The portal is open! But you knew that.

It closes on February 8th at 11am! But you knew that.

We know it has been a difficult year. We know your exams have been a shitshow, disaster, run by incompetents, an experience requiring you to wee in a bottle, a sub-optimal experience (© BSB). We know that the pressure is on and that this year, of all years, it isn’t possible to just encounter people and ask them to assist. So we are trying to help. We have asked barristers to help review applications. Many have said yes. I hope there will be more. Each barrister has committed to review no more than 10 applications. That is review – not write. There is a difference. Please see below.

Oh and “we” are me, Joanne Cecil of Garden Court – currently teaching on the ICCA course – and fearsome advocate and shredder of reputations and Ish – otherwise known as Ishan Kolhaktar, ex-practising barrister, ex-eminence-grise of BPP (I know, I know, but it wouldn’t have happened if he’d been there), compiler of @billablehour16 cook book which raises money for charity from legal eagles (and is currently looking for a new editor so if Masterchef is your thing, contact him) and available on @ishkolhaktar for cooking tips and (mainly) dreadful puns. Plus, so far, 74 volunteer barristers, including new tenants, juniors, senior practitioners, silks and at least one former Chairman of the Bar. This is a collegiate profession and don’t you forget it.

This is how it works.

What You Do

Your applications must be ready. They must be spell-checked and grammar checked (if you are not planning on doing this, please choose a different career and save yourself a great deal of heartache). They must be in the form you will submit them, save for the review. They must be in word format. You are invited to submit a list of particular questions if you have them – you don’t have to have questions but, if you do, they must be specific. So: not “should I say something about my expertise in game fishing?”, but “should I add that I once wrestled a 150 tuna to the deck unaided over a period of 4 hours showing stamina and tenacity?” If you don’t make it specific, then you are (a) asking someone else to write your application; (b) taking up unnecessary time. Please remember that all the barristers are volunteers working in their free time.

You should prioritise no more than three (3) areas of practice. We will endeavour to match up as closely as we can, but we will take your priorities in order, so if we can only match one we will match the first. You should provide an email address: when you do so you are consenting to it being shared with the barrister with who we match you. You should list the chambers to which you have applied, so that we can avoid asking a member of those chambers to assist you. Otherwise, you run the risk of torpedoing your application before you actually make it.

You should be ready for a request for a zoom call if that is how the barrister chooses to do it.

What We Do

We will do the gatekeeping. We will send your application to the barrister who is (a) available and (b) most closely matches your priorities. We will supply them with your email and let them get in contact with you. We are not expecting them to spend more than an hour or so on each application.

What the Barrister Does

The barrister will review your application. They will make suggestions as to how things might be changed or shifted around. They will advise on the exclusion of material. They will not advise on the inclusion of material because they don’t know you. So, if you want to know whether to include something, you must make them aware of it and be specific (see above).

They may do this in writing or over Zoom: it is up to them.

They will not write the application for you. You do not have to accept their suggestions. In the end, it’s your application. They will not recommend Chambers to you, personally referee you, or have a word with anyone. You know this, but it is always sensible to be completely clear.

The Rules

If you don’t do what we have asked above, we will bin the request.

Only one application be applicant. We don’t have enough capacity to send your application to multiple people.

You email us at:

We open on Friday 15th January at 9am and close on Saturday 23rd January 2021 at 11.55pm.  Emails received before or after this window will be deleted.  If we receive more applications than we are able to allocate, we will do so in the order they are received, per practice area.

You do not need to (and please don’t) write a covering letter in your email.

In the body of your email: 

  1. Please state the preferred practice area (see list below) of the person you wish us to match you with.  You can state up to three and must rank them in order if you state more than one.
  2. Please set out a list of chambers you intend to apply to so that we do not match you with someone at one of those sets

Your application must be attached as a single Word document with your name and email address clearly set out on the first page.  If you have specific questions for your volunteer Barrister, please set them out at the top of the document before your form.

Please do not attach any other files.

That’s it.  Just the two things set out in (i) and (ii) in the body of your email and a single attachment.  Failure to follow these instructions may render your application invalid and will make the person (Ishan) administering the inbox, grumpy. And he’s already got to play Dopey and Doc. Be kind. Do it right. 

You will receive an auto response when you submit your application and a further email on Sunday 24th January telling you if you have been matched with a volunteer.  Thereafter, if matched, further communication will be direct with the volunteer.

Practice Areas:

  1. Chancery
  2. Commercial
  3. Court of Protection
  4. Crime
  5. Discrimination / Equality
  6. Employed Bar
  7. Employment
  8. Family 
  9. Children
  10. General Civil
  11. Housing
  12. Immigration
  13. Insurance
  14. IP
  15. Personal Injury / Clinical Negligence
  16. Planning
  17. Professional Discipline
  18. Property
  19. Public
  20. Sports Law
  21. Tax
  22. CPS
  23. Contentious Probate
  24. Arbitration
  25. Public and private International law
  26. Licensing
  27. Extradition
  28. Insolvency
  29. Tax
  30. Defamation

Please check back occasionally – barristers are still volunteering and that means the list may have new entries. If so, they will be marked in red and numbered from 31 onwards.

What You Could Sensibly Do First

A review is fine tuning: the engine should already be running (end of engineering metaphor). A review is adding the seasoning, and getting the balance of spices just right: not about cooking the fish (end of cooking metaphor). A review is about the belt, the earrings and the exact perfume: not about the dress, the suit or the colour (end of clothing metaphor). A review is about making the multifidus pop: not about teaching you how to use the rowing machine (end of gym metaphor). You get the point.

So, you could read this site and the various blog posts. That is because no one needs to reinvent the wheel. A lot of what you need to know – especially about how to link your previous activities and experience to what is required by Chambers – is already here. The fewer the basic questions, the more time the barrister has to review your application, rather than deal with basic issues you could already have sorted out.

You could review and re-review your own application. Read it out loud – it’s amazing what you will then change. Find a sad, gullible kind, helpful friend and guilt-trip persuade them to read it for you. Put the work in.

And please remember that, if and when you get pupillage, you owe this back. When you are asked to help new applicants, I expect you to say yes. A number of the volunteers are very junior – lucky you – these people know how to succeed.

Good luck!