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Commendation for GDL- chances at the Bar ?

I just received my PgDL results - a Commendation (65%). I must admit I'm disappointed because I had aimed for a Distinction.

I was not born and raised in this country (not a UK citizen and English as second language), but I attended a UK university where I obtained a 2:2 in a non-law degree. However, I didn't enjoy the subject and discovered my interest in law during my undergraduate studies. I decided to switch to law and pursued an LLM at another UK university, where I achieved a Merit (65%). After completing my master's degree, I returned to my home country, which follows the German civil law system. I passed the Bar exam and had worked as a government lawyer in civil and commercial matters for a department for a few years. I also engaged in administrative roles in the department.

I'm interested in becoming a barrister in England, and I have been offered a place on a Bar Course. I understand that the Bar is a prestigious profession, and many sets do prefer candidates with top first-class degrees from Oxbridge. Considering I didn't achieve a Distinction in my GDL and my universities were not Oxbridge or Red Bricks, what are my chances of securing a pupillage? I understand that commercial sets may be out of my reach.

Thanks.
(edited 7 months ago)
Realistically, you are going to struggle to get pupillage anywhere (not just a commercial set) with a 2:2 at undergrad and an average grade on the GDL. Being a barrister requires superlative academics these days, and unlike other legal routes such as being a solicitor, you can’t really work your way up to it the long way around without them. Your work experience doesn’t sound like it would bring in clients the way for example a solicitor previously in private practice who becomes a barrister might have some access to either. I don’t know what might make your CV stand out. Have you got anything that might do this?

There is no harm in applying but I would consider carefully whether the bar course would be worth the time and money law schools will take pretty much anyone for the course who has the fees and minimum grades required.
Reply 2
Original post by JoMarchBhaer
Realistically, you are going to struggle to get pupillage anywhere (not just a commercial set) with a 2:2 at undergrad and an average grade on the GDL. Being a barrister requires superlative academics these days, and unlike other legal routes such as being a solicitor, you can’t really work your way up to it the long way around without them. Your work experience doesn’t sound like it would bring in clients the way for example a solicitor previously in private practice who becomes a barrister might have some access to either. I don’t know what might make your CV stand out. Have you got anything that might do this?

There is no harm in applying but I would consider carefully whether the bar course would be worth the time and money law schools will take pretty much anyone for the course who has the fees and minimum grades required.

Thanks for your advice, I do need to really think of it before making any decision even I have been given a scholarship.

I am not sure if these things would make my CV stand out.
- The Bar exam in my home country is rather difficult. It is like getting a pupillage in the UK that most of candidates are swept out (of course, I do not assume the most of legal professionals in the UK would know about this).
- My post was relatively high profile. I cannot promise any chambers that I will bring work to them but potentially yes.
Original post by zw12
Thanks for your advice, I do need to really think of it before making any decision even I have been given a scholarship.

I am not sure if these things would make my CV stand out.
- The Bar exam in my home country is rather difficult. It is like getting a pupillage in the UK that most of candidates are swept out (of course, I do not assume the most of legal professionals in the UK would know about this).
- My post was relatively high profile. I cannot promise any chambers that I will bring work to them but potentially yes.


Are you saying you have a scholarship secured? In which case, bar school will of course be less of a risk.

You can try for pupillage and I wish you a lot of luck, but bear in mind the bar in this country is very concerned with academic results. That’s how it is. Your results are average at best. A 2:2 at undergrad is in fact below what most barristers have in this era, and you didn’t overperform at law school to compensate.

So, by all means give it a go if you have the money, time and mental energy, but with your CV, please be pragmatic and fair to yourself in your expectations. There is no shame in not getting pupillage, it’s crushingly tough. If you have the scholarship, then sure, try. If you don’t, be very honest with yourself. Look at the CVs of junior barristers online do you measure up?
Reply 4
I'd echo what Jo suggests above. The bar is ruthlessly competitive and a 2.2 is unfortunately a major problem in a field where most candidates will have 1sts with the odd high 2.1 (with a couple of academic prizes thrown in along the way). Alongside this most successful candidates will have extensive formal and informal mini-pupillages.

Having a scholarship to reduce the course costs is helpful, but I think you need to approach this with your eyes open - that pupillage is probably very unlikely and that's a risk you're willing to take.
Original post by zw12
- The Bar exam in my home country is rather difficult. It is like getting a pupillage in the UK that most of candidates are swept out (of course, I do not assume the most of legal professionals in the UK would know about this).
- My post was relatively high profile. I cannot promise any chambers that I will bring work to them but potentially yes.


Neither of those things will move the needle at all on a pupillage application.

It's already been said by the other posters, but that 2:2 is a big problem. You need a very strong application outside of that to even get interviews, let alone get a pupillage. The fact that you have worked as a lawyer in another jurisdiction is potentially helpful, but you still need more than that and would need to write an extremely persuasive application showing the transferable skills from that role as well as the insight that you have gained from your time actually working as a lawyer. Even so, without knowing more about what would be on your application I would consider it unlikely that you'd be able to obtain pupillage. To be brutally honest the fact that you thought that the two points above would make a difference makes me think that there is still a gap in the understanding of what the work of a barrister entails before you can really demonstrate the insight needed to secure pupillage. I'd be very wary about putting more time and money into this. From the (admittedly incomplete) information that we have, the Bar does look to be something of a long shot for you.
Reply 6
Original post by JoMarchBhaer
Are you saying you have a scholarship secured? In which case, bar school will of course be less of a risk.

You can try for pupillage and I wish you a lot of luck, but bear in mind the bar in this country is very concerned with academic results. That’s how it is. Your results are average at best. A 2:2 at undergrad is in fact below what most barristers have in this era, and you didn’t overperform at law school to compensate.

So, by all means give it a go if you have the money, time and mental energy, but with your CV, please be pragmatic and fair to yourself in your expectations. There is no shame in not getting pupillage, it’s crushingly tough. If you have the scholarship, then sure, try. If you don’t, be very honest with yourself. Look at the CVs of junior barristers online do you measure up?


Thank you Jo. Yes, I am given a scholarship to do the course. I wouldn't consider the course as an option without it.
Reply 7
Original post by AMac86
I'd echo what Jo suggests above. The bar is ruthlessly competitive and a 2.2 is unfortunately a major problem in a field where most candidates will have 1sts with the odd high 2.1 (with a couple of academic prizes thrown in along the way). Alongside this most successful candidates will have extensive formal and informal mini-pupillages.

Having a scholarship to reduce the course costs is helpful, but I think you need to approach this with your eyes open - that pupillage is probably very unlikely and that's a risk you're willing to take.


Thanks for your reply.
Reply 8
Original post by Crazy Jamie
Neither of those things will move the needle at all on a pupillage application.

It's already been said by the other posters, but that 2:2 is a big problem. You need a very strong application outside of that to even get interviews, let alone get a pupillage. The fact that you have worked as a lawyer in another jurisdiction is potentially helpful, but you still need more than that and would need to write an extremely persuasive application showing the transferable skills from that role as well as the insight that you have gained from your time actually working as a lawyer. Even so, without knowing more about what would be on your application I would consider it unlikely that you'd be able to obtain pupillage. To be brutally honest the fact that you thought that the two points above would make a difference makes me think that there is still a gap in the understanding of what the work of a barrister entails before you can really demonstrate the insight needed to secure pupillage. I'd be very wary about putting more time and money into this. From the (admittedly incomplete) information that we have, the Bar does look to be something of a long shot for you.

Thank you Jamie. I have read some of your posts they are greatly helpful. Sorry just another question about my 2;2 degree. To what extent is it a drain during the application stage? I was thinking of this because I graduated almost 8 years ago.
Original post by zw12
Thank you Jamie. I have read some of your posts they are greatly helpful. Sorry just another question about my 2;2 degree. To what extent is it a drain during the application stage? I was thinking of this because I graduated almost 8 years ago.

Every set has a different scoring framework, but every set takes academics into account to some degree. So even for those where the 2:2 won't automatically take you out of the running, it leaves you a step behind the competition to the extent that any other deficiency in your application will leave you struggling to get the required mark to get an interview. For example, if a set scores academics out of 3, with a 2:2 you may not get more than a 1. The whole application may be scored out of 15, but only those who score 12 will get an interview. You're already capped at getting a 13, so will need pretty much a perfect application aside from the academics to get an interview. Those are all random numbers, but it's just to illustrate why you will have difficulties with this.

The fact that it is an old degree means you have scope to convince someone marking your application that it doesn't reflect your academic ability now. But generally speaking you will need a more recent higher grade to show that, or something else from your career between now and then. So it being old does give you a little more leeway, but it doesn't give you an automatic pass. You're still going to need to demonstrate higher academic ability elsewhere.

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