Nicola Downey, BPTC student

The Pupillage Hunt

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  • I don't really want to rain on any parades, but the legal market is currently exceedingly difficult to break into, perhaps more so for future barristers than future solicitors.

    A determination to get that legal career is admirable and essential, but I do feel it needs to be tempered with a sense of realism. It probably is unrealistic to expect to get the pupillage or training contract in the first year of trying (it took me two years). I agree that keeping motivated is often very difficult when faced with a slew of rejections letters, but it's important to try to come up with a plan B, however unattractive that idea might seem. Better still, don't self-fund your postgraduate legal study until you secure a pupillage or training contract. This way you avoid incurring debt, applying may be easier without worrying about exams, and teaching won't clash with mini-pupillages or vacation schemes. Also, if you get a job after university (even if it's not legal based), you could pick up some valuable skills or experience. I really don't think coming to interviews with all the academic qualifications makes you a more attractive applicant. So many do these days that firms/chambers have to be even more selective, as we all know.

    To conclude, it's tough out there, keep going, but be realistic - for all your academics and experience, it may just not work out. Good luck, all the same. Don't forget, there probably is life outside law, somewhere!

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  • With regard to the above comment, I agree that it's all well saying that if you have the determination you will get there, but the reality is it is much harder to secure a pupilage. I study law at London South Bank University and I'm somewhat undecided between the barrister or solicitor route. The problem is that the are both very competitive, the bar probably more so, but nonetheless a touch of reality is necessary, yet somewhat overlooked at undergraduate level, students say they are familiar with the risks associated with the profession and they probably do to a certain level. but yet still put themselves in a state of high debt in order to achieve their dreams, perhaps the bar standards board (BSB) is right to propose a mandatory aptitude test to filter out potential wanna be barristers.

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  • The writer is still studying for the BPTC - you have a long way to go. Much harder to keep your spirits up once you are out of the mix and fighting for paralegal scraps.

    Commitments, grades, minis etc etc are just par for the course and do not help you stand out from the 500 or so other applications. In my experience, there is no substitute for getting a 1st from a top university. If you have a 2:1 you need to have something very different about yourself.

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  • @Nicholas: heh at the idea of a funded GDL for a would-be barrister. Most sets don't pay anything before you start with them and the few that do allow you to draw some propotion of your pupillage award down during the BPTC year -- maybe £20K. That may sound like a lot, but with BPTC fees averaging £15K, there's no way to live on that without going into some kind of debt or working part-time. As for funding the GDL, good luck (though your Inn might give you a scholarship that will just about cover the fees if you're lucky).

    To the original poster, if you've wanted to be a barrister all your life, why did you go to a former poly like Nottingham Trent? If you worked hard at school, why didn't you have the A Level results to go to a better university? Like it or not, that is going to be a significant barrier to your pupillage hunt.

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  • I do feel the comment from 'anonymous' of - 'why didn't you have the A level results to go to a better university' slightly unfair.

    I will give you an example why I am not at a 'better university' and having to study through NTU distance learning LLB. I am a mature student close to 30. I was medically unwell while studying for my A-levels (1999-2001) thus this had an impact on my final results. I was undecided about my career choices back then so I spent some time doing various jobs to finance life!.

    I then decided that I could only afford to go to university through distance learning instead of returning as a full time student. I fell this is a harder task to juggle full time employment and study for a degree. If one achieves a first or 2:1 at the end, then that is also a positive achievement!.

    I am fortunate enough to know barristers in some of the top chambers/sets in London. I have arranged for mini - pupillage's and marshalling a judge. I am also of the mind set that once I graduate and hopefully go onto complete the BPTC I will have built up a good CV in terms of mini pupillage's. I also like to think my current employment also assists me with the area of Law I am interested in specialising in.

    I do feel that perhaps if you are looking to be a Barrister and you graduate from a university like NTU at the age of 21 then yes they may look unfavourably upon it. However everybody's circumstances are different; mine being a classic example.

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