We hope that you are looking forward to 2023. Of course, January signifies the start of a new year, but you will no doubt know that it is also the time at which chambers and AETOs accept your applications for pupillage.
In our first piece, we discussed our top tips for research; in this entry, we will be talking about written applications.
Your written application form is the first impression which you make on the marker, and it is pivotal that you get it right. You cannot simply ‘bash’ application forms out as they require a great deal of attention. Markers will be reading many applications; therefore, you need to make sure that it stands out for all the right reasons.
Many chambers say that you should treat your written application forms as a piece of written advocacy; this is something we both endorse. One of the key purposes of the written form stage is to whet the appetite of chambers and persuade them to invite you to interview. Accordingly, we have put together some of our thoughts which may assist you in preparing your written application forms.
Your written application, whether it be a Gateway form or chambers-own, is you on paper. If you have an untidy, illogical, and inconsistent layout, that says a great deal about the care and attention, or lack thereof, which goes into your work.
Making your written applications easy to read will assist the marker(s) as it brings clarity and increases persuasion. Avoid long paragraphs, complicated sentences, and a cluttered format. If the form permits, make use of bold subheadings, consistent line spacing, and appropriate fonts. The use of bullet points can also be an effective way to convey information succinctly but be aware your answers should always provide a sufficient level of detail.
It is time consuming, but we firmly believe that it is a worthy investment. If chambers can see that you have taken care in preparing your application form, it is another indicator demonstrating an eye for detail and professionalism. Remember, there is no excuse whatsoever for poor spelling, punctuation, grammar, and syntax.
Answer the Questions
This heading is two-fold. Firstly, you need to answer the question, which is asked, and this is particularly important when answering competency-based questions. If the form asks for an example of a time where you demonstrated a skill, offer a specific example. We suggest that you weave the STARL method into answering these questions. For example:
Situation: Describe the situation
Task: Explain the task which needed carrying out
Action: Outline the actions which you took to achieve your objective
Result: Explain the result of the action which you took
Learn: Discuss what you learnt and what, if anything, you would do differently.
Secondly, you need to look for the underlying question. Every question is testing your understanding of the role of a barrister and offers you an opportunity to show the marker how you’re suited to the role. For example, the standard question such as “Why do you wish to become a barrister?” is a perfect question to test whether you know the true demands of the Bar, and why you are attracted to them. With such questions, we suggest using your three strongest points per question. It is also important that you make your answers personal and that they’re not generic.
In short, keep your answered focussed, offer specific examples, and link back to the question.
Draft and Re-draft
Your first draft should never be your final submission. Plan your answers out and play around with different ways of phrasing them. You will find that when you draft and re-draft your answers, you will remove unnecessary words and simplify clauses; ultimately, making your answers more concise. Do not use complicated language or words which you think makes you sound more intelligent. Simplicity and brevity are key.
We both suggest that you find your unique selling point when putting your answers together, and this will come when you sit down to put your applications together. Do not forget, you need to stand out. Most candidates will have strong academic credentials, mooting, and mini pupillages; these are expected. However, many candidates will have other unique life experiences or previous careers/jobs, often not law related, which have set them up well for life at the Bar. Think carefully about transferrable skills and how they can assist you at the Bar.
Following our top tips will by no means guarantee you an interview as all chambers are different. However, we hope that these tips have given you something to think about, and that they offer an insight into how we approached the written application stage.
We wish you the best of luck with your written applications, and we hope that you will return for our final entry in February on interviews.
All the best,
Kinza and James