I have fiddled with the timings so that this site reads downwards in logical order. Start here and keep going.
I would welcome comment about the site and how helpful you find it. I’m not in a position to promise a reply – please don’t expect one – but I will if I can. Nothing you say about the page will affect your chances of interview, but if you want to be really rude a pseudonym would be a wise move. Until 2003 I was the grandly titled Head of Pupillage for the above set of chambers. Having spent the last few years fielding the queries it seemed to me that some general information might be helpful. This doesn’t pretend to be a definitive guide. My experience is provincial rather than metropolitan. Nonetheless if it helps ease the pain for you it will all have been worthwhile.
What I have set out to do is to provide some basic rules regarding mini-pupillages and the general discussions that they involve. I have then dealt with pupillage applications and pupillage interviews. Finally I have included a section on obtaining a third six pupillage or a tenancy at a new set. The last few years have been an eye opener in three respects: firstly I had not appreciated how many pupils the London sets were chucking out. Secondly, I had not appreciated how irritating it was to get the same request time and again, with a total lack of the information that I wanted. Thirdly, I have been surprised by the numbers coming into the profession, given the general atmosphere of doom and gloom. Perhaps it really is worse to be a Solicitor.
However, all this eye opening means that provincial sets are wondering whether the multi-pupil approach isn’t for them after all. We’ve not done it before but, hey, we’re told it’s what you guys want and we get the advantage of internal competition. Feedback on this would be helpful. I can only deal with OLPAS. Chambers is a member for better or worse. We do it for you, in the interests of fairness for all. Those Chambers who do not subscribe doubtless have good reason – go and get help from them.
So, when it comes to filling in your application, remember that most pupillage officers are reading 300+ forms. Do try and make the information which makes you special stand out. If you are only applying to sets in one geographical area, say so. If you’re spreading your net wide then you have to indicate why you are applying to sets in places with which you seem to have no connection. Results count. They are, in fact, a pretty poor guide to form at the common law bar but you go on what you’ve got. Oxbridge counts – sorry but there it is. Increasingly, differential counts – the worse your school the more weight given to a good university degree. If your school was a comp make sure your reader knows it. I think this is a good thing. If you have had the advantage (and it almost always IS an advantage) of private education there’s nothing unfair about expecting you to do better than if you went to a comp – that’s why your Mummy and Daddy shelled out all that dosh in the first place, after all.
Also, it appears that the reduction in money available to students (there are 2 theories about this: either it’s the Government’s fault or you’re all taking too many holidays) means that a number of people are deliberately going to Universities close to home. Most pupillage officers deliberately went as far away from home as they could. So, if the reason you went to a “new university” is geographical, say so. It is still the case the those institutions are perceived as inferior. There is an element of catch-up here, in the sense that the bright new products of the ex-polytechnics have not yet made sufficient impact to change perceptions. I am aware that this is not politically correct but it is true, and so you are entitled to know it.
Interesting backgrounds/activities count. Don’t clutter up the form. If you’ve spent a year teaching Cambodian children how to revenge themselves on the USA don’t hide it amongst your account of your 2 weeks on Kibbutz. On the other hand, if your extra-curricular activity includes teaching Osama bin Laden how to revenge himself on the USA, the English Bar probably isn’t for you.
If your results were poor don’t try and excuse them. If you can’t explain in one line, you can’t explain. Better to say something along the lines of, “my referees will willingly indicate their confidence that my results did not begin to indicate my true aptitude.”
Finally a word about admitting to being a lawyer in public. The present Government (for which I have always voted – but just you wait until next time you bastards) neatly makes the case for why lawyers are so necessary in a fair society. It’s always easy to take the cheap way out, but sometimes those who are difficult, injured, ill, or just plain wicked need help. Most people don’t give it, either because they can’t or because they won’t. Most lawyers truly believe that what they do helps society to operate fairly. So do I. You can be proud of what you are going to do. Being paid doesn’t make you a parasite – politicians are paid as well.
In the meantime you can judge between those whose knees jerk every time they encounter a problem and those who like to think it through first. How many Acts have been passed in the last 8 years that affect the Criminal Law? Look it up. Soon, no doubt, there will be legislation to stop non-approved careers advice. In the meantime read on…