Sunday, 17 May 2009

Mini-pupillage: does it mean anything?

This is a quick post, really to illicit what people think more than anything else.

I had previously applied to all and sundry for mini-pupillages, hoping to bolster my thin CV. Fortunately, I was offered some more. Of those that did not reply, I thought no more.

I have, however, been offered one for next year (as this year was full) out of the blue, some months after I applied in an email whose language that was fairly complimentary. The set in question is quite high ranking, and not fancying my chances I hadn't even applied this round of OLPAS/Hellgate. Other sets that have turned me down have tended not to offer something so far away, or flatly said "sod off".

Do prestigious sets offer mini-pupillage to all and sundry? Or should I let this inflate my self-opinion, just a little?


  1. Chambers don't offer minis to *everyone*, that's all I can say. The fact that you've been offered one from a prestigious set, means that your application is strong on paper. :)

  2. I realise I probably came across as "please, flatter me", so sorry if I did! I was just slightly shocked.

  3. I've done lots of minis (probably a couple too many...) and I've found them to be highly variable.

    The best minis are where the chambers actually take an active role in assigning their mini-pupils to various different members of Chambers. Outer Temple Chambers were excellent for this. Less good are the sets that lump you off to crown court to see *another* criminal trial even though you specifically stated you were interested in immigration law...

    To use economic terminology, I found that 'the marginal increase' of usefulness per mini decreased with each mini undertaken. The first I did was fascinating and I learned a lot. The tenth was a bit tedious and I didn't get that much out of it.

    When you start doing minis, I think they are useful to confirm whether or not you actually want to be a barrister. Once you've got a few under your belt and you still want to go to the Bar, minis become more useful for determining what an individual set is actually like. I went to sets that were polished and commercial and where the clerks were friendly and helpful - then I went to sets where the chambers is falling apart and the clerks were stressed and angry.

    Being able to compare sets is crucial. Not all sets make lots of money and are commercially successful. The dregs of the public law bar is immigration law which often supplements the income of crime sets (check the White Book - those who practice in the Administrative Court can claim significantly more in legal aid etc).

    The inner-workings of the Bar are largely inaccessible if you don't do enough minis and don't ask the right questions.

  4. OOOO, Oddy - wot set is this?! How exciting!

    Tis true, Y'know - top flight sets dont just hand out minis like sweeties, so you must have that je ne sais quois that appeals to them!

    Further, should the pupillage ratbag, er sorry, fairy NOT smile at you this year, you have the experience under your belt and will probably sail through the paper sift with little trouble; sounds win-win to me, TBH!

  5. The set is 6 KBW. I am quite excited!

  6. OOO- good set! If memory serves, they aren't OLPAS ( could be wrong though)so at least you can be a bit more creative with application!

  7. I have a mini with 6KBW this summer, I am going to refrain from drinking at all costs, and just impress them with my amazing evidential knowledge, and then maybe chat up David Perry QC, see if he will give me any appellate work to do :)

    I think 6KBW were in Olpas this year... Did you apply to them this year for pupillage?

    6KBW dont advertise their mini pupillages on their website either, I had to email and ask way back when...

  8. There are 2 6KBW sets BTW one OLPAS one Non OLPAS - both at opposite ends of the spectrum of oxbridgness!

    I think getting offered a mini anywhere is a big deal as there is so much competition with that, which is great.

    I applied for about 12-15 minis over the course of a couple of years, was offered about 8 did about 6. I think thats too many and dont put them all on my CV now (frankly FRU, law centre work etc gets more points) but it must be done to tick a box. I probably got most out of my first (as it was my first) and my last 2 (2nd last has provided me with LOADS to talk about at interview - very famous case) and last was a regional set and I established I don't want to move from London. 2 of them I learend little from, and felt like I was a bad (make that putrifying rancid) smell hanging around I cringe just thinking about the way I was nodding and smiling away while being totally patronised!!!

    I dont know how it works though. I had one mini where a very senior member of chambers kept asking me to come back with her the next day - kept bigging me up to other people in chambers and asked me to apply - then got a big fat rejection from them. i guess if its a set which only offers 10 minis a year and you do well its an advantage, but if its somewhere that a mini or 2 in every week they wont even remember who you were.

  9. Take your ego boosts where you find them, there's not many in the path to becoming a Bar I've found. There are many criminal barristers telling you not to be a criminal barrister though :P
    Being offered a mini says that someone looked at your application, and liked your CV or your application email. That's a good thing.

    Pedant's corner, do you meant illicit, or elicit? :)

    Wednesbury- 10 minis? Blimey! I've only done 2, need to do more- but at this point I think they'd only be useful for learning about individual sets, rather than the job of a barrister/area of practice.

  10. You know, I'm always skeptical about the "we will keep your application on file" sort of thing, but looks like it's worked out well for you here! Strike while the iron's hot, eh?

    Also, Wednesbury, lovely analogy. Did you happen to work out the precise point at which value no longer outweighs cost/effort?

  11. The problem I have is the pupillage is in March....right at the end of BVC term 2. Hmmmm, not helpful. Does anyone know what happens in the short space between 2 and 3? I am anxious to accept, but I need to know whatr goes on in this time!

    @Lost: let me know how it goes! I was really quite excited by the email, and I must reply as soon as I can squeee more information out of BPP.

    @Ginge: That is, frankly, mean! It must have been so disheartening to be actively encouraged, then to be shot down without so much as a backward glance!

    @Wendesbury: I like the analogy! my experiences are relatively limited so far, so I think this should be fairly formative. I do know however I want a London set rather than a provincial one (or at least, a small one).

    @Mel: shush, oh pendantic one. I was tired/excitied. But thanks for the support in fanning the dying flames of self worth!

  12. My attendance was sketchy at best, and this may vary depending on your institution but at City I think we had Easter hols/exams. But lots of people took time off to see family or go on minis, so as long as it's not a full-week mini I imagine you'll be fine.

    Pedantry? You ain't seen nuffing yet- wait 'til your first drafting class. Although my tutor said I had a knack for it, so being incredibly anal can occasionally be useful :P

  13. Well, my own mistakes aside, I should have some luck then! After 2nd year, I rapidly became the person who would criticise and point out pedantic flaws in of anyone who asked. For a small fee (ahem, beer).

    *skill in blogging is not representative of this author's quality of work*

  14. that should of course be pedantically point out floors. It's essay season - I have read 12 articles today. Shush.

  15. My pedantry has never won me beers - jealous!

    Hate essay season. With a passion. But not enough passion to actually do them in time...