Posting the other day about the Pupillage Fair reminded me of the above titled event, held a couple of weeks ago on 15 February.
The evening was split into two - firstly a panel discussion about pupillage applications, what to write, what not to write, and secondly a drinks reception.
The first half was "sort of useful". I imagine that if you are, at all, interested in a career at the Bar, you will have found all sorts of application advice pages online, as well as a couple of books on the process. A good website, for instance, is The Pupillage Pages. It's a great site with lots of information for applicants, including a section called "Have You Heard?" (which was the bane of my life last summer - more on this later), and another, tellingly, called Application Advice.
There was nothing, really, from the panel discussion that you couldn't have found elsewhere. It was, I suppose, a useful tool for those who had never looked into the process before (lucky devils), but not quite so useful for those of us who had already experienced the peaks and troughs of "you're invited to interview" and "the quality of applicants this year was incredibly high... sucks to be you" emails.
The second half, however, was an entirely different beast. Waiting in the next room were 50 or so junior and pupil barristers - each of them with a name badge colour coded by their area of practice. Yellow, that brave colour, was assigned to crime, so off I went in search of custard coloured names.
Whereas the stallholders at the pupillage fair seemed to be going through the motions, the barristers at the reception seemed to want to be there (ignoring the fact that you don't have much money during pupillage, and there was lots of free wine). A couple of Eddie's opponents from the mini-pupillage were in attendance, and so I immediately had some people to talk to.
Amazingly(!), after a couple of glasses of wine, the barristers were much more willing to talk about their sets, their application process, and what sort of person they look for. One person from Tooks chambers said to me: "You seem passionate about a career at the criminal bar, and fairly bright, but you have work for a Tory MP on your CV, so I wouldn't waste your time applying to our set in case your form is reviewed by one of our more communist members". Invaluable advice, of course. Conversely, practitioners from other sets were more encouraging.
The majority of sets recruit their pupils through the central "Pupillage Portal". With over a hundred sets to choose from, and a limit of 12 applications, you have to choose your sets carefully. It's important to choose not only on practice area, but also on other esoteric factors - such as the "personality" of the chambers. Although you can get a lot about the set from its website, nothing actually beats speaking to its members in a relaxed environment.
The pupillage fair was too hectic to achieve anything useful, but the odd drinks reception here and there, alongside mini-pupillages can give you a firm idea of whether or not you'd fit in.
I think I know which 12 sets I'll be applying to when the applications open, but more on that later.