In this article Lucie Briggs describes the application process at Atkin Chambers and answers some frequently asked questions about pupillage.
Lucie studied Chemistry at King’s College, London before taking the law conversion course (PGDL), and then the Bar Vocational Course (BVC) at the College of Law, London. Lucie was called to the Bar in 2004, commenced pupillage in the same year, and became a tenant in 2005.
PUPILLAGE AT ATKIN CHAMBERS
- At Atkin Chambers we offer two 12-month funded pupillages.
- The current pupillage award is £72,500 with the option to draw down £25,00 to fund your BVC.
APPLYING FOR PUPILLAGE
- Applications for pupillage starting September 2022 opened on Monday 4th January 2021, and close at 11am on Monday 8th February 2021.
- Atkin Chambers is not on Gateway – you can apply direct by CV and covering letter, with two references, for further details please see: https://www.atkinchambers.com/about-us/pupillage-at-atkin-chambers/pupillage-application/ . A benefit of this is that applying to Atkin Chambers does not count towards any limit that you may have on Gateway.
- Being an international student is not a bar to applying for pupillage at Atkin Chambers, we have a history of assisting with visa applications.
WHAT ATKIN CHAMBERS LOOKS FOR
Different chambers have a difference focus and therefore it depends largely on what area of law you want to go into. As Atkin Chambers is a commercial set, the focus is perhaps more on academic attainment and strong academic references. However, Chambers also looks for well-rounded candidates. Evidence that applicants have drive, determination and initiative is important, as well as a strong commitment to the Bar and to practicing within our areas of work.
CVS AND COVER LETTERS: MAKING YOUR APPLICATION STAND OUT
- Highlight your academic merits with any scholarships, prizes and awards you have won, and any legal or advocacy experience such as mini-pupillages, mooting or pro-bono work.
- Do your homework on Chambers. There is a lot of information on the Atkin Chambers website and on our social media pages. You can look at the resources section and read the news, events, articles, read cases that members have been involved in which is useful background information for when you make your application to make it specific to us, and also in the interview it gives you something to talk about if you have seen an article a member has written or a case that they have been involved in.
- Focus on Atkin as a Chambers and show commitment to Atkin Chambers and the type of work that we do as opposed to being generic. What interests you about construction law (even if you don’t have much experience of it)? For example, do you like contract/tort/unjust enrichment? Do you want an international practice? Do you like the idea of learning about projects and processes you know nothing about (IT systems to wind farms to tree roots)?
- Be specific in what you have done to familiarise yourself with Atkin Chambers and demonstrate a commitment to applying to Atkin Chambers.
- Lastly any interesting facets of your life that might make you stand out, particularly positions of responsibility that you have might have help, volunteering you might have done. Things that show initiative, things that show you have confidence, and things that show you have determination are always things that we would find it useful to hear about and know about in the CV
WHAT KNOWLEDGE OF COMMERCIAL/ CONSTRUCTION LAW DO YOU NEED TO HAVE BEFORE APPLYING?
You do not need any knowledge or experience in construction or in construction law. Very few people who have come to Chambers as pupils have any such experience, it is definitely not a requisite.
In terms of commercial experience, it’s not like a banking commercial set where knowledge of bonds/derivatives is a helpful starting point. Understanding projects or just the working dynamics at any company would be helpful (how chains of command break down, what is the terminology on a construction site) but many are open in interviews about knowing almost nothing about the construction sector and instead point to ‘general’ commercial awareness.
Non-law and law degrees are treated effectively the same. When reviewing the applications, the pupillage committee do not place more weight to those who have a law degree. Due to the nature of the work, Chambers is looking for a strong academic record in whatever degree subject the candidate has.
On your application non-law students can highlight relevant parts of their degree or additional work experience, since that might be less standard than a law student – it is always nice for the panel when they can ask you something they don’t know much about or don’t see on applications all the time.
BENEFITS OF A POST-GRADUATE QUALIFICATION
Postgraduate qualifications are looked upon favourably, but they are not essential. Quite a few recent pupils/tenants have completed the BCL or LLM, but it is by no means a prerequisite, as Atkin Chambers has taken pupils/tenants who do not have a master’s degree.
If you do not have a strong degree, you may consider a post-graduate course to make your application stand out. It gives you another year to learn specialist topics you enjoy and/or topics relevant to your future practice, and for some students, it also helps top up on the results you have in your first degree. Additionally, some have found the extra year helpful for building your CV, as you can continue to do moots, pro bono work etc, and you may have a bit more time to do so than undergraduate.
APPLYING TO THE BAR AS A SECOND CAREER
In terms of previous careers we do have examples at Atkin Chambers of barristers who have had previous careers and who didn’t take the straight route to the bar, including careers in IT, careers as a solicitor and other careers. This is absolutely no bar to entry.
There is still the expectation you would meet the academic standards but depending on your circumstances, what your previous career had been, and how long you had been in that career, we would take a common sense approach in relation to the academic qualifications and treat any such application on a case-by-case basis.
PROCESS ONCE APPLICATION HAS BEEN SUBMITTED
All applications will be narrowed down and a certain number of people are then invited to interview. Formal offers of initial interview will be made in February/March 2021.
At Atkin Chambers there are two rounds to interviews. The first is fairly short, it is a chat about your CV and a short presentation. As you come in you will be given a piece of paper that will give you a current affairs topic and a proposition to argue for or against. You will be expected to do a short presentation arguing for or against that topic and there will be some follow-up questions.
The second round is then an advocacy exercise that you will be sent and asked to prepare in advance. We specifically cater for the fact that a large number of our applicants have not got full law degrees and indeed are going through with the PGDL at the BPP at the time that they apply. It therefore is not normally anything that requires a large amount of legal knowledge, because we acknowledge the fact that a lot of our applicants are not as progressed through their law career as those that have done a full law degree.
In terms of the interview process, up until now they have always been done in person. I think in terms of whether they will be in person or remote this year, we will be following the guidance that is relevant at the time. Chambers have in fact done remote interviews previously when an applicant has, for example, been based abroad or in a foreign country, so remote interviews are not something new to us.