If you are successful in obtaining a pupillage, what can you expect when you start?
During the non-practising period, you will be assigned one or more pupil supervisors – barristers in the same Authorised Education and Training Organisation (AETO) that you will shadow and for whom you will undertake, at least during your non-practising period, supervised work, such as legal research and drafting court documents. You will be covered by your pupil supervisor’s insurance until you complete your pupillage and hold a full practising certificate.
Throughout the course of your pupillage, you will find yourself attending court with your pupil supervisor and other barristers. Although you will not be a fully qualified barrister until you have successfully completed pupillage, you will be expected to dress like a barrister. Traditionally, all pupils are required to wear a suit, whether or not they are attending court.
Pupillage can last up to 24 months and is broken up into two periods: non-practising and practising. Although the format of pupillage will vary between AETOs, traditionally your non-practising period will be spent shadowing your pupil supervisors and other members of the AETO. In your practising period, you may be eligible to undertake cases on your own, albeit under close supervision and subject to permission being granted from your pupil supervisor.
Clerks and practice managers are chambers’ staff and they are responsible for generating and assigning work to barristers, as well as managing barristers’ diaries. They are familiar with court procedure and etiquette.
When undertaking pupillage, you will have the opportunity to meet and interact with many different solicitors. Traditionally, a self-employed barrister receives the majority of their instructions from solicitors. However, you may find that you build a Public Access practice following successful completion of pupillage. This is where, in suitable cases, barristers take instructions directly from clients, without the need for a solicitor.
All members of the Bar are subject to the rules of professional conduct as set out in the BSB Handbook. A failure to adhere to these rules can result in a finding of professional misconduct against the barrister concerned. There are specific rules of the Handbook that refer to pupils, as they are not fully qualified barristers until successful completion of pupillage. Part 4: Qualification Rules of the Handbook deals specifically with pupil barristers. The BSB Bar Qualification Manual provides further guidance on the Bar qualification rules.
All pupils are required by the Bar Standards Board to complete an assessed advocacy training course and to attend a practice management course. Both courses are organised by the Inns. The advocacy training course is taught by senior barristers and judges who are also accredited advocacy trainers. The practice management course offers practical help with managing your practice and includes advice on financial issues.
Your workload as a pupil differs depending on your area of practice. Although your non-practising period generally consists of observing and assisting your pupil supervisor and other members of the AETO, you will often be expected to undertake legal research, take notes and observe in client conferences and draft court documents. You may find that you have a larger workload during your practising period, particularly if you are granted permission to take on your own cases. However, you may still be expected to continue to work with and under the supervision of your pupil supervisor.
Tenancy is the entitlement to continue to practise from a set of chambers as a self-employed barrister. Recruitment methods vary between chambers, but decisions about tenancy are usually made around two months before the end of your pupillage. Competition for tenancy can be tough, and some chambers take on several pupils but only retain one as a tenant. Appraisal might be based simply on your pupil supervisor’s assessment of your abilities, or you may have to take part in a formal exercise. Some sets of chambers take on every pupil with a view to making them a tenant if they perform well.
Once you are a tenant, your income will come directly from the work you take on, either in your own right or when acting as junior counsel in a team of barristers. With the support of your chambers’ employees, you will need to build up a good reputation and a network of clients who will instruct you.
Chambers are required to fund pupillage with a minimum award of £12,000 (and, from 1 September 2019, a minimum award of £15,728 for pupillages outside of London and £18,436 for pupillages in London). Depending on the AETO, the award may well be more (and often is) – please see individual vacancies for further information. Pupils may also earn money from case work they take on in the practising period.
Scholarships are not generally available for pupillage and are only offered by the Inns to support you throughout your GDL or BPTC. If you want to undertake part-time work during your year of pupillage, you must get the permission of your AETO.