After successfully completing the Bar Professional Training Course, you must then start a one-year period of work-based learning known as ‘pupillage’ before you qualify as a fully-fledged barrister.
Traditionally, pupillages are split into two six-month sections known as ‘sixes’. The first ‘non-practising’ six involves shadowing an experienced barrister. In the second ‘practising’ six, a pupil is entitled to offer legal services and exercise rights of audience under supervision (ie appear in front of a judge). Most pupillages are undertaken at a chambers, but a small number of in-house positions with the Crown Prosecution Service are also available.
All pupils will work closely with their pupil supervisor – an experienced barrister who will take responsibility for organising their training, supervising progress, allocating work and assessing their performance.
A lot of hard work will be expected of you during your pupillage year. During your first six you will typically undertake legal research, draft opinions, read your pupil supervisor’s paperwork and shadow them in conferences and in court. Once you have successfully completed this stage of training you will finally be allowed your own clients and to work on your own cases. Significantly, you will also be permitted to appear in court as an advocate.
When and how to apply
The Bar Council requires all pupillage vacancies to be advertised on its online application system, the Pupillage Portal (www.pupillageportal.com). Students are able to apply for pupillages up to two years in advance. The portal aims to make the recruitment process simple for candidates, as you use just one form to apply to up to 12 chambers per recruitment season. The whole process operates under a strict timetable, which both candidates and chambers must adhere to.
For further tips on using the Pupillage Portal, check out Lawyer2B.com. Before applying, find out as much as you can about each of the chambers on your shortlist, such as the type of work they focus on and their pupillage selection procedures (including minimum entrance requirements). And remember competition is intense, as there are approximately 500 pupillage vacancies per year, which is significantly lower than the number of students successfully completing the BPTC.
The qualifying sessions, often referred to as the ‘12 dinners’, are a compulsory part of a barrister’s training. As their name suggests, food is involved, but this is followed by an educational activity such as a moot or debate.
The Bar Council rules stipulate that chambers must pay pupils a minimum of £12,000 annually (£1,000 per month) plus reasonable expenses. Those of you who decide to specialise in criminal law and join a set that relies on publicly-funded work are likely to find yourselves being paid the minimum award. But if you secure a pupillage with one of the leading commercial sets you can expect a much heftier (see table).
Awards can be paid as a full salary once a pupil starts their pupillage year, or if they have secured a pupillage while still completing their BPTC they have the choice to accept approximately a third of the award as an optional advancement during their year at law school.