Pupillage

The final stage of training to become a barrister is a one-year pupillage. This is usually undertaken in a set of barristers' chambers, although it can also be undertaken with certain other organisations. Being a pupil is similar to being an apprentice when you will gain practical training under the supervision of an experienced barrister or barristers. At the end of the year you will be a fully qualified barrister.

Pupillage is divided into two parts: the "first six" which is a non-practising six months and the "second six" which is a practising six months. During the first six, pupils generally shadow their pupil supervisor, do legal research, draft opinions and other court documents, read their pupil supervisor's paperwork and observe him or her in conferences and in court. During the second six, pupils can take on some work of their own, under supervision. Sometimes if pupils are not offered tenancy at the end of the pupillage year, they may do a 'third six pupillage' (also known as squatting) at the same or a different chambers, in which they do their own work but are not yet tenants.

Various forms of external training, such as working for a solicitors' firm, marshalling with a judge or working with an EU lawyer can also count towards pupillage. Also, pupils are required to satisfactorily complete an Advocacy Training Course in their first six months and a Practice Management course in their second six. The Inns and circuits provide this training for pupils.

Obtaining pupillage is an extremely competitive process (see the statistics page). Candidates who don't get pupillage on their first attempt can reapply, but you cannot start pupillage more than five years after completing the BPTC. Candidates often spend the time before the next round of applications gaining additional legal experience.

Applying for Pupillage

It is a Bar Standards Board requirement that all pupillages are advertised on the central pupillage website for a minimum of two weeks. The Pupillage Gateway - the new online pupillage application system operated by the Bar Council - is currently under development and will launch in February 2013. This temporary website enables you to view current pupillage vacancies in the interim.

The Pupillage Gateway will be the central online application, although not all pupillages are recruited through this. Around half of pupillage providers ask that you apply directly to them, but all of the relevant information will be in the adverts on the central website. In the Gateway, there will be one application round each year, and applications can be made to up to 12 sets. Applications are made in April, usually 18 months before you intend to start pupillage, although some are advertised to start in the same year. Students typically apply for the first time during their final year as a law undergraduate, during their law conversion course, or during the first year of the part time BPTC course. Offers are made in the summer in August.

For further information, please see the new Pupillage Gateway when it is launched in March 2013. You should also look at chambers' individual websites.