Pupillage interview committees will expect you to have relevant experience. Otherwise your application looks baseless: how do you know you’re suited to a unique profession if you haven’t experienced it? More and more courts and sets of chambers are opening themselves up to allow would-be advocates to experience what it’s like to be a barrister.
The most formal system is that of the mini-pupillage, a work placement that usually lasts up to two weeks within a set of chambers. You will be assigned to a barrister whom you’ll shadow, much like during the first six months of a full pupillage. The work will differ depending on the barrister’s practice, the requirements of his/her current cases and his/her character. Some chambers run assessed mini-pupillages, during which time you’ll have to produce a piece of written work or participate in a mock-conference.
At commercial chancery set Wilberforce Chambers, mini-pupils shadow a barrister, speak with junior and senior members of chambers and have a lunch with the clerks to learn what they do. As well as observing barristers first hand (often in court), mini-pupils may be able to read through a set of papers and discuss it with the relevant advocate.
To search for chambers that offer mini-pupillages, click here. To apply, candidates are normally asked to submit a CV and cover letter to chambers, although a number of chambers are these days using downloadable application forms. When applying, be sure to research the chambers’ recent cases and its notable members.
There are other options for gaining experience and you should definitely try each avenue. Every would-be barrister should take advantage of public galleries in court. This will place you in the advocates’ arena and you could even approach them to ask for work experience.
Another opportunity is marshalling, which involves following a judge for a set period of time. Currently a pupil at the CPS, Kira Chana says that marshalling offers invaluable experience: "I got to sit with quite a high judge at an inner London Crown Court. I sat right next to the judge on the judge's bench and saw proceedings from his perspective. If you’re lucky the judge will let you read the skeleton arguments and the case summaries, and during the proceedings they might let you look at a bundle so you can follow what’s going on."