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The Path to Pupillage

Updated: Feb 28, 2022

After completing a mini-pupillage I was recommended this book. It is a must-read for any aspiring barrister. Overall it provides a good introduction and things to consider before embarking on what can be a long and arduous journey to the Bar of England and Wales.


About the Author(s)

  1. Alexander Robson is a barrister at Littleton Chambers and his principal areas of specialism are commercial litigation and employment law.

  2. Georgina Wolfe is a barrister at 5 Essex Court and is recognised as a leading junior, specialising in the areas of police law, public law, human rights and civil liberties, inquests and public inquiries, prison law and malfeasance claims (assault, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and misfeasance).

The Premise of the Book

An essential guide for anyone considering pursuing a career at the Bar from sixth form students to those at the final stage of the Bar Training Course.

The Book in a Nutshell

  • The book considers each step of the route to pupillage, the final and most competitive stage of a barrister's training, offering detailed advice on everything from choosing the Bar as a career to succeeding in pupillage interviews.

  • It provides aspiring barristers with a “dose of reality” regarding how competitive it is to secure pupillage.

  • It breakdowns avenues to developing your skills as an aspiring barrister, and what qualifications and experiences will support you on your journey to the Bar.

Key Ideas

  1. A Dose of Reality

Less than 25% will succeed in securing pupillage.

2. Paths to the Bar

There are many different paths to the Bar – consider both the self-employed and employed Bar.

3. 7 Foundations of Legal Knowledge

  1. Constitutional and Administrative

  2. Contract

  3. Criminal

  4. Equity and Trusts

  5. EU

  6. Land

  7. Tort

4. Bar Experience

  • Court visits.

  • Debating.

  • Mooting.

  • Pro Bono.

5. Mini-pupillages

Aim to complete 3 (general rule of thumb).

6. Financing the Bar Training Course

Apply for a scholarship from the Inns of Court.

7. The Bar Training Course

The course covers:

  1. Advocacy

  2. Civil Litigation, Evidence and Remedies

  3. Conference Skills

  4. Criminal Litigation, Evidence and Sentencing

  5. Drafting

  6. Legal Research

  7. Opinion Writing

  8. Professional Ethics

  9. Resolution of Disputes Out of Court (REDOC)

8. Qualities of a Barrister

Success at the Bar demands 5 main qualities in addition to high ethical standards and tenacity:

  1. A good academic mind

  2. Incisiveness provides a swift route to the heart of a problem

  3. An ability to deal with people

  4. Presentational skills

  5. Organisational discipline

My Favourite Quotes

“Law is just common sense with knobs on. Most legal disputes are really about facts”
“I can assure you that not every successful barrister has the intellect of an Einstein or the oratorical power of a Churchill”
“Being a barrister is the best job in the world. You have the chance to work independently on wonderful cases and have an interesting and fulfilling career”
“Do not be deflected, do not be discouraged, do not be disheartened by such short sighted, pessimistic, doom laden messages about the future whether at the bar or anywhere else”
“The future is what you want to make it”

Actionable Takeaways

  1. Preparing for Debates

    • Plan what are we are going to say - what are our arguments?

    • Attempt to predict what our opponent will say? How will they "rebut" our arguments?

    • Plan our response to their rebuttals - how will we rebut the rebuttal?

    • Which points for our team will be delivered by us and which by our partner?

    • How will our speech be structured?

2. Preparing for Bar Training Course Scholarship Interviews

  • Read the newspapers every day in the run-up to the interview, paying particular attention to the legal pages. Think about the issues raised so that we have a view of them.

  • Think about an area of law that interests us and why it appeals.

  • Re-read your application form and try to anticipate any potential areas on which we might be questioned.

  • N.B. Scholarships interviews tend to be very similar to pupillage interviews.

3. Preparing for Pupillage Interviews

These interviews will look to establish the following:

  • Ability to relate to lay and professional clients.

  • Advocacy skills.

  • Analysis and reasoning.

  • Determination.

  • Interest in and commitment to areas of practice.

  • Potential to make a positive contribution to chambers and its development.

  • Proven academic ability.

  • Responsibility, leadership and teamwork.

  • Well-developed oral communication skills.

  • Well-developed written communication skills.

4. Chambers Interests

What sets are looking for from candidates

  • An understanding of the profession.

  • Evidence that you have made a commitment to the Bar.

  • Evidence of ability and interest in advocacy.

  • Interest in the law itself.

  • A desire to be self-employed.

Impact Statement

“The Bar rewards persistence”




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