Barristers’ chambers increasingly ask for applications to be submitted online, whether using their own application form or via the centralised Pupillage Gateway system. However, there are still many well-regarded sets that invite applicants for pupillage, the year-long practical stage of barristers’ training, via the traditional CV and covering letter.
Refer to the barristers chambers’ profiles on targetjobs.co.uk, the A–Z of recruiting barristers in TARGETjobs Law, chambers’ websites and the Pupillage Gateway website to research how different chambers want candidates to submit their applications.
Make sure your CV and covering letter are flawless
Accuracy, strong written communication skills and persuasiveness are vital for barristers, so make sure your CV and covering letter demonstrate these qualities. Avoid grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes, choose an easy-to-read font in a reasonable size and print on good quality paper. Make sure you will be easy to reach via the contact details you provide and check that your email address gives the impression of professionalism.
Print both your CV and covering letter off and check them carefully, line by line, before you send them. If possible pass them to someone else to proofread. Your careers adviser will be able to give you useful advice. Keep a copy of each application you submit to refer to if you are invited for interview.
CVs that get your pupillage applications noticed
There are two main types of CV to decide between.
- Traditional CVs give your personal details, qualifications and work experience (both usually in reverse chronological order), achievements, skills (eg languages or specific computer skills), interests and referees’ contact details.
- Skills-based CVs focus on the competences you wish to demonstrate and evidence that you possess these, and can include a brief personal statement or career objective near the start.
Whichever format you opt for, your CV should be a maximum of two pages long and its contents relevant and concise. Try not to leave any periods of time unaccounted for. When you send your CV off, always accompany it with a covering letter. This is a key part of your application and will probably be the first impression a recruiter has of you.
Successful covering letters for pupillage applications
As with your CV, the aim of the accompanying letter is to show recruiters that you meet their requirements and are ideally suited to a pupillage at their set. Covering letters need to be succinct, ideally no longer than one side of A4. Unless specifically stated, recruiters prefer typed or word-processed letters to handwritten ones. Make sure you address the letter to the right person and that you get their name, job title and chambers’ name right – if in doubt, phone up and ask.
How to structure your covering letter
- The opening. Introduce yourself (including what stage you are at in your studies) and, if appropriate, state that you are applying for pupillage and where you saw the advert for this.
- Why them? Devote one paragraph to explaining why you wish to complete your pupillage with their set in particular.
- Why you? Use the next paragraph or two to tell them why you are a good prospect. Write this in accordance with the information in the advert but don’t just repeat the content of your CV.
- The ending. Remember to state your availability for interview and, if you are keen, you could add a politely worded sentence that will give you the chance to follow up the application.
Your well drafted Pupillage letter......
Writing a covering letter to Chambers? How do I write a letter which is going to stand out among the other pupillage applications? How do I know which is the best Chambers to apply to?
Writing a covering letter for a pupillage application requires time and thought, especially if you want to get it right and more importantly if you want it read. The starting point in my opinion is to really research your chosen Chambers. Identify the strengths and the experience of the individual barristers and see if there is a synergy between your abilities and those of Chambers. After all, if you are going to apply to a particular set, you need to ensure that there is a good match of skills.
I always think that it is important to see who the incumbent pupils are, where they have come from, both in terms of age and background (by this I mean educationally and previous legal/work experience) as this will give you a gauge as to the type of pupils that Chambers seek. Also, a key tip is to chat among your fellow students to find out whether anyone has completed a mini-pupillage with that set, as it will of course give you a clear insight into the daily life and pace of Chambers.
Now that you have completed your homework, check how Chambers wants you to submit your covering letter. Importantly, sometimes you are expected to submit a covering letter with the good old ‘pen and ink’, so it is always good practice to double check.
Turning now to the letter itself. Amusingly in recent days there have been a variety of tactics driven across the Internet as to how to get your letter written for you. (PERISH THE THOUGHT). However, when it comes to writing your own letter, I personally don’t think there is a right or wrong formula, just make sure you are able to put yourself across well and take on board my earlier comments.
As usual, I have been conducting a cross examination upon the Internet and have come across some surprising results and here are a few to share with you. Interestingly, ‘The City Law School’ have put online a covering letter, its set up as a PDF but it gives a clear outline of both a letter and CV. (Click Here for City Law Covering Letter). For some other pointers, why not go to ‘LawCareers.Net’ as it provides some good advice (Click here for LawCareers.Net Tips). Finally, it is worth a peek at ‘The Diaries of UK Law Students’, it’s an old blog, but it has an interesting snippet with some tips from a junior criminal barrister, (Click here for UK Law Students Tips)
Well, today’s blog is just sharing some of my thoughts, take them or leave them, but perish the thought that you will ever request a cross examination on this subject matter.