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Mini-pupillage: what is it and what are the benefits?

updated on 20 November 2023

Dear Oracle

I want to become a barrister; do I need to complete a mini-pupillage? What are the benefits of doing one?

The Oracle replies

Reading time: five minutes

Mini-pupillages are a period of short work experience in a barristers' chambers. They normally last between a couple of days and up to a week, depending on the chambers in question, and will vary in structure. While chambers don’t require a set number of mini-pupillages to have been completed for a candidate to be considered for pupillage, getting a few under your belt provides fantastic opportunities and insights into what life at the Bar is really like. So, yes, we’d recommend trying to secure a few if you can.

Here are four benefits to completing a mini-pupillage.

1. It rules out other interests and introduces new areas of law

It can be difficult to make a decision on the area of law you want to work in based solely off modules you’ve completed at university, or online research, so securing a spot on a mini-pupillage can help you make a more informed decision when it comes to qualifying and building a practice in a specific area of law.

As with any work experience, a mini-pupillage is a great way “to consider what type of work you may and may not like to do”, says a barrister from Blackstone Chambers. It can be useful to complete more than one mini-pupillage where possible as this’ll enable you to learn about lots of different areas of law at the various types of chambers (for example commercial sets and common law ‘mixed’ sets) and develop an understanding of the work that barristers at these types of chambers are involved with.

As well as using a mini-pupillage to identify the areas of law you do and don’t like in practice, they’re also a great way to discover new areas of law. One barrister we spoke to from Ten Old Square did five mini-pupillages in total: “If I’d not done so, I’m not sure that I’d have discovered the area of work that I now practise in because it’s something that’s not really covered on the Graduate Diploma in Law.”

2. Get a feel for chambers and its culture

While making sure you’re enjoying the area of law you’re working in is important, so too is ensuring the chambers has a good feel about it. Naturally, this’ll be subjective, which is why experiencing a chambers first hand is crucial.

Finding a chambers that’s a “good fit for you as a person and practitioner”, says a barrister from 4 Pump Court, will make your long-term career much more enjoyable. You should also take the opportunity to speak with other barristers and ask any questions you might have about the job, culture and chambers’ values before you decide whether to apply for pupillage.

As we often emphasise on LawCareers.Net, there’s only so much that a website or brochure can tell you, so experiencing a workplace for yourself is necessary for you to make up your own mind.

3. Learn about the day-to-day life of a barrister and pupil

At university, you may have been involved in mooting and attended law fairs or chambers open days but a mini-pupillage is the first real chance you’ll have to see first-hand what life at the Bar actually looks like. “I think they’re a really valuable opportunity to learn about aspects of a career as a barrister that are otherwise difficult to discover,” a barrister from Pump Court Tax Chambers explains. Meanwhile, another barrister cites them as “probably the only way you can learn about the day-to-day life of a barrister”.

So, while you might love the idea of a career in IP law, identifying whether that’s as a solicitor or barrister is key – completing a mini-pupillage is one of the ways that can help you do this. A mini-pupillage could help you to determine whether you prefer the advocacy, independent working style of a barrister compared to the teamwork and client-facing role of a solicitor. There are obviously many elements that make up the job of a solicitor and barrister that overlap, but there are distinctive factors between the two sides of the profession too, and it’s your job to find out which suits your working style and personality best.

Read LawCareers.Net’s Meet the Lawyer (solicitor and barrister) interviews to find out what attracted practising lawyers to their side of the profession.

Plus, find out the difference between working as a solicitor and barrister on LawCareers.Net’s Beginner’s hub.

4. It supports your application forms and interviews

Having completed a mini-pupillage, or several, you should take some time to reflect on your experiences. Consider what you learnt, what you liked and didn’t like, and use this new-found information to your advantage when making pupillage applications.

Not only are mini-pupillages a great way to demonstrate your commitment and genuine interest in the profession, but they also – in the words of a barrister from 4 Pump Court – “provide useful fodder for application forms and interviews”. The insights you gain will enable you to authentically answer questions like “why do you want to become a barrister?” and “why do you want to practice in this area of law?”. Chambers will be able to differentiate between answers that are “original and considered” and those that are vague or more generalised.

How to get a mini-pupillage?

As you already know, securing pupillage is no mean feat but landing yourself a few mini-pupillages will certainly put you in good stead – for the four reasons above and more.

You can find a list of chambers offering mini-pupillages via LawCareers.Net’s Pupillage search:

You can also check individual chambers’ websites to see what opportunities they have and visit the Barristers hub on LawCareers.Net for more information and advice on pursuing a career at the Bar.

Good luck!