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The Oracle

How does the 2021 pupillage application process work?

updated on 05 January 2021

Dear Oracle

Has the coronavirus pandemic impacted pupillage applications? And do I have to apply for all pupillage vacancies through the Pupillage Gateway or do some barristers’ chambers have different application processes?

The Oracle replies

The pandemic has forced some barristers’ chambers to change their usual pupillage application processes. Candidates can submit pupillage applications on the Pupillage Gateway from 11:00am on Monday 4 January to 11:00am on Monday 8 February 2021. Chambers are then expected to hold interviews between Monday 8 February – Thursday 6 May 2021, with pupillage offers to be made on Friday 7 May 2021.

However, not all chambers are following this timetable. The Bar Standards Board (BSB) is allowing chambers greater flexibility as a result of the pandemic and the financial crisis facing the Bar. Chambers can apply to the BSB for a waiver allowing them to run their pupillage recruitment processes at any time between 1 November 2020 and 31 August 2021 (although pupillage offers cannot be made until after Friday 14 May).

This means that you may be submitting pupillage applications in Spring and Summer 2021, not just January and February. Candidates should check with the chambers they want to apply to directly if they are unsure about the application timetable.

Find out more about the impact of coronavirus on the barrister career path.

Non-gateway pupillage applications

Most chambers require you to apply through the Pupillage Gateway, but some still ask candidates to apply directly to them. However, all pupillage vacancies are advertised on the Pupillage Gateway regardless of whether you need to apply separately, so the Pupillage Gateway should always be the first place you look for opportunities. Pupillage vacancies advertised on the Gateway which require a separate application will clearly state this information.

Candidates generally apply for pupillage around 18 months in advance, although for some non-law graduates this can be just 12 months. This means that most of the pupillage vacancies you can apply for this January will be starting around October 2022.

An ideal time to apply through the Pupillage Gateway is during the second year of a law degree (or the third/final year for non-law students). However, with stiff competition for a limited number of pupillages, many aspiring barristers must apply again during or after the BPTC.

You can submit up to 20 applications through the Pupillage Gateway, and as many as you like to chambers that require direct applications. For more, read this advice on writing pupillage applications by top QC Simon Myerson, as well as the Bar Council’s guide to using the Pupillage Gateway. Finally, LCN has a full list of pupillage application deadlines.