Want to Make It as a Barrister? Here’s Some Top Tips

To support aspiring barristers The University of Law’s National Programme and Student Affairs Director – BPTC, Jacqueline Cheltenham, and its Careers and Employability Advisor, Anna Williams, have shared their advice on making it as a barrister.

With 16,435 practicing barristers registered in 2017 and 815 students successfully completing the BPTC, becoming a barrister is undoubtedly hard work and takes determination, dedication and intellect. The application process can be tough, but the crucial thing for applicants to do is continually re-evaluate their strengths, as well as their areas for development. However, it’s all worth it to establish a successful career at the Bar.

Don’t expect to get pupillage straight away

About a third of those who get pupillage obtain it prior to starting the BPTC; about a third get it during the BPTC year, and the final third will get it in the year (or years) after the course finishes. You are likely to become a better pupillage applicant over time.

Your set selection has got to be right

Unless your academic profile is excellent, don’t target commercial and Chancery chambers. If you’ve had no mooting or other advocacy experience, criminal and common law sets are unlikely to consider you, until you have.

Understand who you are as an applicant

Your strengths and achievements, your ‘pitch’, and how to use your backstory to differentiate yourself from other candidates in a positive way are all key. Look at biographies of junior tenants on each chambers’ website to gauge your suitability for that set.

What is it that you need more of?

Identify how you need to build your profile and strengthen your weaker areas.

  • Mooting and advocacy?
  • Mini pupillages?
  • Pro bono or other client-facing work?
  • Further academic study, e.g. a Masters?

The answer to this question is different for every candidate, but it’s important to be aware of any personal areas of development.

Application forms and interviews are tests of advocacy

As an applicant you will use your experiences as evidence to show recruiters how you meet their criteria. To do this you need to understand and use good application and interview techniques, such as STAR for competency questions. There are many events and other media which deal with application and interview skills. For example, 5 Essex Court produces an extremely useful annual report on its pupillage recruitment process, identifying how good candidates differentiate themselves. Additionally, The University of Law has created “Pupillage Interviews Uncovered” videos for YouTube.

Rogue punctuation and poor grammar are likely to be fatal

Learn how to write flawlessly. This necessarily involves learning how to proof read properly.

All the above tips require time, so start planning your pupillage strategy as early as possible. Utilising your careers service and your Inn (once you’ve joined one) are excellent starting points.

1 Comment
  1. Matthew Lawson says

    Great tips and I couldn’t agree with them more. A tip I would like to share is for future barristers to visit their local courts as often as possible. This will allow them to gain first-hand experience of what a barrister does and how they represent their clients. The best way to do this is to ask your local courts and find out if there are any opportunities available. You’ll find many hearings are public proceedings, so you will be free to sit in the public gallery and watch.

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