No Pupillage · Qualities Required

If At First You Don’t Succeed – Third Sixes and Probabtionary Tenancies

If you aren’t taken on and you want to look around for another set please try and remember that you are starting with a problem. You are a reject. Think about this before you go to a factory.

You must say why you were not taken on. If the truth is that you did not ask to be considered for tenancy then you must prove it. If you just didn’t make the cut, please bear the following in mind:

1. You would have stayed in London if offered a tenancy. Why, now, do you want to come to the provinces? We provincials are chippy. You have to flatter us.

2. There probably won’t be room. Most sets you are applying to already have a pupil who they expect to take on (!). If there is room for you it is because you are too good to miss. Sell yourself hard. References from the pupil master you’ve just left are not the way to do it. Either s/he didn’t like you enough to get you in, or s/he has no clout in their own Chambers.

3. You’ve been on your feet for some time. You should, therefore, know more about the Chambers you are applying to than you did about the sets you applied to for pupillage. You also know more people who can give you the low down. Use it. Flattery has to be at least semi-believeable. See if you can say what you would add to Chambers. Look at the website – see what seminars have just been given. Are you a good fit? Can you tell the speaker what they got wrong? Can you do that tactfully?

4. The poor sod you’re writing to has enough on his plate without listening to you moan. It is easiest to send out the standard, “I’m sorry we have no room” letter. Don’t give them an opportunity to do it. Remember, it is a legitimate test of your ability to ask whether you have told the person you need to convince everything they need to know.

5. So say why Leeds (only an example but you could do worse), why you haven’t got tenancy, whether you applied for pupillage, whether you were interviewed, what has happened in the meantime to make you a better candidate, why these Chambers, what work you have done and want to do, whether you have a local base. Type the letter – your handwriting is dreadful. Address it to the right person (not, please, “Tenancy”). Make an effort.

Most of you do not need this information – yet. Statistics show that about 30% of you will need it next year. Don’t kid yourself – I reckon that I would not get a pupillage nowadays let alone a tenancy and it is getting harder every year.


5 thoughts on “If At First You Don’t Succeed – Third Sixes and Probabtionary Tenancies

  1. Hello Simon,

    The information provided is very honest and truthful.

    I understand why the bar is so competitive yet I would like to think by the time I complete my qualifications it will be easy. unfortunately, It’s not. It tends to get more and more difficult. Only recently the new developments were pupils not joining the INN of court until after they have completed the BVC.

    How effective is this? will this by any chance increase student’s chances? I personally think it will decrease the chances even more and make things much harder.

    If I was unsuccessful then I would personally head the solicitor route instead.


  2. Hmmm. I never applied for tenancy in my first set because the clerks were rude as hell, pupil supervisor was absolutely tripe (i dont know how he got to the bar) and the work in chambers was extremely low paid. I complained about the treatment from chambers to the bar council thrice.

    During my third six in a general common law set, I realised the lower junior end were shifting the crap criminal work to keep the seniors intact with better paid criminal briefs so I moved on from there without applying for tenancy also.

    I never felt like a reject because I weighed up the pros and cons and made the informed choice to not apply for tenancy at either set (incidentally I took advice from someone in your chambers Simon 😉 ).

    If one has foresight, one would realise the criminal bar in London is not worth staying in unless one is at the creme de la creme criminal sets. The middle and lower tier ones aren’t even worth staying in in my opinion.

    I nearly got into a Leeds Chambers for tenancy, but did a u-turn before meeting the head of Chambers of the set and said bye bye to the independent bar altogether.

    Reject was never a word that came to mind. One needs to project a few years ahead and think if its really worth it!

  3. The above is a good example of what I mean about being able to change your mind.

    So, what DID you end up doing?

  4. >So, what DID you end up doing?

    What most people do: join the Employed Bar! (not CPS although I am considering this option given I came to the bar to do advocacy and not paper shuffling).

    I’ve only been in the employed bar for 4 months and doubt i’d return to the independent bar unless I became one of them “academic” type barristers :))


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