TC Vs pupilage, how much more competitive is it

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Spennyboi
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I imagine pupilages are much more competitive than securing a TC at a top firm, but to what degree? Also, are the well-compensated chambers all located in London, as is the case for law firms? And lastly, would I be able to build a competitive application for a pupilage and training contract simultaneously. Due to the extremely competitive nature, I feel like this would be a safe bet to raise my chances of employment. Sorry for multiple questions, would appreciate any input on this
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4568392L
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(Original post by Spennyboi)
I imagine pupilages are much more competitive than securing a TC at a top firm, but to what degree? Also, are the well-compensated chambers all located in London, as is the case for law firms? And lastly, would I be able to build a competitive application for a pupilage and training contract simultaneously. Due to the extremely competitive nature, I feel like this would be a safe bet to raise my chances of employment. Sorry for multiple questions, would appreciate any input on this
Pupillage is staggeringly competitive. If you are interested in the 'well-compensated' London Commercial/Chancery Bar, I would advise you look at the junior tenants on a few chambers websites and size yourself up (Fountain Court, One Essex Court, Wilberforce etc) - almost everyone has a first, most from Oxbridge, and many have a distinction on the BCL too. The problem is that too many people want to be a barrister, which means chambers are forced to be ridiculously selective in their processes. I know people with an Oxbridge firsts and all the requisite experience who applied for 20 chambers and got rejected from 17 before interview. Even the statistics don't indicate just how hard it is. That's not to say that getting into a MC firm is easy, but it's certainly easier than securing a commercial pupillage. It's quite difficult to quantify further than that - I don't have much experience in the TC application process.

Competitiveness aside, a solicitor's and barrister's job is actually quite different. Do you enjoy debating and public speaking? Do you want to be self employed? Do you enjoy technical and extensive academic research? Answering 'yes' to these questions would indicate you want to be a barrister.

Solicitors, on the other hand, are more about the day to day functioning of law. If you like working in teams, thinking pragmatically about solutions and would prefer the security of a job and more extended interaction with clients, you might be better suited as a solicitor.

You can definitely build a CV for both at the same time. But the Bar requires you focus more on mooting, debating, public speaking, mini-pupillages and marshalling (shadowing a judge in court). These aren't as directly relevant to a CV for a training contract, but they help. It's also worth bearing in mind that TC recruiting happens much earlier (from 2nd year university) than pupillage applications (from final year of law degree or on GDL), so you don't need as much experience to have good prospects of securing a TC.

I hope that all helps!
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Crazy Jamie
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(Original post by Spennyboi)
I imagine pupilages are much more competitive than securing a TC at a top firm, but to what degree?
To a sufficient degree that if it genuinely doesn't matter to you which route you take, going for a training contract is the more sensible option from a risk perspective. But it would be very unusual for someone to have no preference between two quite different roles.

Also, are the well-compensated chambers all located in London, as is the case for law firms?
It depends on what you mean by 'well-compensated', and whether you're referring solely to pupillage award or likely earnings. Are the best awards and best earnings available in London? Yes. Can you receive a good pupillage award and make a very good living at sets outside London? Also yes.

And lastly, would I be able to build a competitive application for a pupilage and training contract simultaneously. Due to the extremely competitive nature, I feel like this would be a safe bet to raise my chances of employment.
The problem with this is that it's only possible to a point, because you're eventually going to have to decide to either do the LPC or do the BPTC. It is very possible to secure a training contract before doing the LPC, but it is much more difficult to secure a pupillage before the BPTC. So the issue really, again assuming you have no real preference between the two, is how far you're willing to push that. You could, for example, continue to apply for training contracts whilst doing the BPTC in theory in the hope of landing with a firm that will fund your LPC. But personally that would feel to me like the equivalent of burning the application candle at both ends. There are, I am sure, people who have received offers both for training contracts and pupillages, and but that is extremely unusual and a difficult thing to actively aim for. It would generally also only be the most exceptional candidates who probably never needed to be overly concerned about the risk of not receiving an offer. For most people the right approach is probably to aim for one or the other.
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barrister1996
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Hi - I have been through both processes (successfully) at different points in my life. I knew people who applied for both pupillages and TCs simultaneously during the GDL; in my view (and, in retrospect, in theirs too), they spread themselves too thin. Both processes require a daunting number of applications which need work and attention, on top of academic/mooting/sleeping commitments. The questions you are asked at the interviews are very different and you would be surprised how few synergies there are.

In terms of competitiveness, how long is a piece of string? Getting a London commercial TC is hard. One of the reasons for this is that there is very little consensus on what makes a "good application" to make it through the paper-sift. Many candidates have exceptionally similar CVs (e.g. "RG uni, on track for high 2i, some sport, some extracurriculars, bit of work experience" or "Oxbridge, on track for first, no sport, legal work experience, limited extracurriculars"); there are no clear "metrics" on which solicitors are scored because it is hard to pin down the precise skills you need to be a solicitor. Academic credentials (i.e. a 2i) are a necessary but not a sufficient condition and you do not get a huge amount of credit for a first over a 2i, or a high first over a low first. You are often required to do pseudo-scientific "personality tests" or "skills assessment" where it is genuinely hard to understand how you could even find a "right" answer. This means there is more randomness in the system; of people I know who applied widely to solicitors' firms, none got interviews everywhere and strike-rates were very variable.

The London Commercial Bar is, ironically, the opposite and there is quite a high degree of consensus as to what makes you a good applicant: excellent academics and experience of mooting/debating. When I was applying, people tended to have uniform strike-rates across comparable sets. For instance, from 12 applications, candidate A (top of year Cam law, BCL, lots of mooting and debating) was invited to interview everywhere he applied; candidate B (2i non-law, minimal public speaking) was only invited to only two. Different sets have different weightings, but I've never heard of a commercial set which didn't have those two as the two most important elements. The result of this is that, if you are a great candidate according to those metrics, you will be invited to a lot of interviews and, provided you have some decent preparation and people skills, you should work out how to convert a few. There were a few people this year and last holding >4 offers from top commercial sets on offers day because they had worked this system out. If you're a moderate candidate (e.g. low first, some mooting/debating), the pupillage process is challenging and competitive because you're constantly fighting to distinguish yourself from people with almost identical CVs to you, many of whom are on the GDL. If you are not a good or moderate candidate (i.e. a mid-2i and no mooting/debating), this process becomes Herculean, verging on the unrealistic, for top commercial sets.

As Crazy Jamie said above, if the top London commercial bar isn't your dream (and there is no good reason it necessarily should be anyone's - you're generally doing much less advocacy) then the above considerations for pupillage are relaxed (to varying degrees according to different practice areas). The primary takeaway, imho, should be that you can't ascertain competitiveness from numbers alone.
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