Mini-pupillages are often likened to the vacation schemes of the barrister world. While indeed both are structured, formal, Law internships, there are some critical differences in use and approach. So, what are mini-pupillages for, and how do you make the most of them?
The standard for your CV
Just as vacation schemes are essential for securing a training contract, a would-be barrister must rack up the mini-pupillages to stand a chance of winning a full pupillage (akin to a training contract) at a Chambers. A good candidate should aim for three or four mini-pupillages - the industry standard for proving one's commitment and aptitude. If you want more CV tips, use our career advice section.
The importance of quality
However, don’t feel that quantity beats quality. Three mini-pupillages which demonstrate commitment to a particular area of Law or Chamber are viewed more favourably than six in Chambers dealing with Criminal Law when applying to a Medical Negligence practice.
Learn how to fill in the pupillage application form.
What do they consist of and how you will be assessed
Mini-pupillages typically last for just a few days – another difference to the weeks-long vacation schemes. During that short time, students will be given a barrister to shadow and accompany to court. They’ll also sit in on client meetings, assist on small projects and be given notes to read and discuss.
A third of Chambers use them as a vital part of assessing candidates for their full pupillages
However, these experiences drastically change if the mini-pupillage is an assessed mini-pupillage. About a third of Chambers use these as a vital part of assessing candidates for their full pupillages. They usually invite strong candidates after online testing to come in for a few days, before they decide on whom to invite to a full face to face interview. Typically, the only formally assessed part of the mini-pupillage is a set project for the students, but the whole experience will form part of the set’s opinion on the aspiring barristers.
Many years’ hence, once you’ve built your wall of a glittering career at the Bar, a small brick at the bottom may not seem so important, but as the mini-pupillage is where you will make your start, extra care and attention should be paid to their applications beyond what you think is necessary.
In your applications, employers prize brevity
Once you have an offer of the mini-pupillage, another tip is to continue your research focused on that Chamber in even more depth. This is because your time with the set will be short, so you should not expect to learn everything about that area in that time. Therefore, write down three key goals around what you want to learn during your time there so you can make the most of it. These can be as broad as working out whether the practice area is for you, or as specific as understanding a technical point of Law with a barrister.
As mini-pupillages are not guarantees of a pupillage with any Chambers, you can use them with the aim of not just to trying to impress the barrister you are shadowing, but to build up an armoury of knowledge, facts, contacts and language to boost a pupillage application. Think of yourself as a researcher for an exam, and the mini-pupillage as your library.
In your actual applications, employers prize brevity. The top tip is to not fall into the trap of long-winded English with heavy jargon flowing over the multitude of pages. Sets receive hundreds of applications and can only spend a few minutes on each one at most. You may have as few as six seconds to catch their attention and induce them to read your whole application.
So, with a bit of brevity, judicious research and selection, and plain hard work, you'll be on your way to taking the silk and a career at the illustrious Bar.
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