law university

Success Story of a diyLAW Volunteer

– getting pupillage: be yourself


It took Krishma Patel a series of trial and error interviews before she was offered pupillage

I never imagined getting pupillage would be this difficult. It took me four years of hard work, hundreds of applications, hours of practising interview questions and weeks on end reading about scintillating legal topics and current affairs.

While studying law, I participated in a mooting competition in my penultimate year. From the moment I stood up to present my first argument, I knew that I wanted to be a barrister. I decided at that point that I would do everything in my power to get there.

I went on to study the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) at Nottingham Law School. During the course of this year, I attended numerous pupillage talks and networking events. I realised that I had to start thinking outside the box - everyone had got firsts, done a number of mini-pupillages and had marshalling experience.

Early this year, I started volunteering with a company called Help4LiPs (helping litigants in person - now diyLAW). I wanted to play a small part in helping those who had been hit hard by the legal aid cuts. After volunteering (and networking non-stop) for a few months, the opportunity arose to help a litigant with a case. The litigant was claiming a sum of £12m from a bank. I drafted the witness statement for his hearing at the Court of Appeal. If I had not networked as much and hadn't committed myself to volunteering with the company, the chance to work on a case of such magnitude would not have arisen until very late in my career (if at all).

I have three key tips that I hope will help you to attain pupillage:

• First, I encourage you to think outside the box in terms of legal experience. In all of my interviews, the panel didn't want to talk to me about my glittering array of mini-pupillages. They were much more interested in the work I did at Help4LiPs (now diyLAW).

• Second, start your applications early. The practice form on Gateway (the online application service for pupillages) is available much earlier than applications open. It will take you a number of drafts before you are content with your final version. This year it took me nine drafts until I was happy.

• Finally, and most importantly, be yourself in interviews. Obviously make sure you are professional and courteous at all times but don't try to be someone you aren't. You don't get a second chance to make a first impression.

This is a mistake I made time and time again. In interviews I always tried to come across as the person I thought the chambers wanted me to be. In my last interview, I thought I'd see what happened if I was myself. And guess what, I was offered pupillage. To my surprise, they must have liked me. It is a huge relief to know that during pupillage at my chambers I don't have to pretend to be anybody that I am not.

I am very sympathetic to all of those going through applications on the long hard hunt for pupillage. But do not give up. I am proof that with sheer hard work and determination you can do this.

Good luck.


Krishma Patel


This article was originally published here.

This blogpost is for information purposes and should not be relied upon as legal advice because it does not consider or take into account your own personal circumstances. If in doubt, seek legal advice.

Benefit from Being a diyLAW Volunteer

Adam Marley, Law Graduate

After 5 years' studying at the Open University while working full time as an airline steward I finally achieved my Law Degree. After the initial elation of receiving my certificate and graduating in front of my family at The Barbican, I was left wondering 'what now?'.

I had spent about 20 hours a week studying over the course of my degree and after graduation, I had all this extra time on my hands. I stumbled across an advertisement asking for volunteers for an organisation providing help and information for people representing themselves in legal proceedings.

I sent off my CV and was called for an interview a couple of days later. The office arrangement was simple, resources limited, but one thing there was no lack of was enthusiasm for the project. I accepted the offer of being taken on as a volunteer and worked on a number of small pieces of work before I picked up a major project to write How-To guides for couples going through divorce and dissolution of civil partnership proceedings.

I was put in touch with a qualified barrister who guided me and provided feedback on my work. Her encouragement was really gratifying and her experience helped me to adapt my academic knowledge and apply it in practice.

Through my contact with Help4LiPs (now diyLAW), I had the opportunity to make contacts in the legal profession, attend meetings and conferences and explore the legal field. Help4LiPs (now diyLAW) is pleased to work with the Brent Community Law Centre which provides legal services to the community in North West London. I am privileged to be working closely with a senior solicitor, assisting her with her caseload and learning the practical application of the law as well as the legal processes that take place behind the scenes. I have had the opportunity to conduct case conferences and meet with clients, as well as to attend court and tribunal hearings. I have seen cases through to their conclusion and have seen the great impact our work has had on the lives of the people we have helped.

In addition to the opportunity at the Law Centre, I am also still involved with Help4Lips (now diyLAW) on a day to day basis. As part of their online strategy, press releases are sent out at regular intervals. I help to source relevant materials for the program coordinator to use. I am also involved in interviewing new volunteers and helping to formulate strategy.

The experience that I have gained through my contact with Help4Lips (now diyLAW) has been stimulating and enjoyable. I can see the effect of the work I do and that is what maintains my commitment.



Krishma Patel, Law Graduate

Help4Lips (now diyLAW) – My experience
I started as a volunteer with Help4Lips (now diyLAW) in February 2014. I was quickly introduced to the team who were very supportive and friendly. My first task was to contact law firms to persuade them to produce guides for litigants in person in different areas of law. This was a challenging and interesting assignment – it allowed me to build my communication and interpersonal skills.

Through my work with Help4LiPs (now diyLAW), I was able to gain exposure to the Brent Community Law Centre, where I also work as a volunteer. I currently assist in the promotion and development of the Young People’s Law Service in Brent. This has included organising talks and speaking at schools as well as organising and participating in fundraising events. It is a varied role, providing the opportunity to meet a range of individuals.

In addition to this, at Help4LiPs (now diyLAW) I was provided with an opportunity to assist a LiP with a long-running case relating to banking and insolvency law. It is a relatively high profile case and had I not been working with Help4LiPs, I believe that the opportunity to work this closely on such a large and complex case would not have arisen. It has allowed me to build drafting and analytical skills, both of which will assist me in my career at the Bar (when I get there!).

Aside from all of the above, working with Help4LiPs (now diyLAW) has allowed me to form and build a network of contacts. Everybody at Help4LiPs (now diyLAW) has been extremely supportive of my career aspirations and have always put me forward if and when any interesting opportunities arise. It has genuinely been an invaluable experience with so many interesting people. I really have learnt so much!



Anoud Said Abu Odeh, Law Graduate

After graduating with an LLB Law degree from Queen Mary, University of London, I went on to certify as an attorney in the State of New York. One of the requirements that candidates need to fulfil before completing their certification is 50 hours of pro bono. It was very difficult for me to find a programme or project that suited the type of pro bono work New York would accept. I was finally put into contact with Help4Lips (now diyLAW), which made available to me different options of projects and placements that I could work on to complete my hours.

I completed my hours at Brent Community Law Centre. Help4Lips (now diyLAW) helped me get into contact with them and arranging my pro bono placement with them was very simple, efficient and straightforward. BCLC was very flexible with me in terms of dates, working hours and even gave me the choice as to which department of law I would like to work with.

I chose to work with the immigration department at BCLC. The immigration solicitors at the centre were very engaging and their approach with volunteers was very hands-on, which ensured that I learnt a lot while working at the centre. They allowed me to work on a multitude of tasks with them, such as meeting clients – I even interviewed a potential client on my own – researching and organizing documents of evidence for trial, answering the advice line and administering the centre in general. I was given an induction of the center on my first day, introduced to the staff and was readily provided with any assistance I needed; whether it was simply how to operate the computer system at the center or whether it was something a little more complex and substantive, such as how to conduct research in search of evidence for a certain case. Most of our work focused on helping clients with their asylum claims.

BCLC is a small centre that is visited by many different clients every single day. The work ethic and commitment of all the solicitors and volunteers to the operation of the centre, its clients and their needs was inspiring and abundant. Helping the many people that came knocking on its door on a daily basis in urgent need for legal advice was extremely gratifying. On top of that, everyone at the centre was very friendly and I felt like I was amongst friends rather than colleagues. I would recommend a placement at BCLC to anyone.

This blogpost is for information purposes and should not be relied upon as legal advice because it does not consider or take into account your own personal circumstances. If in doubt, seek legal advice.