Firstly, I would like to say that obtaining a mini-pupillage at first was not easy, it was a long and difficult process which took a LOT of trial and error particularly with my CV and cover letter structure and wording. At first, my CV was 3 pages long and that was the first mistake as a cover letter should only be 2 pages long! The second mistake was my cover letter, there was just no real substance to it, I merely repeated what was already on my CV thus I added nothing new to the application. My final mistake was not being meticulous enough and checking over the application with a fine-toothed comb, it was full of spelling and grammatical mistakes. Now, I know my grammar and I know my spelling, I am usually very good, however, I rushed and didn’t check it thoroughly.
Having sent off my first few applications, I heard nothing back, and it was no surprise, I wouldn’t have picked me either. I was annoyed, however, I finally saw the error in my ways and utilised the internet, my family and my brain and made changes. I noticed that my cover letter, in particular, required a better explanation as to why I was seeking a mini-pupillage and why that specific chambers, I then developed my points by stating which areas I was keen to experience and why, using examples from my uni studies, work experience and extra-curricular’s to back up my points. Finally, I started receiving responses and positive ones at that! I was fortunate to obtain 8, yes you are reading that right! 8 mini-pupillages (In all honesty I send off heaps of applications!). I obtained mini-pupillages at 5 St Andrew’s Hill, 5 Paper Buildings, 9 King’s Bench Walk, Apex Chambers, 1MCB, 187 Fleet Street, 5 King’s Bench Walk and 2 Bedford Row.
The first chambers to respond to my application was 187 Fleet Street, it took a while to hear something but when they did, it was a positive response and the mini-pupillage was scheduled for December 2018. The other’s followed suit after, I was receiving a response at the rate of almost 1 a week!
So how did I do it?
I applied to mini-pupillages every day for almost a month over summer, I was desperate to gain some legal experience in chambers and had set up a schedule and effectively I was applying to one a day. At first, I was very demotivated since I was getting no responses, but it took them almost 2/3 months to hear back, but once I did, it seemed as though every chamber responded at the same time. However, the fastest chambers to respond to me was Apex Chambers and it took them less than 3 hours!
My application (cover letter) was full of examples, points and links to the areas of law the chambers practised and why I was interested in it. I applied to chambers with a focus on criminal law, and my application was tailored accordingly. I made sure to back up all my points with evidence, i.e. I said that I liked criminal law because I had studied it and was a part of the Innocence Project. I then went on to explain why I chose that firm using examples such as their ratings in the Legal 500, or the work it does and the notable barristers or QCs.
I made sure to read over my application at least 3 times before sending it off, often reading it out loud to my mum, asking her advice! I also used Grammarly, which is a literal godsend for uni work, applications etc because it is so thorough and I would even go so far as to say that it is better than Microsoft’s spell check.
Using Harvard’s and Brunel’s CV and application guidance
Now, I do not attend either of the institutions but they are kind enough to publish their resources online and free of charge for anyone to read and get ideas from, what I mean by this is there are examples on google images that show you how a good cover letter and CV should be written and styles. Here is a link to Brunel’s https://www.brunel.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/50926/19_LegalCVs_aug-11.pdf. Here is Harvard’s http://hwpi.harvard.edu/files/ocs/files/gsas-cvs-and-cover-letters.pdf
The most important part now is to be patient and wait, I went crazy checking my e-mails every day, but it took them all a good few months to respond to my application. I would recommend doing a new hobby or something you enjoy in the meantime!
My number one tip for applying is to know what areas you are interested in before you apply, it will make your research a lot easier. You will be able to explain your reasoning and evidence it well if you are clear about what you want to do. Utilise sites such as The Lawyer Portal, Legal 500, LawCareerNet and the chambers’ websites to conduct in-depth research and utilise the information effectively, don’t tell them what they already know, use the information to evidence why they should choose you!
Finally, I wish you all good luck!