About This Guide

This guide has been specifically designed to assist first year law students interested in pursuing a career at the bar. While it may appear as though opportunities for first years are limited, students can get involved in a number of activities early on that will strengthen their CV and demonstrate a commitment to the bar.

It must be said that several opportunities directly related to the bar are reserved for penultimate year students. These opportunities will usually be denoted with the appropriate eligibility criteria. However, there are a whole host of activities and opportunities offered by law schools and companies alike for students to engage with.

As a brief disclaimer, this guide should not be used as a checklist. First year, while an incredibly exciting time for aspiring barristers, can also be challenging academically. It is crucial that aspiring barristers do not over-commit or feel the need to compromise academics.

With that said, we hope that students find this useful.

Table of Contents

About This Guide.

BPP and ULaw Events.

Chamber Open Days.

e-Mentoring Scheme – The Bar Council

Inns of Court Open Days.

Mini Pupillages.

Student Representative Work.

Urban Lawyer Events.

Volunteering.

BPP and ULaw Events

BPP University and The University of Law (ULaw) are two of the most well-known providers of legal education in the UK. Regarding barrister training, both offer variants of what was previously known as the Bar Professional Training Course – BPP’s course is known as the Barrister Training Course (BTC) while ULaw offers the Barrister Practice Course (BPC).

While applying for these courses may seem distant, first year students are eligible to attend virtual open days at both institutions to learn more about the course and a career at the bar.

BPP in particular offers various online webinars and workshops geared towards students pursuing a career at the bar such as negotiations and client interviewing. In summer 2020, students who attended three or more events were awarded a summer skills certificate recognising their efforts.

Engaging in events such as these not only demonstrate a commitment to the bar but will also equip you with a number of transferable skills that could be mentioned in scholarship or pupillage interviews.

Chamber Open Days

‘Chambers’ refers to the office premises where self employed barristers conduct the majority of their work from. A number of chambers offer open days allowing students to experience what life is like as a barrister. Additionally, these open days provide students the opportunity to receive application tips.

Below is an indicative table that contains information regarding open days offered by four sets of chambers in 2018. With Covid-19 it is possible that more Chambers are offering Open Days online – also, it is often the case that not all Open Days are widely advertised so if there is a set you are interested in it is worth sending an email to the Chambers clerks asking if they have something you can attend (even if it is not strictly advertised to you).

Name of ChamberEvent Date
11 Stone Buildings
Brick Court Chambers15 March 2018
Essex Court Chambers29 March 2018
Matrix ChambersDecember 2018

e-Mentoring Scheme – The Bar Council

This scheme run by The Bar Council is designed for Years 12, 13- and First-Year Undergraduates. It matches students from diverse backgrounds with a barrister who will act as a mentor for the whole year, assisting with queries, questions, application advice and providing an insight into what a career at the Bar is like.

The scheme is specifically designed to assist students who are underrepresented at the Bar yet possess the intellectual capacity and drive to succeed. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis however there is an entry criterion so do check your eligibility.

Here’s what The Bar Council say:

“The e-Mentoring Scheme is an excellent opportunity for Year 12, 13 and First-Year Undergraduate students from non-traditional backgrounds to speak directly to experienced barristers about life at the Bar. 

Through e-Mentoring, students can increase their knowledge and understanding of the profession, the law, and the career opportunities available to them.” 

Eligibility:

  • A genuine interest in pursuing a legal career;
  • 5 A*-C grades or above at GCSE or 300+ UCAS POINTS (i.e. BBB);
  • Attended a state school
  • Received some form of government financial and/or other support e.g. free school meals

Please note: the Bar Mentoring Service will consider any mitigating circumstances you have if you are unable to meet the criteria above, but would still like to participate on the scheme.

How to Apply?

Complete an online application on the Bar Council website. If you are successful, you will receive an email from the Bar Mentoring Service. This will include username and password verification so you can access the website.

Once your account has been activated, you will have access to your mentor’s account where you can view their biography and contact them directly.

Where to Apply?

www.barmentoring.org.uk

When to Apply?

Applications are considered all year round.

How to get in contact?

mentoring@barcouncil.org.uk

Inns of Court Open Days

The four Inns of Court located in London are professional associations for barristers. These Inns include Inner Temple, Middle Temple, Lincoln’s Inn and Gray’s Inn. Towards the end of their degree, students will need to apply and become members of one of the Inns, choosing it on the basis of history, location or financial assistance.

Whichever Inn a student later decides to choose, each inn offers first year students the opportunity to attend open days. These often include talks from barristers and pupil barristers, a tour of key facilities and lunch or dinner. Below are two events previously run by Inner and Middle Temple in 2018.

Inner Temple

Inner Temple hosted an insight event on the 13 March 2018. The event featured a panel discussion with the following individuals:

  • His Honour Judge Grainger
  • Liam Ryan Esq – 7 Bedford Row
  • Ms Melanie Tether – Old Square Chambers

Here’s what Inner Temple Say:

“If you’re thinking of becoming a Barrister, hearing from members of the profession can be invaluable in answering your questions and gaining new insights and tips.

The Inner Temple hosts a series of Insight events across England and Wales on becoming a Barrister and life at the Bar. The Insight evenings are an opportunity for university students, graduates and Years 12 and 13 students to hear from Barristers and Judges about a career in the profession.”

The events were held in the following locations:

  • London
  • Reading
  • Manchester
  • Nottingham
  • Liverpool

Eligibility:

  • First Year Undergraduate
  • Considering a legal career

How to Apply?

Applying for this event requires you to complete a registration form with basic information including your name, contact information, institution and various other details.

Where to Apply?

https://www.innertemple.org.uk/becoming-a-barrister/how-to-get-involved/insight-events/

When to Apply?

Visit the Inner Temple website and keep an eye out on their Events page. The registration form will become active typically a month before the event so visits the site around February time.

How to get in contact?

020 7797 8250

enquiries@innertemple.org.uk

Middle Temple

On the 17 March 2018, Middle Temple hosted its annual Open Day for Years 12, 13- and First-Year University students interested in pursuing a career at the bar.

At this event, there are opportunities to look around the Inn, speak to practitioners, judges and students currently undertaking the BPTC. Tea and coffee are provided during breaks as well as a sandwich lunch. This event is particularly useful in gaining an early insight into life at the bar.

Here’s what Middle Temple say:

“The Middle Temple organises an Open Day every year, usually in March, aimed at students at Sixth Form and undergraduate or GDL level with an interest in a career at the Bar. Experienced practitioners as well as students will be on hand to provide information on all aspects of training for and a career at the Bar.”

The event was held at the Middle Temple in London.

Eligibility:

  • First Year Undergraduate
  • Considering a legal career

How to Apply?

Applying for this event requires you to complete a registration form with basic information including your name, contact information, institution and various other details.

Where to Apply?

http://www.middletemple.org.uk/joining-the-inn/access-and-outreach/open-day

When to Apply?

Visit the Middle Temple website and keep an eye out on their Events page. The registration form will become active typically a month before the event so visits the site around February time.

How to get in contact?

020 7427 4800

m.cirdei@middletemple.org.uk

Mini Pupillages

Most students aspiring to a career at the bar are familiar with a mini pupillage. A pupillage is a period of training or work experience needed by a barrister to practice, lasting twelve months. A mini pupillage is often a much shorter period that provides aspiring barristers an insight into the day-to-day life of a barrister.

Several mini pupillages are targeted at penultimate students, those in their final year or graduates. Competition for mini pupillages can be fierce among these students. While they are notoriously difficult to obtain for first year students, the task of securing one is not impossible.

Below are testimonies from students who have successfully completed mini pupillages in their first year. In addition to introducing themselves, they explain their motivation for pursuing them as well as offering practical tips for going about getting them.

“After hearing how difficult it was to obtain a mini pupillage as a first year law student, I was determined to try my hand at getting one. It wasn’t so that I had it to put on my CV, I was genuinely interested in seeing what my dream career was going to be like. So, I tried phoning some sets but unsurprisingly had no luck. I did however know that at a networking event, I had met a Criminal barrister whose work really interested me. I decided to contact his set and request a shadowing opportunity with him, making it clear that I was willing to accept even a day of shadowing as it would be invaluable. After showing my persistence, I was able to receive a mini pupillage, and this was extended to three days! I would encourage being confident and making contact with Chambers, expressing your interest and desire to shadow a barrister in your preferred area of interest, such as criminal. I would also be tactful: Don’t target large sets that explicitly require penultimate year law students. Also, look at obtaining a mini pupillage in less popular areas, such as crime or media. Don’t give up, keep believing and you can get one too!”

Ali Chaudhry (Royal Holloway, University of London) obtained a three-day mini pupillage at 5 St Andrews Hill

Student Representative Work

Several companies have increased their online presence through the work of student representatives promoting their brand on campuses across the UK. Examples include The Lawyer Portal, Legal Cheek and SEO London.

Students who apply and successfully obtain posts at these companies can expect to obtain a plethora of soft skills. By planning and running sponsored events at their universities, students can sharpen their organisation and oral communication skills. By contributing to blog posts, they can develop their written communication. By regularly posting on campus-specific Facebook and Instagram pages, students select content members may benefit from and demonstrate commercial awareness and leadership in the process.

These positions are highly competitive, meaning students should keep a close eye on deadlines and application cycles.

Urban Lawyer Events

Urban Lawyers is a registered charity that aims to support aspiring lawyers from ‘marginalised’ backgrounds. They provide various events from negotiation and interviewing to legal career conferences. Attending their events is great for networking and subscribing to their newsletter will help you stay on top of various legal issues and upcoming opportunities.

Here’s what Urban Lawyers say:

“Urban Lawyers aims to provide inspiration and education to all who have or will come into contact with the law and/or legal profession.

It provides inspiration to law students from non-traditional backgrounds through online-resources, networking and educational events and initiatives. It also provides support, finance and facilitates the education of young people about their legal rights and civic responsibilities.”

Where to Apply?

Visit www.urbanlawyers.co.uk

Volunteering

Volunteering is highly beneficial, particularly when it comes to developing transferable skills. Aspiring barristers in their first year have the opportunity to volunteer in various capacities.

For those interested in criminal litigation or family law, the National Centre for Domestic Violence offers McKenzie Friend training. This provides students with the opportunity to talk to victims of domestic violence, draft emergency injunction applications and potentially advocate on their behalf in court. This can be distressing for some and it is advised that only those who feel comfortable in such a role participate.

For those interested in property law, employment law or other general areas, students can volunteer with their local Citizen’s Advice Bureau. This form of volunteering is particularly wide-ranging, allowing students to act as advisors, fundraisers, administrators or undertake trusteeship duties. Volunteering for Citizen’s Advice is particularly rewarding if one enjoys making a valuable contribution and positive impact on people’s lives.

For students interested in human rights, there are several human rights organisations interested in hearing from prospective volunteers. Liberty allows law students to respond to written queries from members of the public regarding their rights. Human Rights Watch, an international organisation dedicated to defending and promoting human rights worldwide, allows students to get involved with advocacy work on similar matters to Liberty.

Volunteering is looked at favourably by chambers. Having early volunteering experience on a CV will be an incredible asset.

Article brought to you by Ali Chaudhry, Aspiring Barrister.

Part of the New to the Bar Guide Series