Blessing Mukosha Park
It is important to start thinking about what you want to do once you have completed the BPTC. The reason for this is that the BPTC does not guarantee pupillage but it does provide you with helpful skills that you can put to good use once you have completed the course. Further study is one option and some people return to higher education once the course is complete.
However, the vast majority of BPTC graduates want to get started with their career at the Bar as soon as possible. With competition for pupillage being as fierce as it is, mapping out what you want to do until you get pupillage is a great idea. In this post I share some of the go-to options for a BPTC graduate aiming to fill the gap between the BPTC and pupillage with meaningful work.
When to apply
The BPTC course tends to wrap up in early summer. Jobs that are specifically geared towards BPTC and LPC graduates usually start interviewing at around this time. However, it is equally as possible that ideal work is advertised all year round and they are not recruiting solely from a pool of recent graduates. This means that you are competing for the same work as other people with a legal qualification and possibly more experience in legal work than you are. A sensible idea is to submit your CV to legal recruiters around three months before you seek to actually start work. These recruiters can then start looking out for work that might be suitable for you and have your ideal start date in mind.
Fixed-contract paralegal work
Working as a paralegal under a fixed term contract is one potential option. Under a fixed contract, you are working for a set period of time. The benefit to this is that you can plan your time knowing your work commitment is not indefinite. This might be helpful if you were planning to complete an internship or some other form of commitment that might require a set number of months within the year. The downside to this work is that you are under contract so if the work ends, you might not be able to stay on. Another hurdle with this form of work is that recruiters tend to prefer paralegals with more experience and therefore do not require much training.
The judicial assistant positions in the High Court and Court of Appeal are extremely coveted amongst BPTC graduates. These positions allow you to work alongside judges completing work to assist them in their duties within the court. This can involve reading and analysing papers and providing clarification over key legal issues. The skills and experience gained is highly valued amongst chambers and former judicial assistants are in an enviable position with regard to pupillage applications. Applications tend to open around 9-12 months in advance of the intended start date.
Law Commission research assistant
The Law Commission recruits research assistants each year to complete research into one of four areas: commercial and common law, criminal law, property, family and trust law and public law. Research assistants work within those teams on a project and support a lead lawyer (a solicitor, barrister or academic). The work is well suited for those who enjoy legal research and writing, looking at policy and completing administrative work. The biggest benefit of this work is the opportunity to tangibly influence legal reform and develop a niche within one of the four areas. This will be extremely helpful if you are seeking to submit targeted pupillage applications focusing on specific areas of law. This work is very competitive however and many graduates with strong academic records are going to be applying. Ensure that you have the appropriate evidence to show that you will be skilled at legal research.
A popular choice for BPTC graduates is to find a legal internship position once they complete the course. These internships are located both within the United Kingdom and internationally and can be a fantastic opportunity to conduct legal research into interesting areas of law or work as a legal caseworker. The main (and most competitive) opportunities that are targeted by BPTC graduates are offered by the International Bar Association, The United Nations, JUSTICE, INQUEST, Reprieve and Liberty. These internships are very prestigious and can bring an edge to pupillage applications. Any opportunity to get an international insight into law can be very beneficial.
County court advocacy
An increasingly popular route for BPTC graduates is to become a county court advocate. This would see you taking on your own small cases and appearing in crown courts. There are opportunities to appear before judges and tackle real legal problems. Companies such as LPC Law are recruiting BPTC graduates to start working as a freelance advocate. This work can fit around other commitments and can be a great way to learn how to manage your own caseload and work independently.
Look far and wide for work that fits your career plan
This blog post is not exhaustive and there is a range of work that a BPTC graduate can complete. Having a clear career plan in mind can help you seek out work that is most appropriate for you and your personal goals. Work outside of law is also valuable, but it is important to prioritise gaining relevant skills and experiences you can put to use in your later work as a barrister.