Let's talk about Minis
Here are some of best remarks I heard in the last 5 years or so:
I want to do minis but I am working full time...
Oh dear. I am so sorry. But I heard this lamentable comment too many times. Minis are 2 or 3 days long. What exactly is stopping you from taking your annual leave?
There are no minis available for me...
Yes, there are. Look harder. I suggest making a list of suitable chambers of interest and making a list of their deadlines. Plan your application year accordingly. August/September is great time to apply. But you can find many chambers which accept applications all year round. Look outside your hometown/locality. You only need 2 or 3 and there is plenty out there and it is not that hard to get them!
Minis are a waste of time...
Their purpose is to teach you something about the profession, chambers and person whom you are shadowing. Sometimes they are an utter waste of time. It is really annoying when it happens. Be prepared to sit around on reception for 4 hours waiting for your barrister-to-shadow to arrive. This is poor organisation and it reflects on chambers. Other times the barrister-to-shadow is there but busy and there is nothing for you to do. Don't sit or wait, ask the clerk or whomever took you on to go to the court by yourself, sit there and watch someone else. Having said that, most minis you will find useful, educative and inspirational. It is worth to do them in few places and not just your hometown. (Repetition this, I know, but this is something I have been told at my Character and Fitness interview, that various minis locations look great on CV.)
More than five minis looks fake...
This one... to say it gently, made my blood boil. Not sure why, but it originally came from an individual who had nil minis. Funny that? The truth is, you can have 598 minis if you wish. It is not "fake" to go out there, seek as much opportunities as possible and show true commitment. What you don't do is disclose them all in every application/CV. Frankly chambers do not care how many, but that you did some. If you do have a number of mini-pupillages in double digits... I understand. I have done that too. Keep a log for yourself! Then pick and chose top 4 or 5 depending on whichever ones serve best your application. The reality is you do not need to do more than a few. My extensive minis number happened unintentionally, because I sent out far too many applications expecting some sort of bloodbath and then 25% accepted my application (I sent approx. 56 applications but I only wanted 3 placements). Then I undertook almost all of these minis, because I didn't want to turn them down and I really wanted to participate in them all.
Another interesting point about extensive number of minis is that every placement is a great networking opportunity. Especially, when you make 4th or 5th appearance in the same court in a space of 10 months, you will find the same barristers there and they will be recognising you. Because if the person/people you are shadowing are nice and decent human beings, they will introduce you to others and these others will remember you! This is vital if you have zero family connections, that might be just how you get in the door.
Is more than five recommended?
No. But who is going to stop you?
This one isn't a comment I heard, this issue I have seen with my own eyes and I will need to shout about: DRESS APPROPRIATELY!! Court attire = dark suit! No flowery dresses or sandals. If you do wear a dress, let's assume it is court appropriate kind of dress, then you need tights, for the love of God you need tights! It can be 80 degrees outside. I don't care. You need tights.
The best and safest thing to wear would be:
1. Black covered shoes. No open toes or open heels. Nothing open! If you are doing a criminal mini forget 10cm heels or any otherwise uncomfortable shoes too! There is a lot of stairs to run up and down. On occasion there might be a mile between two Crown Courts/Magistrates, this is walking distance and it can only be achieved in sensible shoes.
2. Black/other dark colour trousers/skirt.
3. Shirt and ideally black/other dark colour blazer. If you haven't got a blazer, pick a shirt or a blouse which will cover everything from neck to wrists. Ladies, I am sorry, but a mini isn't a fashion or cleavage show. Want to make good impression? Then dress smartly.
How do I know when to stay and when to go?
Some "mentors" just tell you when to stay or go (on occasion they even mention where they are going...). But there is always one who doesn't communicate. Well, then you will need to develop something of a sixth sense... If you are in the busy court with 563 listings, my tip would be to follow the Archbold! Seems obvious, doesn't it? Because your guy will have 10 appearances to make that day. If you are watching a fraud trial which will sit in courtroom 16 for the subsequent 3 months, well then it might be trickier because all the stuff will be sat there all day.
Lunch is time to ask questions, or is it?
Sadly, not always. Most of the time young professional lunch consists of stuffing down Greggs sandwich and working on 25 other things simultaneously. It will be better to write these questions down, remind yourself of them towards the end of the day and ask them when walking back from the court to chambers.
Last word... enjoy your mini and think: this is probably the last/only time when anybody tells you anything and you can purposelessly run around from courtroom to courtroom trying not to step on anyone's gown.