It can be hard to do meaningful pupillage research when there aren’t very many sources for you to consult beyond chambers websites. However, if you want to learn more about an area of law, whether it is right for you and if a chambers practises heavily in that area, this hack might help.
Use your legal research skills
I use my legal research skills to make it easier to understand which chambers I really want to apply to. I use Westlaw and/or Lexis Nexis to look at recently reported cases in areas of practice I am interested in. This is useful for two reasons:
Firstly, I am able to read the case digests for these areas of law and understand the type of client who I will be instructed by, the different range of needs and outcomes those clients may have and want, the intellectual rigour of the work and the likely orders that are made by judges in that area of law.
Secondly, I am able to look at the barristers instructed in those cases and see which chambers they are from. This helps me to see which chambers dominate certain areas of law and I can then see how this corresponds with the areas of practice advertised on their chambers website.
What do senior barristers in that chambers do?
By deploying this method I am able to see the seniority of the barristers appearing in different areas. This is helpful because some chambers have juniors appearing on their own in big cases, something that I am very interested in. It also gives me a clearer understanding of the potential opportunities available at that chambers at the more senior level. It is useful to see what the biggest names in chambers are doing to better understand their specialisms and what clients say about them. I always think it is important to keep in mind that a career at the Bar is a journey and it is always useful to see where you might end up on that journey with any particular chambers.
Do you like the area of law?
This research hack is also very helpful for identifying which area of law you actually want to practise in. I’m sorry to say it, but some areas of law are a bit boring. If when reading reported cases you are struggling to keep your eyes open, that is a good indication that area is not for you. You can then confirm whether or not a chambers has a big practice in that area, further helping you to focus your chambers selection process. Take care to do this because chambers want you to demonstrate that you have knowledge about the areas in which they practice and are able to convincingly make a case for why you want to practise in either one or more of them. Pupillage is important, but bear in mind that the barristers reviewing applications can very clearly see where someone’s answer is disingenuous.
Another important thing to note is that either on the application or at interview, many chambers want you to refer to a recent case within your chosen area of law that you found interesting or that was decided wrongly. If you deploy this research hack then you should encounter a host of interesting or infuriating cases, thus giving you ample material for these types of questions.
Accessing Westlaw or Lexis Nexis
You should be able to access the two main legal databases through your law school or BPTC provider. If you have since graduated, you should be able to gain access through the library at the Inn of Court you are a member of. They will also provide training and resources to help you navigate them and improve your legal research skills.
Good luck researching!
Good luck with your research and your applications. Be thorough and intentional and ensure that you make a good case for why you have chosen a particular area of law.
Until next time,