Tuesday, 8 April 2008


To any aspiring barrister, 'mini's are supposed to be dreadfully important, and having done a few I thought I am reasonably well qualified to give an opinion.

My cunning plan to find where to go was quite simple, in that I purloined a copy of 'Prospects' from university which listed towards the back the top 50 mini-pupillage providers. You could try prospects.ac.uk where I assume the same info will be found.

Each chambers is listed along with their specialisms. I highlighted 17 that were in the 2 fields I was interested in (note, was) and sent them a cv and covering letter.

A couple responded with a thanks but no thanks, and then a breakthrough, I was offered one. Then another, and another, until 6 came back offering a place. To a old git with boyish good looks this was a welcome confirmation that I wasn't wasting my time at least trying to become a barrister.

So I attended the first. Family Law. (Based on my previous 'extensive' experience.) You will be told that doing a mini will help you get a feel for the chambers, to see if you feel that you would fit in. I can't actually see how that happens, as only once did I manage to get past reception into the inner reaches. Was I impressed by the cubby holes they work in? No, but if they offered me a pupillage I would snap their hand off!

So I attended court on each of the 5 days, with 5 different barristers. One was a QC, and all of them were lovely welcoming and friendly people. Even the clerks, who seemed rushed off their feet doing a job which I didn't like the look of (hassled administration it seemed) were friendly and nice.

And what did I learn from my 5 days in court?

In true Catherine Tate style, I sat at the back of the court thinking 'I could do that' It wasn't rocket science, it wasn't impossible that only the chosen few could get to grips with, it was a good job, hard work, but achievable. Further confirmation that one day, my son, I will be a barrister.

One other thing I did learn was to make sure you have read all of the documents prior to arriving at court. It doesn't give a good impression frantically reading and taking notes all day.

You should always ask for a copy of the papers being used in court as it helps to follow proceedings if you can understand what they are doing.

My second mini was professional misconduct, contracts that had gone wrong etc. I quite enjoyed that, but learn one more very important lesson:

Whatever area of law you go into, once you know the law, the process of being a barrister is the same. You find your arguments, spot the other sides weaknesses, build your case around those.

I have also done what I had believed the worst of the worst areas, landlord/tenant stuff. (I hated Land law) Surprisingly, I enjoyed it so much I even contemplated trying to work in it. Have also done Personal Injury which was fab, and now I want to do that. Ideally, I would like to do a variety or areas, but realistically I suppose I will fall into one area and stick there.

Of all the mini's I have done, everybody without exception has been lovely, welcoming and friendly. I have no idea what any of the chambers are really like behind reception, so have no idea whether I would fit in or not.

On the whole, I enjoyed them all and can't wait to be complete my pupillage and start work in earnest.

I did speak to the person who I wrote to asking for a mini and asked him why he had chosen me. Gather round and listen carefully, this is important.

'He said that he gets hundreds of letters. Hundreds and hundreds. Most of them say, 'I have excellent grades, I enjoy playing football on saturdays, I want to be a barrister, can I have a mini-pupillage?' He discards those straight away. he is looking for something that stands out, that marks you as being someone with a talent for something that will benefit the chambers, or something that stands you out from the crowd. He couldn't actually remember what it was on mine that had stood out, but I don't exactly have a conventional background so it could have been one of a number of things!

Mini-pupillages, essential, good fun, enjoyable, tiring!


Android said...

Personal Injury does seem like good fun. Plus I've heard it pays well...

It's also reassuring to hear yet again that grades are not everything!

Anonymous said...

Glad to see that you had such rollocking good fun and that chambers successfully managed to disavow you of the popular student opinion that it members are stuffy and unapproachable, its staff too harrassed even to speak.
Besides bieng CV essentials, Mini's are a rather good way of concretising one's decision -despite the risks - to go to the bar; when things are bleak, they form a pleasant store of memory and experience on which to draw to fire up one's enthusiasm once again.
Its good to hear that you enjoyed yourself!!

Mel said...

I really must get round to doing some more, I've only done 2 and one was really work experience. Still, they were enough to convince me it was the thing for me.

Well done on getting so many, and putting in the effort to get them.

You do seem like you have a very interesting background which will offer a very different perspective on all of this.

I think mature can only be a good thing for the Bar, personally.

Fiona said...

Glad to see you have become a blogger and things are going so well. Where did you get that pic?