THE PURPOSE OF PUPILLAGE – JUDICIALLY DEFINED
In Ekperigin v Bar Standards Board  EWHC 1292 (Admin) Holman J considered the purpose of pupillage.
“It is the stage in which, by a form of “osmosis”, a barrister at the outset of his*career learns and absorbs what it is to be a barrister, the conduct and etiquette that is required and expected of a barrister, and the attributes that are required of a barrister in dealing with a client, with courts, with instructing solicitors and with opponent lawyers.”
The applicant had passed the Bar exams but been unable to obtain pupillage. He had worked in the legal sector and, based on that work, been successful in obtaining a direction that his pupillage could be reduced. He then applied to the Bar Standards Board for an order that he be given a complete dispensation from the non-practising stage of pupillage. That application was refused. The applicant appealed to the High Court.
In my view, the decision was not wrong. Indeed, it was wholly justifiable and right. There is, as the materials I have quoted indicate, a very distinct purpose and importance in the non-practising stage of a pupillage. It is the stage in which, by a form of “osmosis”, a barrister at the outset of his career learns and absorbs what it is to be a barrister, the conduct and etiquette that is required and expected of a barrister, and the attributes that are required of a barrister in dealing with a client, with courts, with instructing solicitors and with opponent lawyers.
The importance of all of this can clearly be seen from the “pupillage checklist”, which a pupil supervisor is required to complete and sign at the end of both the first and the second stages of a pupillage. Frankly, although the appellant has worked well and entirely satisfactorily for HB Public Law, there is simply nothing to indicate that he had the level of supervision and scrutiny that is contemplated by being a “shadow” of a pupil supervisor, and nothing to indicate that he had much proximity at all to a registered pupil supervisor barrister.
The appeal was dismissed.
“I wish however to say, in conclusion, that during the course of today the appellant has demonstrated to me his own strengths (and some weaknesses) as an advocate. He has been clear and cogent. He has demonstrated a mastery of the documents. He has displayed the utmost courtesy to the court, even when things were not going his way. These are all hallmarks of good advocacy and tend to indicate the degree of experience that the appellant has already obtained as an advocate. So, although dismissing his appeal, I can only, with sincerity, wish him good luck in the future and in his continued quest ultimately to emerge as a fully qualified practising barrister”
*This use of the word “he” is, presumably, a specific reference to the applicant. 47.22% of pupils in 2017-18 were female. (Bar Standards Board Pupillage Statistics)