Welcome to Warwick Bar Society’s BarSocBlog! This seems like an appropriate question to tackle in our first post.
The long summer holiday that Warwick kindly awards us for all of our hard work is a great time to progress as an aspiring barrister. Here are a few things you should seriously think about doing:
1. APPLY FOR MINI-PUPILLAGES
Along with having an excellent academic record, mini-pupillages are probably the most important things for an aspiring barrister to have on his/her CV. They involve shadowing a barrister for a few days at a set of chambers, and give you the chance to learn more about the profession and specific areas of law.
– How do I apply?
Check the chambers’ websites! Some chambers have their own application forms but most chambers will ask you to send them your CV and a cover letter. Your CV should be no longer than two pages and should include your academic achievements and qualifications (including any results you’ve had at Warwick so far); relevant legal experience (any law-related work experience, mooting, etc.); any awards or scholarships you’ve won; your extra-curricular interests; and, finally, the contact details of two academic referees. Your cover letter should be no longer than a page and should include an introduction, setting out who you are and what you’re applying for; a paragraph detailing why you want to apply to that chambers for a mini-pupillage; a paragraph detailing why they should choose you and why you would make a good barrister; and, finally, a closing thank-you remark of some sort. Also, don’t forget: sign off with ‘Yours sincerely‘ when you know the name of the person to whom you’re writing, and ‘Yours faithfully‘ when you don’t know their name (i.e. Dear Sir/Madam). Etiquette is very important!
– To where do I apply?
This depends on what sort of areas of law you’re interested in. If you want to be a criminal barrister, it wouldn’t make much sense to do four mini-pupillages at commercial sets but only one at a criminal set (and vice versa). Saying that, I would say that it is a good idea to get a fairly wide range of experience, particularly if you’re unsure what you want to specialise in at this stage. Furthermore, you might want to look at applying to sets in different parts of the UK, if you aren’t sure where you would like to practise. Remember, London is not the only place where you can practise as a barrister…
Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol, Exeter,
Swansea, Cardiff, Southampton, Brighton, Canterbury – the list goes on!
We are planning on releasing a mini-pupillage table soon, which will give details about chambers’ areas of law, size and application deadlines, but, until then, you should have a look at The Barrister Magazine’s A-Z of chambers: http://www.barristermagazine.com/a-z-barristers-chambers/
*UPDATE* – We have now published our extensive mini-pupillage spreadsheet: https://warwickbarsociety.com/mini-pupillages/
2. ORGANISE SOME LEGAL WORK EXPERIENCE
Obviously, it helps if you know someone. Thanks to members of my family, I was fortunate enough to gain work experience at small, medium and large solicitors’ firms at the end of my first year at Warwick. Each experience confirmed to me that I didn’t want to be a solicitor. If you feel the same after completing some work experience, then do not think you have wasted your time; chambers want to see that you have considered your options and consequently made an informed decision to practise at the Bar. Don’t worry if you don’t have any contacts you can use; it’s always worth firing off CVs and cover letters to the HR departments of large firms or even your local high street firms. What do you have to lose?
If you’re keen to get some more in-depth experience at solicitors’ firms, then you should also start thinking about applying for vacation schemes. The deadline for these for the major firms is usually the end of January but it’s a good idea to start researching now. One common theme on firms’ online application forms is ‘commercial awareness’. If you want to find out what this actually is, have a look at this article by Alex Aldridge on the Legal Cheek website. Once again, doing vacation schemes will show that you have considered your options, and you’ll also earn some money.
Also, start thinking about volunteering for the incredible Free Representation Unit (FRU). You will have the chance to work on your own cases, either in employment or social security law; it is one of the best things an aspiring barrister can do to prove their advocacy skills and overall determination, and it’s also good for society. You have to be at least a third year LLB student to volunteer but otherwise it’s certainly something to think about for the future. If this takes your fancy, you might also be interested in the Citizens Advice Bureau and other pro bono work.
3. ORGANISE SOME NON-LEGAL WORK EXPERIENCE
Same as the first section of point 2. All work experience is valuable. For example, if you have an interest in property law, then working in a property management company for a week would be very useful and will demonstrate to chambers your dedication and interest. The same goes for the relevant areas of law for banks, accountancy and finance firms, and many other companies and industries.
4. WRITE A SUBMISSION FOR THE BAR COUNCIL’S LAW REFORM COMMITTEE ESSAY COMPETITION
If you think you can write a 3,000 word essay by October 2013 that ‘identifies and makes the case for a law reform that is desirable, practical and useful’, then you might be in with a chance of boosting your CV and your wallet.
– £4000 for the winner
– £2,500 for the runner up
– £1,500 for the best CPE/GDL entry
– £1,000 for the runner up CPE/GDL entry
– 2 x £500 high commended awards
More information and the entry form can be found here: http://www.barcouncil.org.uk/media/198500/lrc_-_rulesentryform2013.pdf
5. WRITE A SUBMISSION FOR AN ACADEMIC JOURNAL
Several universities and organisations have their own student-run academic law journals. If you have a penchant for essays, you could write a submission on any area of law that takes your fancy. I’ll leave it to you to Google the rest of them but here’s the (very swanky) website for our very own Warwick Student Law Review: http://www.warwickstudentlawreview.org/. I think the deadline for submissions is usually in January but you might as well make a good start on it now as I’m sure term one of the new academic year will be busy, particularly if you attend all of the Bar Society’s awesome events! All will be revealed soon.
6. WRITE A POST FOR THIS BLOG
The aim of this blog is to keep aspiring barristers informed and this can be achieved in many ways. If you have relevant experiences you want to share on a blog post, or you would like to write a more academic (but still fairly informal) post on news relating to the Bar or any area of law, then send your submissions to email@example.com and we’ll definitely consider posting it to the BarSocBlog!
Whatever you decide to do this summer, just make the most of it and don’t forget to relax! Keep checking the website, Facebook and Twitter for Warwick Bar Society updates and handy tips from our Exec.
Best of luck!
Founder and President