Pupillage Interviews Going South!

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As a good friend once said to me, “We all come to the Bar with our own story to tell”. So as January comes to an end, another pupillage interview concludes.  Unfortunately, it is not the ground breaking news of success, but rather the customary tale of the small manila envelope arriving through the post with the immortal words etched to the paper, “The standard this year was exceptionally high and I regret to inform you, etc…. etc..”.  However, I can at least draw some solace and consolation as the letter concludes that I possess the qualities that will hold me in good stead in the area of law in which I would seek to practice and that I am well suited to the profession.  Comforting words, but not good enough for me to make it through to the next round of interviews!

So amid the air of disappointment, it is upwards and onwards to the next round of pupillage applications and the burning of the midnight oil accompanied with the customary bottle of Shiraz.

Preparation for any pupillage interview should always include a wide knowledge of news and views from the Bar, along with current news and opinions within the area of law in which you seek to practice, that way you can be assured to be able to succinctly answer any curve ball that may be thrown at you during the interview process.  However, nothing could have prepared me for an interview I had recently as I have mentioned previously in another post.

After arriving to the pupillage interview early, I was duly informed that proceedings were running somewhat late.  After approximately an hour, the Head of the Pupillage Committee came to the reception area and looked at the assembled bodies seated upon the plastic and leather upholstery.   He then proceeded to ask the names of those waiting. When it was my turn to give up my name, the barrister looked away and muttered, “Oh…mmm….it’s you…mmm” . Then promptly, he disappeared.

After a further twenty minutes, I was then called and led to a small room within chambers.  In the room were two barristers, (not three as required), one being the Head of the Pupillage Committee whom I met previously outside and his colleague who was a female barrister.

After the customary shaking of hands, I sat opposite.  Suddenly, the Head of the Pupillage Committee stood up and said, “I can’t do this one”. He then promptly turned to his colleague and said, “Sorry I can’t do this, you will have to do this on your own”.  At which point, he turned and left the room.

The remaining barrister looked confused and rather bemused at the comments made and then remarked upon the fact that the Head of Chambers was due to be at the interview, however because of illness he too would be absent.

After several uncomfortable minutes, it became very clear that the solitary interviewing barrister had not seen sight of my CV prior to the interview.  To make matters worse, comments were raised about my age and whether it was appropriate that I should be applying to chambers and that may be I should consider my position as being better placed as a law lecturer rather than coming to the Bar as a practising barrister.  After a buttock churning twenty minutes, the interview was over.  Interestingly, my answers were to have proved persuasive, or alternatively perhaps chambers realised that the interview protocol had just not been adhered to. In any event, I was to be later summoned for a second round interview.

These customary tales of our first step upon the ladder of a new profession are disconcerting and unacceptable.  Arguably it is without doubt that if this profession we hold so dear to join continues to hold such unacceptable values, it will indeed not survive within the ever changing legal revolution.

As always,
Justin Time

6 comments to Pupillage Interviews Going South!

  • Kris

    Hi Justin

    I am disappointed but somehow not surprised by the wholly inappropriate ageist comment. It’s right up there with, “shouldn’t a nice girl like you be looking for a husband”.

    What planet are these knuckle-heads on?

    I’m not sure the Bar will survive the 21st century.

  • William van Zwanenberg

    Hi Justin,

    Having read your lastest Blog posting, I can’t help but feel appalled. Whilst I wouldn’t ever want to be accused of openly besmirching the particular Chambers you approached, attitudes such as the one you experienced are totally unacceptable not to say, indefensible. I have to say, if I were to experience an episode such as this, my first port of call would be to rport the incident to the Head of Chambers – voicing my contempt and then to the Bar Standards Board. I would also politely point out that ageism of this sort might very well adduce liability vis-a-vis the Equality Act would which not bode well for practitioners of the law.

    As a fellow mature student, (I’m 37 having elected to change direction and pursue a career at The Bar) I confess to being worried about experiencing this sort of discrimination but I take heart from the fact that of the several senior QCs and judges I have spoken to directly on this subject, they have all said without any degree of equivocation, that my maturity as well as life experience is a positive asset rather than a handicap and any reasonably enlightened Chambers will recognise this.

    Keep looking.

    Best of luck,


  • Michael Davis

    Your blog post made me think that if I dont get pupillage I may write a book or comedy sketch about how badly many chambers run the whole pupillage process. I suspect people would regard it as fiction.

    At my last but one interview, one of the interviewing panel sat throughout my interview reading his papers and writing out his cross exam or submissions! Needless to say I wasn’t offered pupillage.

    I heard that one of the companies that provides judical appointments training is now offering pupillage interview training. Going to give that a shot as I am becoming desparate.

    Keep up the good work! We need it.


  • Thanks for the post. Yes indeed, how to obtain pupillage and the interview process could give ‘Rumpole’ a good run for its money at the bookstand!

  • H

    Hmmm…. As a mature applicant for a trainee contract at City solicitors, I can’t say that there wasn’t plenty of barely disguised ageism. The firm that said it was all a bit pointless as I was too old to become a partner was the best/worst! Still, I got a fair offer in the end, so persistence should pay off, I trust.

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