Pupillage Gateway applications: tips from the experts

Lawyer 2B attended Middle Temple Young Barristers’ Association’s pupillage application evening, where barristers, from Church Court Chambers, 5 Essex Court, 1 Gray’s Inn Square and Lamb Building gave their expert advice on navigating the Pupillage Gateway. Here’s some of their advice…

General tips

  • “Don’t forget that all the sections of the form will carry more or less equal weight. The questions about what law reform you would make are as important as your academics – some people forget that.”
  • “Use simple sentences – convoluted phrases are not your friends.”
  • “Ring up the chambers you’re interested in before you make your application and talk to a member of the pupillage committee. Find out what their criteria is for marking. You’re bound to find out more detail than what’s available on the website.”
  • “Don’t write more than you need to. Chambers get hundreds of applications, and several barristers at each set will have to read them. They won’t welcome waffle.”
  • “The form takes longer than you think to fill in – don’t leave it until the last minute”

Extenuating circumstances

  • “If you have extenuating circumstances, mention them. There are occasions where an applicant won’t say anything on the pupillage application form, and the reason they did poorly in certain exams will only emerge at interview. Presumably, many other people will miss out on interview altogether because they don’t speak up on the form.”
  • “If you have poor grades in a certain area, honesty is the best policy. The people reading your form will often not be as qualified as you: they won’t be completely judgemental.”
  • “If you got 69 per cent in an exam, don’t try and explain why you didn’t get a First. You really don’t need to.”

‘Why do you want to become a barrister?’ and ‘Why do you believe you will make a good barrister?’

  • “It’s almost impossible to avoid being generic. It’s about not falling down more than anything else. Concentrate on clarity of expression and ticking the right boxes.”
  • “Show, don’t tell. Anyone can write ‘I have great advocacy skills’. The best answer I ever saw showed how they developed the skills that makes them a good potential barrister.”

Why have you chosen this chambers?

  • “Sycophancy doesn’t play well. If you haven’t done a mini-pupillage at the chambers how can you know what it’s like there? For a famous chambers like Matrix you might plausible say their reputation is far-reaching, but typically, gushing about how much you love chambers will have us reaching for the sick bucket.”
  • “In the application that got me pupillage, I wrote about three lines answering this question. The gist of it was, ‘You practice criminal law and you’re offering two pupillages’. It’s not about showing ‘love’ for chambers: we’re under no illusion that you’re applying to a dozen other sets. The key thing to show is that you understand a bit about what chambers does and you still want to apply to us. Put some effort in to finding out about cases members have worked on.”