Do you really have to go to Oxbridge to secure pupillage at a top chambers?

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chanmartin82
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I've done some research and it seems like almost all of new tenants at the "Magic Circle" chambers have gone to Oxbridge.
I've got offers from Oxford and LSE. I'm leaning more towards LSE, but would picking that over Oxford put me at a disadvantage when applying for pupillages? Or would be be the same if I got a First?

Thanks
The chambers I'm talking about are Brick Court, 20 Essex Street, Fountain Court, Monckton Chambers etc
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Crazy Jamie
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Simply put, a 2:1 or a First from Oxford is more valuable than a 2:1 or a First from any other university except Cambridge. Don't get me wrong; LSE is a great university, and a 2:1 or a First from there is a great degree to have. But having your degree from Oxford or Cambridge gives you a clear advantage on paper over those who have degrees from other universities. So unfortunately, yes, if you choose LSE over Oxford it would be putting you to a disadvantage relatively speaking, especially when applying to the 'Magic Circle' sets. That's not say you shouldn't do it, because the choice is always yours, but passing up Oxford or Cambridge when your ambition is to become a barrister is a massive decision to make. Why is it that you are leaning towards LSE?
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chanmartin82
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I've already got friends and family in London, so I won't have to pay rent.
It'll also be easier to get some experience at the Inns without having to travel about all over the place.
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Radebe91
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For magic circle chambers it's worth pointing out that you kind of almost need a postgraduate degree as well.

I went to Oxford at undergrad and I did the BCL and got a Distinction but I still self select out of some of the sets you mention there and I've racked up about 25-30 rejections in total at this stage.

Commercial law in particular is more ludicrously competitive than you can possibly imagine. Do everything you can as early as you can to get ahead.
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Crazy Jamie
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(Original post by chanmartin82)
I've already got friends and family in London, so I won't have to pay rent.
It'll also be easier to get some experience at the Inns without having to travel about all over the place.
Financial considerations are always pertinent, but chances are it really it will be well worth your while if you can afford to go to Oxford. Given the advantage that a degree from Oxford would give you in the medium to long term, it makes little sense to reject it in favour of saving money in the short term unless you really have no other option.
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typonaut
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Take a look at this tool:

http://www.indx.co.uk/pupilbase/

Change your degree input between "other UK", "Russell" and "Oxbridge" to see what a difference it makes to where your "green" zone is - then add in a postgraduate qualification.
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NewDeparture
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(Original post by Radebe91)
For magic circle chambers it's worth pointing out that you kind of almost need a postgraduate degree as well.

I went to Oxford at undergrad and I did the BCL and got a Distinction but I still self select out of some of the sets you mention there and I've racked up about 25-30 rejections in total at this stage.

Commercial law in particular is more ludicrously competitive than you can possibly imagine. Do everything you can as early as you can to get ahead.
This is interesting. Can I ask which of those chambers you self select out of?

Out of (further) interest, what do you think might give an applicant an early (or any) advantage when applying for a commercial set (though some of the chambers you listed are EU/commercial, but splitting hairs there obviously)?
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chanmartin82
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(Original post by Radebe91)
For magic circle chambers it's worth pointing out that you kind of almost need a postgraduate degree as well.

I went to Oxford at undergrad and I did the BCL and got a Distinction but I still self select out of some of the sets you mention there and I've racked up about 25-30 rejections in total at this stage.

Commercial law in particular is more ludicrously competitive than you can possibly imagine. Do everything you can as early as you can to get ahead.
Do you mean I'd need a post graduate degree to be accepted for pupillage?
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exlibris
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(Original post by chanmartin82)
Do you mean I'd need a post graduate degree to be accepted for pupillage?
If you take a look at the recent pupils for the sets you're interested in, that will give you an idea. There are some sets where postgrad qualifications are near enough a must - generally the big commercial ones. Others aren't so bothered. What you will need is a way to make your application stand out dramatically from the rest - having Oxbridge on their helps with that, so do postgrad qualifications, experience in other careers etc. As someone said above, it is ridiculously competitive - that means doing all you can to get an edge, and for better or worse Oxbridge is an element in that equation.
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TimmonaPortella
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(Original post by Radebe91)
For magic circle chambers it's worth pointing out that you kind of almost need a postgraduate degree as well.

I went to Oxford at undergrad and I did the BCL and got a Distinction but I still self select out of some of the sets you mention there and I've racked up about 25-30 rejections in total at this stage.

Commercial law in particular is more ludicrously competitive than you can possibly imagine. Do everything you can as early as you can to get ahead.
Out of interest, with that CV, were any of your rejections without interview? How many?

I'm not familiar enough with the process to know but I find it hard to imagine a BCL distinction not getting your foot in the door...
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Nigel85
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I am a barrister at a tier 1 commercial set and completely disagree that it is "near enough a must" to have a postgraduate qualification. From our most recent pupillage interviewees, the most important qualification is a first at undergraduate level from a good university (which LSE is) or perhaps a very high 2.1 plus exceptional references and a 1st in several subjects. It does not matter if you do law or another subject, but if you don't do law then you also need a distinction or high commendation on the law conversion course (and, again, ideally a distinction in the key subjects such as contract law and equity).

Obviously a distinction on the BCL will make you stand out, but I would be wary of doing any other postgraduate courses to make up for your undergraduate results. The top sets want the best people, and they will snap those up as soon as possible to make sure that other sets don't get them, which is why postgraduate degrees are by and large irrelevant. While there are several members of my Chambers who have done the BCL, they have almost all done so (or at least received their BCL results) after receiving a pupillage offer and only because they are really motivated to do some further study in those particular areas of law. It is not really a matter of cause and effect, but a reflection of the fact that people who are offered pupillage in a "top" set are also more likely to be accepted onto - and want to study on - the BCL.

OP - you don't say which subject you are intending to study. I would look carefully at the number of 1st class results for each course, and also think about whether you are more likely to do better in one course or the other. There probably is a slight perception (obviously completely wrong) that studying at LSE means you did not get into Oxbridge, so that perhaps would put you at a very small disadvantage. Many barristers also just know more about the Oxford law course - and know the tutors who are likely to be giving you references. If you are in small tutorial groups at Oxford compared to LSE then that may also be an advantage when it comes to impressing tutors for the purposes of references. However, in my view a 1st from LSE will definitely be looked on more favourably than a 2.1 from Oxford.

Good luck - and above all enjoy whichever university you choose!
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Radebe91
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(Original post by NewDeparture)
This is interesting. Can I ask which of those chambers you self select out of?Out of (further) interest, what do you think might give an applicant an early (or any) advantage when applying for a commercial set (though some of the chambers you listed are EU/commercial, but splitting hairs there obviously)?
Well, I wouldn't apply to Brick Court (although the EU stuff might put me off that anyway). I would probably not apply again to Fountain Court (although I did this year). There are a few that weren't mentioned that I won't apply to e.g. One Essex Court, Essex Court and a few others.You get an early advantage from doing public speaking stuff definitely. You're up against people who may have been to elite private schools who are coming into university life already debating champions with confidence instilled in them from birth. We didn't even have debating at my state school, which I think is a disgrace. At uni you need to get involved with leadership roles and positions of responsibility as much as time allows. I think that is helpful as well.
(Original post by chanmartin82)
Do you mean I'd need a post graduate degree to be accepted for pupillage?
It's not mandatory but have a look at the CVs of the recently taken on barristers at the sets you've listed and see what you'd be up against.
(Original post by TimmonaPortella)
Out of interest, with that CV, were any of your rejections without interview? How many?I'm not familiar enough with the process to know but I find it hard to imagine a BCL distinction not getting your foot in the door...
This summer I've had 7 out of 12 first rounds at my gateway choices which, to be fair, is pretty decent.
(Original post by Nigel85)
The top sets want the best people, and they will snap those up as soon as possible to make sure that other sets don't get them, which is why postgraduate degrees are by and large irrelevant. While there are several members of my Chambers who have done the BCL, they have almost all done so (or at least received their BCL results) after receiving a pupillage offer and only because they are really motivated to do some further study in those particular areas of law. It is not really a matter of cause and effect, but a reflection of the fact that people who are offered pupillage in a "top" set are also more likely to be accepted onto - and want to study on - the BCL.
Just going off the four sets mentioned in the OP, 15 out of 20 of the most recent tenants (5 from each set) have some kind of postgraduate degree. It's difficult to believe that there is no cause and effect there. Maybe it isn't a big cause and effect but it's fairly standard to have a good First if you're applying to a major set so how do you distinguish between them on paper?I also struggle to comprehend how a good postgraduate result should be regarded as "by and large irrelevant" if you truly want the best people. If a person gets a massive scholarship to do the BCL then surely that's a resounding endorsement of their quality from Oxford academics. You'd be mad to ignore that if you were interested in the best.
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TimmonaPortella
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(Original post by Radebe91)
This summer I've had 7 out of 12 first rounds at my gateway choices which, to be fair, is pretty decent.
May I ask your ECs?

I'd take a PM if you'd prefer not to identify yourself.
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Nigel85
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(Original post by Radebe91)
Just going off the four sets mentioned in the OP, 15 out of 20 of the most recent tenants (5 from each set) have some kind of postgraduate degree. It's difficult to believe that there is no cause and effect there. Maybe it isn't a big cause and effect but it's fairly standard to have a good First if you're applying to a major set so how do you distinguish between them on paper?I also struggle to comprehend how a good postgraduate result should be regarded as "by and large irrelevant" if you truly want the best people. If a person gets a massive scholarship to do the BCL then surely that's a resounding endorsement of their quality from Oxford academics. You'd be mad to ignore that if you were interested in the best.
But I doubt that many of those people applied after their postgraduate degree. They may have applied during it, in which case of course there is some relevance to the fact that they are clearly sufficiently interested in law to pursue a postgraduate degree. However, they will be selected primarily based on their undergraduate results because they simply won't have any postgraduate results at that point. I think that this is particularly an issue for lawyers, because they won't know their degree results until after their final year and therefore in order to stand a chance at the top sets they need to apply either during the BPTC or during a postgraduate degree (or while working in a relevant field). Non-law students who apply during the GDL will already have their finals results. If a postgraduate degree is important then that would mean to some extent discriminating against very bright non-law students who are less likely to have the funds or opportunity to study a postgraduate degree.

If you are applying with a BCL distinction then of course that is a boost to your application. It is very impressive. However, it is not in any way essential. Most people who are interviewed will have demonstrated their academic ability based on their finals results and I think it is misleading (from my experience as an interviewer) to suggest that a postgraduate degree is in any way essential. By all means do it if you are interested in law and need to fill a year, but don't feel you are at a disadvantage if you are "only" applying with excellent undergraduate results.
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Nigel85
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In reply to your question about how to distinguish people, anecdotally I think most "top" sets try to interview everyone who they think meets a certain academic standard on paper, along with the usual mooting / interest in area of law type criteria. Then it is all about performance at interview. If you get to the interview stage then I think postgraduate qualifications are irrelevant after that. I am simply saying that to get to the interview stage you really don't need a postgraduate qualification if you can demonstrate intellectual ability in other ways. As I said above, I think sets are smart enough to realise that they would be missing out on a lot of excellent candidates if they did not consider people who only have good undergraduate results. That is why I simply don't think a postgraduate degree is necessary.
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jacktc890
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(Original post by Radebe91)
For magic circle chambers it's worth pointing out that you kind of almost need a postgraduate degree as well.

I went to Oxford at undergrad and I did the BCL and got a Distinction but I still self select out of some of the sets you mention there and I've racked up about 25-30 rejections in total at this stage.

Commercial law in particular is more ludicrously competitive than you can possibly imagine. Do everything you can as early as you can to get ahead.
Really? With a first from Oxford at undergrad?
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jacktc890
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(Original post by Nigel85)
I am a barrister at a tier 1 commercial set and completely disagree that it is "near enough a must" to have a postgraduate qualification. From our most recent pupillage interviewees, the most important qualification is a first at undergraduate level from a good university (which LSE is) or perhaps a very high 2.1 plus exceptional references and a 1st in several subjects. It does not matter if you do law or another subject, but if you don't do law then you also need a distinction or high commendation on the law conversion course (and, again, ideally a distinction in the key subjects such as contract law and equity).

Obviously a distinction on the BCL will make you stand out, but I would be wary of doing any other postgraduate courses to make up for your undergraduate results. The top sets want the best people, and they will snap those up as soon as possible to make sure that other sets don't get them, which is why postgraduate degrees are by and large irrelevant. While there are several members of my Chambers who have done the BCL, they have almost all done so (or at least received their BCL results) after receiving a pupillage offer and only because they are really motivated to do some further study in those particular areas of law. It is not really a matter of cause and effect, but a reflection of the fact that people who are offered pupillage in a "top" set are also more likely to be accepted onto - and want to study on - the BCL.

OP - you don't say which subject you are intending to study. I would look carefully at the number of 1st class results for each course, and also think about whether you are more likely to do better in one course or the other. There probably is a slight perception (obviously completely wrong) that studying at LSE means you did not get into Oxbridge, so that perhaps would put you at a very small disadvantage. Many barristers also just know more about the Oxford law course - and know the tutors who are likely to be giving you references. If you are in small tutorial groups at Oxford compared to LSE then that may also be an advantage when it comes to impressing tutors for the purposes of references. However, in my view a 1st from LSE will definitely be looked on more favourably than a 2.1 from Oxford.

Good luck - and above all enjoy whichever university you choose!
Hi Nigel,

This is an unrelated question, but you sound very knowledgable about the pupillage process! Is your Chambers interested in MC solicitors? I'm nearing the end of my training contract and I'm somewhat regretting my choice. I studied Law at Oxford - Distinction in Mods and First in Finals - but no postgrad. Would it be a waste of time to apply for pupillage at your sort of set?
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username1559803
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(Original post by chanmartin82)
I've done some research and it seems like almost all of new tenants at the "Magic Circle" chambers have gone to Oxbridge.
I've got offers from Oxford and LSE. I'm leaning more towards LSE, but would picking that over Oxford put me at a disadvantage when applying for pupillages? Or would be be the same if I got a First?

Thanks
The chambers I'm talking about are Brick Court, 20 Essex Street, Fountain Court, Monckton Chambers etc
If you're going for chancery/commercial sets- yes. A degree from LSE will disadvantage you as opposed to going to Oxford. In 2009-2012 nearly a third of all those who got a pupillage went to Oxbridge, whilst only 1% were from LSE. You can research statistcs from the Bar Standards Board if you want to have a look.
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Nigel85
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Jacktc890 - it would not be a waste of time at all. There are several members of top commercial and chancery Chambers who have transferred after their training contracts to do Pupillage or after a few years in practice for tenancy (though in the latter case usually with some clients and other relevant contacts they can rely upon).

I would suggest applying for mini pupillages at a few sets so that you can gauge their level of interest. However, I think your application would be looked on favourably at the stage of selecting for first round interviews. You just need to think carefully about how to deal in your application with the fact that you didn't apply to the Bar initially (though there are good reasons such as financial support from law firms etc).

Good luck!
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Nigel85
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Ps jacktc890 - I would also suggest looking at Chambers that do corporate litigation and advisory work assuming that you have relevant experience of that in a MC firm. Company law sets such as Erskine / 4 Stone Buildings / South Square spring to mind.
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