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Firstly, I’d like to say congratulations on making this decision. Secondly, are you sure you want to go down this path?
Jokes aside, the competition is fierce. To put it into perspective, in 2021 3,301 aspiring barristers applied for just 246 pupillages. If you’re anything like me, you’re already thinking about what you can do to stand out from the competition – or at least measure up to it. Worry no more, here’s what you need to be focusing on to make it into the Bar.
Stellar academics are a must as the Bar values academic success. Speaking frankly, getting a first is the ideal but some chambers may accept a 2:1, particularly if paired with impressive extracurricular activities. If you’re thinking about going into commercial law, I'd recommend getting a master's degree and trying to get your dissertation published. The commercial Bar values academics more so than other areas such as criminal law.
Chambers want to see that you’re capable of balancing studies with extracurriculars – and the more you have, the better. Don’t underestimate the value of non-law activities, so definitely include anything from mastering the piano to being president of a writing society. These roles demonstrate perseverance and leadership qualities, which are essential to succeed at the Bar.
On the legal side, the obvious ones are mooting and debating. Keep an eye out for essay competitions as they’re a sure way to make your CV stand out for strong writing skills. Another way to demonstrate this is to write for your university’s legal blog or some other legal blog, such as LawCareers.Net. Pro bono work and marshalling are also good to have and you can usually get these through your inn of court or law school.
You’re likely to get a mini-pupillage if you’re in your penultimate or final year of university. If you’re unsure about which area of law you want to go into, apply for any area you might have an interest in and see how you feel about the practice. You never know which area will end up being your favourite! Mini-pupillages look great on your CV because it shows your commitment to the Bar and that you have the potential to become a barrister.
Check out our profiles of individual barristers who specialise in one of a vast array of practice areas, so you can appreciate what direction your career might take if you were to follow a similar path.
4. Work experience
Non-law work experiences go a long way to showing that you’re a well-rounded individual, which is something chambers want to see. Don’t be afraid to put in the stint you did at McDonald’s – it shows that you have customer service skills, which are essential for the Bar. Remember, as a barrister, you’re self-employed so getting cases requires building relationships with your clients.
5. Non-academic hobbies
If you’re someone who enjoys writing poetry or you play in a band or any other hobby, I'd recommend putting that into your CV. It’s something that has the potential to make you stand out from the crowd, especially if your work has been published or you do performances. When chambers are recruiting pupils, they aren’t just looking for individuals who’ll become brilliant barristers, they’re looking for someone who'll be a pleasure to have in chambers. The Bar is a lonely profession, so chambers often have afternoon teas where barristers come together for a chat. Use your hobbies to show that you’re an interesting person and that you’re more than just academics.
Those of you looking to be the future of the Bar – good luck! The journey is long and hard, but the payoff will be worth it.