely interesting in the chambers’ website news section? Summarise it in a sentence.

This final one is doubly important, as it shows that you do genuinely know what that chambers does and are clued up on their most recent work. A paper application to a chambers, whether a cover letter and CV or a form with separate boxes, should come across as unique to that chambers. They find the work they do interesting; you need to convince them that you do too, or you’ll never get a foot in the door.

Mini Pupillage Applications: The Interview

Not every chambers has an interview stage for mini pupillage applications. After all, if they’re only going to be seeing you for a day they can gauge your social capability and personality then at relatively little cost to them. The ones that do have interviews tend to be the places that take mini pupils for a week or so. This makes sense: they only have a limited number of places, and they want to make sure they get someone in who actually has a chance of pupillage.

However, given how many people apply, the mini pupillage interview is not going to be long. Most are only 15-20 minutes, and often seem to be completely unrelated to your actual application. This surprises a lot of people, but it shouldn’t. After all, they’ve read your application already! They know whether you’re good on paper, now they want to know whether you can hold your own in argument. You’re likely to be discussing something with an ethical or political bent…

Examples of Mini Pupillage Interview Questions:

Ultimately, what conclusion you come to is irrelevant. The interviewers will attack whatever points you make and expect you to be able to defend them. They simply want to see you argue and think logically through your argument. It’s as simple as that! So think carefully, summon up a few major arguments, and practice speaking slowly, clearly and concisely in front of a mirror or a camera. Yes it’s weird, yes it’s awkward, yes you should do it anyway. Everyone has their own ticks and habits that surprise them – I occasionally close my eyes for around 5 seconds at a time while talking. I had no idea until I filmed myself.

Good luck!


Written by Oliver Jackson


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