With GDL Inns scholarship interviews booked in for June and July, it’s time to get prepped for what could be a life-changing meeting. Because we’re right behind you, we’ve got some top tips to help you shine.
This is not a test
Your scholarship interview isn’t a legal exam; you won’t be asked a load of taxing law questions, so you don’t need to spend hours poring over your notes. The panel is interested in your personal qualities, including intellectual ability, motivation, integrity, teamwork and leadership qualities – along with an aptitude for advocacy.
Let your passion shine through in each answer, and make sure that you respond in an eloquent and considered way. Knowing your CV and application form inside-out will help you, although you don’t want to sound over-rehearsed. The popular STAR technique provides a framework for answering interview questions that you may find helpful. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result – it helps you to demonstrate real-life examples of your experience.
Why do you want to become a barrister?
Your best responses will include anecdotes of what you’ve done to prepare for a career at the Bar, so think back to your mini pupillages, the people you met and what you learned. Consider the purpose of a barrister and the skills they use on a daily basis. Use what you observed during your mini pupillages to prove that you really understand what a barrister does and relate it back to why you’re passionate about becoming a barrister yourself.
It’s not just about why you want to do the job, of course; you want to show why you’d be good at it too. When you talk about the skills you’ve observed from barristers in the courtroom, relate them back to your own personal interests where you can (for example, you may be a keen debater or public speaker – something that’s at the core of a barrister’s skillset).
Look up any cases you worked on that concluded after you finished your mini pupillages and remind yourself of the names of the barristers you shadowed. Find out what the results were and drop it in to the conversation to show that you kept up your interest even after the case had ended.
Consider how your experiences have helped you to develop and how you’ve used them to develop your core skills. Be sure to talk about what you’re currently doing to make these skills even stronger. This shows great self-awareness and a desire to continually learn and improve.
Your life experiences, used wisely, can help you to paint a picture of why you want to join the Bar, rather than work as a solicitor. Demonstrating your career aspirations in this way can help a panel to understand why you’re a candidate that the Inn should consider investing in.
Keep up to date
Knowing about key current affairs and their legal implications shows that you’re actively engaged in thinking like a lawyer. There’s often a question about a headline topic so the more clued in you are, the better your chances are of having some background understanding. If the subject is something you’re not familiar with, don’t panic. The panel will be looking for you to show your ability to come up with a position and then support it in a well-structured way. They’re then likely to try and pick holes in your position to see how you respond. Hold your nerve. It’s a good idea to practise with a range of real-life and current topics beforehand and have someone play devil’s advocate.
Remaining calm under pressure is a big part of a barrister’s job. The panel will want a glimpse of what you’d be like in front of clients and judges. They need to know that clients will have confidence in you. They’re not trying to catch you out or cross-examine you; they’re interested in your positive qualities and it’s much easier to demonstrate these qualities if you’re calm and focused.
You may be unsure how it went when you come out of the interview, but don’t let that discourage you. The panel is likely to maintain an air of stoic impartiality throughout. After all, you’re sitting down with professional interrogators. The panel will remain objective during your interview and their reaction to you won’t necessarily be a reflection on how well you’ve done. Just focus on doing the best you can do.