updated on 16 October 2019
Like finals, the pupillage application process can leave its mark, returning in grotesque dream form at times of stress. Whether you applied through PACH, OLPAS, the Portal, the Gateway or via a bespoke process, you almost certainly found it tested your stamina, resilience and research skills – sometimes to breaking point. There are all sorts of reasons why applicants find it such a daunting process: for a start, the competition is exceptional. It’s also hard from the outside to be confident that you understand a chambers’ ethos and practice areas. Candidates ask themselves myriad questions: how to demonstrate advocacy skills if you have not been debating since birth; will a non-Oxbridge 2:1 be enough; will your first choice commercial chambers prize a first career in financial services more highly than the time you spent as a benefits adviser? “What are chambers really looking for?” is a question that we have been asked many times over the years.
Much of the stress of applying for pupillage boils down to not knowing where to find the answers to such questions. This problem is all the more acute for candidates from less privileged socio-economic backgrounds.
We both love podcasts and it struck us that a podcast would be the most brilliant medium for delivering the information and advice which many applicants find so challenging to access. Two of the most appealing features of podcasts – their ‘intimacy’ – it feels like guests are in the room talking to you, the listener – and their convenience – you can listen when and where it suits you – would be particularly apposite for a podcast about how to get pupillage. We wanted to try and provide access to the voices of members of pupillage committees, recent pupils, silks, judges and a range of others so that every listener could benefit, regardless of how many contacts they had. We decided that each episode should focus on a different issue that applicants face: from the basics of writing a CV to choosing practice areas and types of pupillage, to life on circuit; from writing applications, to preparing for interviews.
The staff in the Middle Temple membership and development office, led by the unstoppable Colin Davidson, were immediately enthusiastic. Colin set about persuading a variety of Middle Temple members of all levels of experience, ranging from the chair of the Middle Temple Young Barristers Association to the highest levels of judges, to give up their time to talk to us for the podcast. By October 2018, Colin and his team had managed to book us three days of wonderful Middle Templars (and a few welcome interlopers) willing to give their advice on the various challenges which the aspirant barrister faces in securing a pupillage.
The result is something of which we, as Middle Templars, are very proud: the Middle Temple Pupillage Podcast.
Season one of The Pupillage Podcast aired over the course of a week in January – via Spotify, Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud and Mixcloud. At the time of writing, it has had over 6,000 listens, with listeners from over 50 counties across the globe, from Argentina to Kazakhstan, Thailand to Ethiopia.
We have been delighted by the response to the podcast but most of all we are thrilled that it seems to be helping students from all sorts of backgrounds, particularly those without contacts in the law. One student tweeted: “Coming from a family with no lawyers or past connections with law firms, I’d like to highlight how important it is for podcasts such as this for students who are keen to plan but don’t have a firm source to follow! 10/10 would recommend!!” We could not have done it without the support of Middle Temple, Colin and his team. If the podcast has helped a few future barrister take their first steps into law, encouraged those who might be daunted by the grandeur of the Inn, and saved a few pupillage applicants a little of the horror of applications, it has achieved its goal.
Beatrice Collier and Georgina Wolfe are barristers at 5 Essex Court. Listen to season one of The Pupillage Podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. The podcast tweets updates at @pupillagepodca1.
This article first appeared in the Middle Templar, the Middle Temple’s magazine for its members.