We both hope that 2023 has got off to a good start. Welcome to the third and final entry in this Series where we focus on interviews.
Different chambers/AETOs have different approaches to interviews, whether it be the number of interviews which are conducted, the duration, the structure, or the content. Regardless of how chambers/AETOs conduct their interviews, we suggest that what we discuss in this entry can be applied universally.
First impressions count – it is as simple as that. We are not saying that you need to turn up in the most expensive suit or wearing Prada, but you need to dress smartly. You are applying for a profession where client care and personal reputation will contribute heavily to your success. You need to be presentable and smart. Along with your appearance, your body language and demeanour are hugely important. Remember, you are being watched from the moment you enter. Good manners don’t go unnoticed.
Undoubtably, part of the interview will require you to discuss part of your application. For this reason, you need to know you application form inside out, and be prepared to expand on (but never simply repeat) the content. It may help to adopt the STAR approach (see Top Tips for Pupillage – Part 2) when answering questions about your experiences. If it assists, print off a copy of your application form and annotate it/use side tabs for easy navigation.
Secondly, you will need to be prepared to demonstrate your knowledge of the area(s) of law for the pupillage you applied for. Whilst you should be doing this anyway, it is important that you are abreast with, for example, any recent important decisions from the appellate courts, new statutes, policies, or wider political/social problems. Interview panels may well ask you to discuss a recent case in your area of law (usually an appeal) and ask you for your views on this.
As you are an aspiring advocate, you will not be surprised to learn that you may be asked to conduct one or more advocacy exercises. These can take the typical form of a plea in mitigation/bail application (usually for criminal-related pupillages), or some form of civil application (for civil/family pupillages). It is not uncommon for interviews to include an unseen advocacy exercise as well. This may take the form of discussing a topical issue, arguing in favour or against a statement provided, or for you to persuade the panel to watch your favourite film. Remember, here you are being tested to think on your feet and advance logical, well-structured arguments.
Whilst nerves are natural, do not forget that you are an aspiring advocate. Think of this part of the interview as particular opportunity to demonstrate your advocacy ability.
It may be the case that chambers/AETOs conduct their first-round interviews using, for example, MS Teams or Zoom. If this is the case, we suggest that you get the fundamentals right. Firstly, think about where you are going to conduct your interview. Get yourself in a location which is private with a neutral background, and that has a stable internet connection. Trains, busses, public transport generally, and public places are far from appropriate. Interviewers will likely be able to identify that you are taking an interview in such a location and are unlikely to be impressed. It demonstrates a poor attitude towards the interview and could be considered rude.
Make sure you position your camera in an appropriate place, and make sure that you look into the camera when speaking (even though you will want to look at the person on your screen with whom you are talking to). Have engaging body language and remember to consider lags in bandwidth when people are talking – for this reason, you may wish to wait a few seconds until speaking.
The Bar Standards Board set out fair recruitment criteria which chambers/AETOs must abide by, and rightly so. However, everyone has something which sets them apart from the crowd: personality. It is imperative that the interview panel gets a flavour of your true personality. It is true that chambers/AETOs are assessing whether you are a right fit for them, but this is a two-way street: you must assess in that interview whether that chambers/AETO is right for you. Of course, you must remain professional, but that does not negate the need to be personable. Remember you have got through the paper sift, and this stage is all about getting to know you beyond your accolades and accomplishments.
Entering a career at the Bar is tough – no one disputes that, but it is not impossible. Most applicants will experience rejection, even after reaching the final interview stage. Your mindset and outlook are imperative here. Resilience is key at the Bar, and it’s safe to say the pupillage application process can teach you this. Don’t be disheartened, just keep trying. If you get the opportunity for feedback – take it. Use the time until the next application window to develop further and improve. It is often advisable to view interviews as positive experiences, and if you are not successful, good preparation for the next ones.
We wish you the best of luck with your applications!
Kinza and James