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Questions about the Bar

Sorry for the somewhat vague title; as you will see I do have some more specific questions.

As a bit of background, I am a second year PPE student at Oxford. Without meaning to sound overconfident, I am likely on course for a first at the moment. I have vaguely had the Bar in mind as a possible career option for a while now, but I have only recently started doing some more in-depth research into what it would entail. There are two things in particular I’m still somewhat unsure about and would appreciate some informed perspectives on:

(a) I haven’t got involved in any law-related extracurriculars at university yet. Is this important for people whose first degree is not in law? Relatedly, at what point should I start considering law work experience? I know that mini-pupillages are the main form of work experience for aspiring barristers, but are these generally only offered to people who have already commenced the GDL/BPTC? As far as my general work experience so far goes, I have a fairly prestigious/competitive placement in economic policy research lined up for this summer.

(b) I am considering a master’s in economics or philosophy after I finish my current degree. I would be genuinely intellectually motivated to do this, but of course it takes time and money (especially Oxford’s MPhil or BPhil, which are two years). So I would feel somewhat better about pursuing one if it could potentially be an advantage for securing a pupillage to what extent is this likely to be the case?

Thanks for your help.
(edited 1 month ago)
(a) It's important for everyone to a degree, but it doesn't mean that a lack of those extra curriculars is insurmountable at any particular stage. It's certainly not insurmountable for you. The typical work experience if you're aiming for the Bar would be mini pupillages and marshalling, as well as other things such as mooting, helping out at a law clinic and so on. However, other experience can also be useful if you can demonstrate that it has some relevance to the skills you need as a barrister. I'd certainly think the placement that you have would fall into that category. Every set has their own mini pupillage policy. Some don't offer it to non law undergraduates, but others do, so find your local chambers and have a read of their policies to see if it's worth applying.

(b) In general my advice is that a Masters doesn't add much. However, frankly most candidates do a Masters to try to elevate poor or average academic profiles, and in that sense they're not as useful as candidates want them to be. However, they can be of more use in your case, that is to say candidates with very good academic profiles who want to take things once step further and really elevate that part of their application. Usually that is because the post graduate courses are done for intellectual reasons and not to tick boxes. That sort of thing is most useful for commercial and similar pupillages, particularly at higher end sets. Those pupillages are extremely competitive by definition, but if you look at profiles of recent tenants you will see a range of additional academic achievements beyond the usual, and particularly with well known or more competitive courses. So actually, from what you've said about your own situation, I expect a Masters probably would benefit you. Even if you didn't want to go for one of the top end pupillages, you've got the potentially to build a very strong application with the route you're looking to take, and it really does help that it's done out of genuine interest too. Makes you a more genuine and attractive candidate because you've pursued, and have expertise in, areas that you are actually interested in.
Reply 2
Original post by Crazy Jamie
(a) It's important for everyone to a degree, but it doesn't mean that a lack of those extra curriculars is insurmountable at any particular stage. It's certainly not insurmountable for you. The typical work experience if you're aiming for the Bar would be mini pupillages and marshalling, as well as other things such as mooting, helping out at a law clinic and so on. However, other experience can also be useful if you can demonstrate that it has some relevance to the skills you need as a barrister. I'd certainly think the placement that you have would fall into that category. Every set has their own mini pupillage policy. Some don't offer it to non law undergraduates, but others do, so find your local chambers and have a read of their policies to see if it's worth applying.
(b) In general my advice is that a Masters doesn't add much. However, frankly most candidates do a Masters to try to elevate poor or average academic profiles, and in that sense they're not as useful as candidates want them to be. However, they can be of more use in your case, that is to say candidates with very good academic profiles who want to take things once step further and really elevate that part of their application. Usually that is because the post graduate courses are done for intellectual reasons and not to tick boxes. That sort of thing is most useful for commercial and similar pupillages, particularly at higher end sets. Those pupillages are extremely competitive by definition, but if you look at profiles of recent tenants you will see a range of additional academic achievements beyond the usual, and particularly with well known or more competitive courses. So actually, from what you've said about your own situation, I expect a Masters probably would benefit you. Even if you didn't want to go for one of the top end pupillages, you've got the potentially to build a very strong application with the route you're looking to take, and it really does help that it's done out of genuine interest too. Makes you a more genuine and attractive candidate because you've pursued, and have expertise in, areas that you are actually interested in.

Thank you; that’s very helpful.

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