Thursday, 27 August 2009

Pupillage Portal; reflections of an applicant scorned

The Hellgate Season has drawn to a close. I am left without pupillage, along with many of the great and the good who deserve one more than myself. Given my own blundering steps through the event horizon to the World Beyond, I thought I would post my own musings on the subject, so that others may laugh, cry, or perhaps find something useful from my own foray into the labyrinthine process. I have posted here a few choice words on my experiences, and what I have learnt from the whole debacle. I shall split this post into several pieces, as I fear it will once again become longer than your patience.

Part 1: The Battle of Application Hill

1) Choosing the Chambers
of Dreams

Do not, as I did, underestimate the horrors of the Hellgate application. Unaware of the gargantuan effort involved, I decided to set aside a few days of my Easter vacation to tackle the beasts that came through the Gate.

How naïve I was.

The battle drained my entire vacation before I was even close to satisfied with my applications, leaving my university work out in the cold. 12 chambers need to be distilled from a gargantuan list. This alone took me some considerable time. I resorted to making myself a list of key things which I looked for so that I might more quickly sort the wheat from the chaff (in terms of personal choice). On top of that was to whittle the list down to reflect my own level of ability, compared to current tenants. In short, kind readers, this process took much longer than I had ever anticipated.

As an MA student with much on my plate, I am sure you will appreciate the consternation this caused. Therefore, if any budding 3rd years or pre-BVC students read these words before attempting their first foray into battle, be warned; it takes a bloody long time even to get this far. Research thoroughly. Extremely so. Check chambers and partners. Search for them in the news. Examine the whole website with excruciating detail. Do not, on any account, scrimp on this portion. Even having spent many hours on this, I still subsequently made a few choice mistakes that I only discovered later. One I must admit was in my favour, and did me no harm for I made it to interview. The others however were less forgiving. You must demonstrate you knowledge in your Hellgate applications; and not necessarily overtly. Tailor your application to the qualities that are looked for, when Chambers are kind enough to post them.

2) Scribing you applications

Do not, as I did, underestimate the herculean effort this requires. Whilst a few key questions will remain largely untouched from chambers to chambers, a great many will not. This means that you must create unique answers, tailored to each Chamber of Dreams.

To illustrate; a peer of mine, with good academic qualities and similar extra-curricular activities hurried her applications having underestimated the time involved. Knocking out the bulk in just a day, she sent of her applications. She did not receive any interview invites.

I often felt like Sisyphus, toiling away to no avail day after day. I was however rewarded for my efforts in at least getting to interview... even if unsuccessfully. Here to illustrate, is a cat.

There are plenty of places offering sage advice on this topic. Check out the wise words over at Simon Myerson’s excellent blog. Read the TargetLaw information. Pick up a copy of The Path to Pupillage. Speak to your careers advisors. Do not underestimate the help that can be gleaned from these sources; they probably are the reason I even got a foot in the interview door. You need not go it alone; many will be available to help you, and I urge you not to neglect them. My applications were saved from the instant trip to the shredder by just having them checked for errors after I had stopped being able to read them properly myself.

3) Fighting the Hydra of Submissions

I urge any readers who have yet to face their first battle to learn for the war worn; start early. Very early. Start now. Go on, stop reading this and go and do something useful for once! Hellgate WILL break. It will leave you wounded, stranded, and screaming with frustration. On occasion it would have been faster to etch my applications in my own blood and send it by carrier snail. So my advice, kind readers, is to begin as early as you can. Do not think you can be submitting up to the deadline, for you cannot. The goalposts will not only move, they will get up and run the fuck away, before entrenching themselves in a bunker and grabbing the M60. Suddenly your plastic sword of last minute preparation will look at lot less useful. I learnt the hard way. Do not make the same mistakes that I did.

Next time: The Massacre at Interview Ridge


  1. My Dear Oddy,

    May I be the first to commend you for a post filled with sage advice for the up and coming applicant.

    I also hope it has served you, too, with an element of catharsis, since this season has been pure HELL, from beginning , to end. You are absolutely no less deserving than any of us out here in the ether chasing the Golden Snitch, so PLEASE dont beat yourself up on that front, particularly since you have done sPECTACULARLY well at your very first attempt in securing not only first round, but sECOND round interviews; this being the case, I have no doubt that there is a pupillage out there with your name on it, which will come to you sooner rather than later. For what its worth, I have yet to meet a single junior barrister of less than 5 years call who managed to secure pupillage at the first attempt ( even my own inn mentor, now a leading senior junior was rejected a staggering Eighty NINE times before success came her way!) so take heart, keep fighting and DON'T give up.
    It's there for the taking. You KNOW it!

  2. Thanks Minx! Always such nice words! I will comtinue to plow on!