Mini pupillage and vacation schemes!

I’ve been so busy recently, between working my part time job (with overtime), applying for voluntary positions at university and a two day mini-pupillage, I’ve not had time to write! This blog post has been sat in drafts for a while, but I’ve finally plucked up the courage to post it!

Most of you reading this will probably be law students, you’ll more than likely have plans to become barristers or solicitors, and will have probably been encouraged to undertake mini-pupillages and vacation schemes. I’ve got to be honest, I was extremely nervous applying to these positions as a first year law student with, lets be honest, very little legal experience, I felt completely underqualified to undertake a mini-pupillage and wasn’t sure what to expect.

Application forms, which are often long and difficult to fill out, must be done in a way that is adapted to the chambers that you are applying to. Make it personal to their chambers, to explain why you want to go to their chambers in particular, and show that you have an interest in the chambers itself, rather than sheer desperation to get a mini-pupillage anywhere!

I was extremely fortunate in that I didn’t have any form of interview to secure my first mini-pupillage, luckily my cover letter and CV were good enough to be offered a place. However, some chambers do go through an interview process for mini-pupillage.

On my first day in chambers I wasn’t sure what to expect. Having always imagined that I’d practice in family law, it was interesting to gain some experience of various areas of civil law that the chambers dealt with. I spent the morning of my first day in chambers in the magistrates court across the road from chambers, which enabled me to see how the barrister I was shadowing acted in court, the meetings he had with his clients before and after the hearing, and I was also able to look at his skeleton argument, trial bundle and the brief to counsel which he was provided with when he was instructed. This was extremely helpful, as I got to see the ‘behind the scenes’ parts of being a barrister, and not just what you’d see sat in the public gallery of a criminal case- something that I do often, because I just love being in the courtroom! I spent the afternoon of my first day shadowing a different barrister, we travelled to a court about an hour away from chambers, where I sat in two stage three hearings. These are extremely short hearings in which damages are agreed on, usually the parties themselves do not attend these hearings, just the counsel that they have instructed, and then the judge makes a decision.

On my second day in chambers, I was a little less nervous than the first. Having remembered that barristers are people too, not just the scary people that you see in court, I felt a lot more reassured. My morning consisted of a telephone conference with a client and their solicitor, whilst my afternoon consisted of four stage three hearings and a final conference call before I could head home. My second day in chambers enabled me to shadow a third barrister, which enabled me to see another area of law in practice. I was also able to see how barristers were instructed by solicitors, and why the role of the clerk is so important within chambers. I also had the chance to chat to a fourth barrister in chambers which enabled me to get a brief insight into another area of law. I had always imagined that I would practice in family law, as I have wanted to work with families from an extremely young age, however my experiences of different areas of law in chambers has began to create an interest in other areas of law that I could potentially practice in.

I have learned several key things from my experiences, things that I wish to share with other law students:

  1. Always take every opportunity, as you do not know what it could lead to- Both in practice, and whilst studying!
  2. Be open-minded in your approach, consider other areas of law that you might want to practice in and don’t limit yourself.
  3. You must be flexible in terms of travel, commitment and time; barristers are busy people and you must be prepared to travel!
  4. Ask as many questions as you need to, be confident, and open to new experiences!
  5. When doing a vacation scheme or mini-pupillage, it is good practice to keep a note of what you’ve done and the skills you’ve learned- It can be extremely helpful when updating your CV, or doing applications forms or even inte     rviews in the future!

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