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Nine essential tips to help you ace a pupillage interview

30 May 2014 


Closed gates

Barristers' enthusiasm for social media means Twitter is awash with advice for Bar hopefuls as they prepare for pupillage interviews. FLN brings you the best bits.

1. Find out which gates of the Inns of Court are open

Because barristers are self-employed, and as a result are generally unable to find mutually suitable time to take out during the week, many pupillage interviews are conducted at weekends – when some of the Inns of Courts' gates are closed. If you have an interview in London, ‘avoid a panicked dash around the perimeter: find out which gates are open,’ advises the 5 Essex Court Pupillage Committee, which runs the @Pupillages Twitter account.

2. Consider the consequences of not being yourself 

Most students have been urged to ‘be yourself’ at some stage during the graduate recruitment process. What if they fail to follow this advice and try to fake a barristerial persona? Well, most likely they will come across as inauthentic. Alternatively, their acting skills may be so good that they land the job. But then what? Earlier this week 11KBW barrister Sean Jones QC advised on Twitter against  ‘spending a tough year of pupillage trying to be someone else.’

3. Read your pupillage application again

This is all the pupillage committee knows about you. Accordingly, many of its questions will be based on what you have written. @HendersonPupils, the Twitter account of Henderson Chambers' pupillage committee, has issued this warning: ‘Did you say anything interesting, different or downright bonkers? You WILL be asked about it at interview’.

4. Consider how changes in the law apply to practice 

Too often law students only go as far as to understand the theory behind important recent changes in the law. Pupillage interview panels want to see more than that. How, for example, are the Jackson reforms and the related recent Mitchell judgment affecting barristers in practice? Hardwicke barrister Gemma Witherington recently recorded a very useful podcast detailing six qualities that barristers must possess following the Jackson reforms. It is this level of insight that top civil chambers expect from their prospective recruits.

5. Consider how changes in the world apply to the law

In other words, really know what's going on in news – and identify if there is any legal element to the stories. The Guardian's law page provides a useful legal sift of mainstream events, while Joshua Rozenberg's 'Law in Action' radio programme on BBC Radio 4 is a good weekly round-up of the key law-themed issues.

6. Ask your mentor for a mock interview

@Pupillages and @HendersonPupils both recommend this. The University of Law has over 600 lawyers available to mentor its current students, while the Inns of Court also run excellent mentoring programmes. If you already have a mentor, get in touch with them and ask if they'll give you a quick mock interview based on their experiences of pupillage committees.

7. Be prepped for an advocacy exercise

Many chambers save their advocacy exercises for the second interview, but some don't. For interviews at criminal sets, it's a good idea to re-familiarise yourself with the most commonly-used exercises, the bail application and the plea in mitigation. For civil and common law sets, advocacy exercises are typically based on basic tort and contract exercises.

8. Don't feel you have to ask questions

There is a perception among students that they should have a few stock questions up their sleeves to ask the pupillage panel at the end of the interview. But Bar blogging sensation Wigapedia (aka Hardwicke Chambers barrister Colm Nugent) suggests this is misguided. ‘You know that bit where we ask you if you’ve any questions? The correct answer to that question is almost universally no,’ he wrote recently on Legal Cheek. ‘Unless of course it’s an interesting question we’ve not heard 200 times already. Which it won’t be. That’s actually our signal that the interview is over and it’s time to exit. 'So make like a tree, and leave.' © Biff Tannen’.

9. Don't be afraid of rejection

For the vast majority of barristers, getting pupillage is a numbers game which can require dozens of applications and interviews – and sometimes even more. As The Student Room's Pupillage Interview Acceptance/Rejection Thread 2014 makes clear, failure is very much part of the process of, eventually, securing a pupillage. Good luck!


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