Guest blog: Simon O'Toole on supporting Pupillage Supervisors

20 April 2016

Simon O'Toole 

Simon O'Toole 

The experience of being a Pupillage Supervisor can be extremely rewarding. Mentoring the next generation is an opportunity that many barristers thoroughly enjoy. Moreover, research shows that supporting and mentoring someone else can improve a barrister's own well-being and mental health.

Having said that, the reality is that it is an unpaid position in private practice and often requires a barrister to work extra hours above and beyond their own practice obligations training the pupil. The quiet dedication with which Supervisors undertake this important role should not be underestimated, and this good faith should not be taken for granted.

In order to qualify as a Supervisor, barristers have to undertake a rigorous course with their Inns.  Thereafter, they should be able to draw upon their own experience and that of their colleagues in Chambers. 

There is, however, no formal support structure as such for the profession as a whole, and no means by which Supervisors and others from different sets can share best practice, or discuss problems. There would appear to be a need for this, at least for some, judging by the calls that Bar Council staff take from Supervisors seeking general help and guidance, and on occasions specific help such as how they can best support a struggling pupil.

The Bar Council therefore considers that it may be helpful to establish a Pupillage Supervisor Network to offer support and guidance, and act as a forum for the discussion of problems and the sharing of best practice.

We propose to hold an biannual Network meeting, which will be the forum for Supervisors to discuss current issues arising in pupillage, and help the profession develop best practice. One such current issue is the extent to which pupils are permitted to download their Supervisor's client's documents onto their own computer.  Throughout the year, the Network will provide peer support for Supervisors on these and other issues. 

We encourage all chambers which take pupils to nominate someone as the point of contact for the Network, and for as many individual Supervisors as possible to join the Network. 

If you would like to join the Network or have any questions about it, please contact the Bar Council's Alex Cisneros (

Simon O'Toole, Chair of the Bar Council Pupillage Supervisor Network.