Welcome, And welcome back.
I last wrote properly about pupillage in 2016. Since then, the site has been used to tell you how rubbish I think the MoJ is (and I do), and how we ought to work to rule rather than go on strike (and I do). But it hasn’t said anything about pupillage because, although I was still very interested in the topic, teach students and help out the MTYBA when asked, I’d run out of enthusiasm. I don’t have anything to do with pupillage in my Chambers and thought I was too out of touch to do more than address the general issues. That isn’t what people wanted or needed, so I stopped.
Notwithstanding which, the site has had over 125,000 visitors since 2015, and the most read article is “Why I Want To Be A Barrister”. That seems to indicate a need. Enter Beheshteh Engineer, who spent ages compiling the guide to pupillage that you will find here and who I then
persuaded, strongarmed, bribed, begged to use this site as her home. I’ve been in Silk since 2003, I’m in my 50s, old-fashioned and almost certainly dull. Beheshteh is a pupil, much, much younger, far more focussed on how to get pupillage, flushed with immediate and recent success and not dull at all. I did pupillage in London and got out as soon as I could in a thus far successful test to prove that Dr Samuel Johnson was wrong when he said that a man who was tired of London was tired of life (mind you – he was born in Lichfield so it’s understandable). I love the provinces as a place to practice all sorts of law, whilst still being able to afford a house, not spend 1,500 hours a year on public transport, and object like fury if Chambers want 15% of your income. Beheshteh is a Landener, likes it and plans to stay. She humours me, but you can tell that she thinks that the most serious cases and the best barristers are found in the smoke. I have had a mixed practice all my life. Beheshteh is, at least so far, wedded to a life of crime. I think the tension is a good thing. I believe you will find it helpful and even amusing.
We’re not the only kids on the block – I hugely admire, and recommend The Pupillage Podcast, with which Middle Temple – the place I am proud to call home and often call domus (because Latin is something lawyers feel is important – I know, but it’s a harmless eccentricity so roll with it) – assists. And the podcasts cover a lot of the same material as this site. But there is always room for more advice, especially if people come from a different perspective. And I am old fashioned: I don’t listen to podcasts very often and I worry that they don’t offer the engagement and debate that a written site with the facility for comment and reply can offer.
Beheshteh wrote the guide. She had a good many suggestions from some very good friends and colleagues who spent a lot of time reviewing her thoughts and views. She has received encouragement and support from her pupil-supervisor and her Head of Chambers. Both of them have demonstrated that openness and willingness to let junior members of the profession do the very best they can that characterises the best of the Bar. I have proofread the thing from start to finish (so the mistakes are mine), and there is nothing on this site with which I disagree. That doesn’t mean I would put everything in the same way or with the same emphasis – that would be a coincidence so remarkable that the more discerning of you would be yelling “fix” before you got to the end of this sentence. As we go on, the blog and the comments will, I hope, elucidate the differences and perhaps resolve them. What I do, is stand four-square behind the advice you will find here and our belief in its efficacy. We want to help you. We believe we can.
We don’t promise to please you. Some of the advice will be unpalatable. I’m no great fan of the BPTC – anything that changes its name more often than a small Trotskyist cadre looking to infiltrate the Labour Party is automatically suspicious. I’m no great fan of Chambers’ failure to publish their exact criteria, the marking scheme they use and the training they utilise to sort out unconscious bias. I’m no great fan of the Portal or the CV system that puts front and centre the extent to which you, as the applicant, look like them, as the decision makers. And I’m no fan at all of the approach of thousands of you who simply refuse to recognise that this is the world’s most expensive lottery ticket. True, you only need your number to come up once, but most of you are paying £19,000 to enter, with A-levels, degrees and experiences that are indistinguishable from everyone else’s.
What we do try to do is show you how to make those qualifications and experience stand out, and demonstrate that you know what is required for this job, and can achieve it. If you have the top first in your year, a BCL, 12 academic prizes and a successful innocence project appeal behind you then congratulations – unless you’re a total failure as a human being, you probably don’t need us. If you scraped a 2.2, haven’t really enjoyed mini-pupillage and believe you’re headed to a top shipping set then we probably can’t help you. Otherwise, read on.
And tell us what you think. Tell us what works and what doesn’t. Add your views to the resource of crowd based wisdom. Feel free to comment anonymously because you’re concerned about your prospects. Be prepared to be told precisely how weak, vain and stupid you are if your anonymous comments are for the purpose of insulting or sneering at anyone. Feel free to contact us and ask to submit a guest post – named or anonymous (although these must always be backed by an email address belonging to a person with that name).
Onwards and upwards. And good luck.