Aspiring to become a barrister means navigating a tricky web of applications, work experience requirements, scholarship deadlines, extra qualifications and more. In all honesty, the process can be a bit overwhelming. Having learned everything I know about the Bar from independent research, I’ve complied a handy list of essential websites and resources for aspiring barristers. I’ve categorised them for what purpose the site/resource is most helpful for. Some do appear more than once!
To help aspiring barristers get a real understanding of what the main differences are between solicitor and barrister:
One of my all-time favourite websites has to be Chambers Student (www.chambersstudent.co.uk). On their ‘What kind of Lawyer do you want to be?‘ page, they detail the differences between life as a barrister and life as a solicitor. If you’re unsure how to decide between the two, this page is a great place to start. Explore the rest of the website for more really useful and candid insight into solicitor versus barrister.
Hopefully you are able to settle on a decision and if you have chosen to settle on the Bar then well done! Regardless of whether you choose solicitor or barrister this site is extremely useful; you will definitely need to be consulting it later.
For really accurate and honest insight into different chambers (as well as their mini-pupillage opportunities, deadlines, practice areas and pupillage awards):
Again, Chambers Student proves to be an invaluable resource. In their ‘Chambers Reports‘ they break down what it is like to complete pupillage at a host of sets with quotes from current and former pupils. It gives you a look inside the mind of pupillage recruitment at the chambers. Knowing a set’s real identity and what they really value is so important to not only focusing your applications, but learning if a set is right for you. It also gives you a picture of the shape and format of the pupillage because not all pupillages are conducted in the same way.
Chambers Student also allows you to click and compare different sets. This lets you compare them side by side for pupillage awards, how many tenancy spots they’ve offered in the recent past and so on.
Another amazing resource is the ‘Training Contract and Pupillage Handbook‘ which is published alongside LawCareers.Net. (I’m currently collaborating with them to produce a GDL Vlog!) In the handbook you will find detailed information on pupillage opportunities at chambers nation wide. You can see pupillage information, whether mini-pupillage is offered and how frequently they take on new tenants. Many chambers have also provided an overview of who they are, what they look for in pupils and what they expect from their applicants. It also has excellent information on how to shape your applications and select a chambers.
The handbook should be available for free from any law faculty (if yours hasn’t got copies then press them for copies!). Contact LawCareers.Net if you’re struggling to get a copy through your law school. Alternatively, you can purchase a copy from the website.
For real inside information on different practice areas from actual barristers themselves:
I once again point you towards the ‘Training Contract and Pupillage Handbook‘. In a fantastic ‘Bar Practice Areas‘ section aimed at aspiring barristers the book details candid advice from barristers working within a breadth of practice areas. They cover details of what they encounter day-to-day in that practice area and what a strong barrister working in that field would have by way of skills and previous work experience.
Reading this section can help you focus on which area of practice you want to go into and following that, which chambers you want to target. Life in different practice areas can be wildly varied. In some areas you may very rarely go to court and deal directly with clients, in others you may do that nearly everyday. Learning these subtle differences are what increase your chances of success as you’re better informed.
For Pupillage deadlines by chambers:
LawCareers.Net has you covered here. Their Pupillage deadlines page does what it says on the tin and lists all the submission deadlines for pupillage. Not all chambers are part of the pupillage deadline! Some chambers’ deadlines are as early as November so BE PREPARED! In an ideal world you would know exactly which chambers/practice areas you wish to target. But if you don’t, then be sure to spend time finding out over Summer. Autumn/Winter is a busy time, especially if you’re on the GDL so don’t get caught out on missing deadlines!
For a side by side comparison of different Inns of Court and the different scholarships they have available:
To begin with, Chambers Students’ ‘Inns of Courts Compared‘ was a great resource when I was deciding which Inn to apply to. I eventually settled on Inner Temple after I saw it had a great history of promoting female representation at the Bar and it was particularly active in encouraging those from minority or less privileged backgrounds to have access to vital work experience needed to pursue a career at the bar. It was from here I was able to launch into my own research. On a side note, I found following the respective Inns on Twitter very helpful as it allowed me to see what kinds of activities the Inn is involved in and how it interacts with the wider world.
From here the rest of the information regarding scholarships is fairly generic and a quick google search of ‘inns of court scholarships’ will find a series of web pages sharing the same information. Scholarships are a tricky field to navigate and it is extremely hard to get your hands on one. Nonetheless, being informed is key and I would suggest you thoroughly learn the history of each Inn and what it’s ‘vibe’ is before making scholarship applications. Make sure it’s an Inn that you feel will support you well through BPTC and then later practice.
For killer tips on applications, work experience and a whole manner of other career advice from Pupillage recruiters, BPTC students and GDL students:
LawCareers.Net is by far the best practical careers website for aspiring lawyers. For us wannabe barristers it is a hub of essential information. Head to the ‘Barristers‘ tab to see a whole range of articles and interviews from practicing Barristers (the ‘Meet the Lawyer‘ series is especially good); blogs by aspiring student barristers (a friend of mine on the GDL course Chantal just wrote an excellent blog post on ‘thinking outside the box’ for Non-Law work experience); and ‘Ask the Oracle‘ where all sorts of questions that you wanted answered or didn’t even know you wanted answered are discussed. There’s so much more, but this is a website that will direct you towards the practical steps needed to make your career as a barrister a reality.
To hear about life as a Barrister straight from the horse’s mouth, head to YouTube:
YouTube is a seriously helpful source of information for aspiring barristers. You can watch one-on-one videos, panel discussions and vlogs from actual practicing barristers all from the comfort of your bed. So don’t let me hear you say that not being able to network with actual barristers is an excuse. It’s the digital age, we no longer have to wait for rare networking opportunities to talk to barristers. We have the internet!
Target Jobs (www.targetjobs.co.uk) hosts a National Pupillage fair every year. This year it’s on Wednesday 25th November at Gray’s Inn (get your tickets here if you haven’t already). The fair is an amazing opportunity to network with barristers and ask them about what life in their respective practice area is like. But if you can’t make it or you want to recap what different barristers had to say then you can head to the Target Jobs YouTube channel and re-watch all of the panel discussions. The videos from the 2016 fair can be found on this playlist. Pay attention to which barristers are speaking and which chambers they are from. Recruiters almost always want to know why you chose that chambers – being able to name exactly which barrister you heard speak and how they encouraged you to look further into that chambers may be something useful.
To stay up to date with legal news, what barristers are talking about and the latest legal issues and debates, head to Twitter:
Twitter is an amazing network. It allows you to connect with and hear the opinions of people that 10 years ago you wouldn’t have met unless you had some amazing inside connection. I follow all sorts of barristers on Twitter and I keep up to date with my Inn of court, the Bar council and other legal news outlets. Accounts I suggest you follow are: Guardian Law (@GdnLaw), Legal Cheek (@legalcheek), LawCareers.Net (@LawCareersNetUK ), The Bar Council (@thebarcouncil), The Fashion Law – for a different type of legal news (@TheFashionLaw), your chosen Inn of court (I follow Inner) and for a bit of fun, Brenda the Usher – an Usher in the Family Division who provides hilarious commentary on her day to day life (@BrendatheUsher1).
I’ve also followed the accounts of chambers I hope to apply to in the future and the barristers who work there. If in interviews I can demonstrate a legitimate knowledge of organisations and campaigns with the chambers is affiliated, the cases they are involved with and kinds of people its members are then I can come across as a genuinely engaged candidate.
Try to follow barristers you are genuinely interested in as they can be a great source of opinion and provide a different kind of inside perspective on legal issues. Two accounts I personally really enjoy are The Secret Barrister (@BarristerSecret), Schona Jolly QC (@WomaninHavana), Leslie Thomas QC (_lesliethomas), ( Matthew Scott (@BarristerBlog), Sean Jones (@SeanJonesQC) and Adam Wagner (@AdamWagner1).
On the subject of Twitter, be sure to follow mine…(@blessingmukosha)!
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but a good place for you to start if you’re an aspiring barrister!
Good luck with progressing towards your career at the bar! As always, if you need to ask me any questions head to Twitter or use the Contact Form on the blog.
Ps, do you follow the blog on Instagram? Go on and follow me here (@blessingatthebar).