My Open University degree, OULS mooting, and how I secured Pupillage

Iain Callow began studying with the Open University in October 2015. He joined the Open University Law Society in 2016 and graduated with an LLB upper second-class honours in 2017. He is currently awaiting the start of the Bar Professional Training course in 2018 and has secured a pupillage with Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs to begin in September 2019.

He shares how his experiences with the OU, and the OULS, has helped him obtain pupillage.

Anyone with a plan to seek out pupillage or even a training contract at the end of their legal studies has very likely found themselves staring at an article on the internet with the same advice as the previous ten articles. Start mooting, moot some more, and oh yes, remember to moot. Though anyone who happens to read this is likely aware of this advice, I have been invited to share my experience of mooting with the Open University. If I can achieve one thing with this short piece, it would be to convince you that even one moot will push you closer to that goal of pupillage or a training contract. If I could achieve two things with this article, it would be to convince you to moot more than I did.

I commenced my study with the Open University in October 2015, I had just finished studying a BSc in physics at the University of Glasgow and returned home to Aberdeen. The oil industry was in a very bad place, and instead of turning to teaching as I had initially planned, I decided the graduate LLB at the OU would be an interesting twist in my journey towards a real career. Initially I was not particularly interested in a career in law, however as my studies progressed my passion for law continued to grow until, about half way through my first (and penultimate) year of the LLB, I decided I wanted to pursue a career as a barrister.

I knew that the path to becoming a barrister was not an easy one, but with further research I began to realise that the outlook for eventually securing a pupillage was grim. I had done no mooting; I was not a member of any university law society; and I was already more than half way through my ‘second’ year of the LLB. It was a now or never situation, so I joined the Open University Law Society, and within a few weeks I had an email that informed me there was to be a mooting workshop held in Edinburgh. I signed up and waited for the day to come.

The mooting workshop was a fantastic day, we were educated in the basics of mooting by excellent instructors. Furthermore, this was the first time I had ever met fellow Open University law students, including my new friend, and mooting partner for the day, Joe Beet (the News Editor for this very newsletter). At the end of the workshop I, along with possibly every other student, put my name down for every single moot offered to us by the OU. In typical student fashion – we rounded the day off with some drinks in a local pub.

It wasn’t long after the workshop that I received another email – this time from the OULS mooting coordinator – myself and Joe had been asked to represent the OU at the University of Leicester Medical Moot, with myself as lead counsel and Joe as junior counsel. Joe and I managed to set up a few skype meetings around both of our busy schedules and hammer out the main points we thought we would have to tackle. With a lot of hard work on Joe’s end organising bundles and formatting our skeleton arguments we were ready to head to Leicester and give our first competitive moot a shot. The day of mooting itself was excellent, I had not had many opportunities to meet with fellow law students and was very pleased to talk to them and their tutors. Joe and I had arrived alone – making us the only team without a tutor present, and we quickly got to experience the level of mooting displayed by our opponents. By the end of our day, Joe and I had participated in a total of three moots – we waited anxiously to see if we were through to the knockout stages. We had not made it through – though there was obviously a level of disappointment, I maintain that the day was an excellent learning experience, and a vital insight into advocacy.

Unfortunately, due to the constraints of both working and studying full-time. I never had the chance to participate in another competitive moot – despite further offers from the OULS. By this point I had realized I probably had not done enough mooting to even look near a pupillage and when I received my LLB I started sending away applications for training contracts and paralegal positions. I found myself browsing the Training Contract & Pupillage Handbook the OU had kindly provided me where I saw that the Government Legal Service had a trainee scheme, accepting applications for training contracts and pupillages. I started filling out the online application form and couldn’t stop myself from selecting the ‘Either, pupillage preferred’ option in the ‘Training contract or pupillage’ box on the application.

After three online tests over the period of about a month I was informed that I had been selected for the final assessment day for the GLS in London, where I would have to perform a written assessment and undergo an hour-long competency-based interview. In this interview that I had to justify why I had selected pupillage as my preference, and whilst citing my love of advocacy, the University of Leicester Medical Moot found it’s way into the conversation. I honest with my interviewers, explained that this was the only real competitive moot I had taken part in, that Joe and I had not made it to the knockout stages but had performed the best we could that day. At the end of the interview, we shook hands and I left for the airport.

After a nervous three weeks I received an email from the GLS, I was shocked to read that I had been offered a pupillage with HMRC. There is no doubt in my mind that without the experience of mooting with the OU I may have read a different email that day.

So, remember, get mooting.


Written by:

Iain Callow – OULS Member


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