Christianah Babajide is a second-year law student at The City Law School, she writes for Legal Cheek and Lawbore.net as a Future Lawyer and runs her own law blog called Lawcommonroom. She completed a mini pupillage and shares her view below.
Mini-pupillages are a crucial form of work experience that chambers will want to see on pupillage applications. They are like the vacation schemes of the barrister world. Minis are encouraged because they showcase a dedication to a legal career and provide one with the practical experience which eventually helps decide which area of law to specialise in.
After encouragement from my university’s careers service to get some credible legal experience at Barrister’s Chambers, I applied for an unassessed mini-pupillage at 7 Bedford Row (“7BR”) in the first year of my undergraduate degree. I was keen to do a mini-pupillage at 7BR because it is a leading set that covers clinical negligence and personal injury, areas I had no prior experience of.
The Application process
The application process was relatively straightforward and consisted of a cover letter and a CV. Unlike solicitor internships, mini-pupillages are very ad hoc. The most challenging bit was tailoring the cover letter to 7BR specifically. I knew that there was no point in sending them a general letter, as that would not have portrayed my interest in doing a mini at their set.
Out of Chambers & into Courtrooms
Each day began at 9.00am. On some days, I went to the Royal Courts of Justice (“RCJ”) on my own to observe cases from the public gallery. There I sat through a criminal case on Joint Enterprise and saw a civil case concerning a financial family dispute. On other days, I walked to the RCJ with Barrister James Weston to have a final hearing with Master Cook on a negligence case. I also had the privilege of shadowing Dr Peter Ellis, a Clinical Negligence Barrister, who also happens to be Head of his chambers. He offered me an invaluable insight into the case we were working on from a doctor’s point of view, as well as a barrister’s point of view. However, one of my most memorable experiences was watching Simeon Maskrey (the best Clinical Negligence Barrister in the country) in action during a three-day trial. Watching him cross-examine the opposing counsel’s witness was both impressive and inspiring. He truly demonstrated the art of advocacy and spoke eloquently. Having this opportunity to see, first-hand, points of law being argued, debated and defended in a courtroom was truly invaluable. Counsel was also very generous and accommodating and made time to speak to me.
During quiet days, I stayed in chambers, where I researched relevant points of law, read clinical negligence cases, looked over skeleton arguments and sat in on client conferences. I generally left chambers by 4.30pm and headed home.
The mini provided me with the practical experience of a topic I was currently covering in Tort Law called The Tort of Negligence. I was privileged to witness my studying come to life in the courtroom and soon realised that law was much more fun in practice! I hope one day, outside my lecture theatre, I will also be able to use my knowledge and theories in the courtroom. Once I finished my week-long mini-pupillage, I was still not sure which area of law I wanted to specialise in. However, this is the purpose of the minis, providing insight into multiple areas of law to see which one an individual is most drawn to and suited for.
Moreover, from my mini-pupillage I learned a lot about career at the Bar. I was fortunate to meet Barristers who were happy to give up their time to speak with me and offered me some useful advice on my legal career path. I was also enabled to speak to a Pupil (pupils work full time for a year under the wing of experienced barristers) and a Tenant (a fully-fledged barrister working with an experienced barrister), which was a good way to learn about the reputable set. I was surprised by how approachable they all were!
Tips and tricks
There are a few things that everyone starting a mini-pupillage should remember. Make sure to take notes, whilst in court, and even in chambers. Try to make a good impression by dressing smartly, being punctual and polite towards clerks, the receptionist, and of course the barristers. Make sure to ask questions and express your interest in the barrister’s specialised area of law. Also, expect to travel – you’ll be sent all over London, potentially all over the country! Apply early, as places go quickly, particularly in top sets, so be prepared for some competition. Good luck!