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What are pupillage committees looking for?

Six barristers explain what it takes to succeed in a pupillage interview
by Sophie

With pupillage interviews about to begin, The City Law School hosted an event to give prospective candidates an insight into what it takes to succeed. Students who wish to pursue a career as a barrister must secure a pupillage in a set of chambers. This final stage of training allows them to combine practical work experience with what they have learned during the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).

The competitive process of securing pupillage begins with an application form. Those successfully selected to move on to the next stage will then be invited for interview. City's Pupillage Advisory Service (PAS) invited six barristers to share their knowledge of what pupillage committees are looking for:

Stephen Lue of Garden Court Chambers specialises in family law. His practice covers a wide range of applications including public and private children law, ancillary relief and domestic violence.

"Write down all the reasons why you would make a good barrister - not the ones you wrote on the pupillage application, but all the other ones that are unique to you". He added "Every time you are given a case you have to sell a story - they want to know you can sell your own story."

Catriona Hodge at 5 Essex Court became a tenant in September 2013 having successfully completed her pupillage at 5 Essex Court. She accepts instructions in all of Chambers' main practice areas.

"We try to pick the most opaque area of law we can find for problem questions, so no one has an advantage. We are trying to find out if you can analyse a problem from first principles - the most important thing for you to do is identify the issues in play. The right answer is secondary."

Joseph Sullivan from 2 Temple Gardens practises in commercial and common law in banking and finance, commercial, professional negligence, employment, and property damage.

"On our assessment day the first criteria we look for is intellectual ability, the second is ambition and drive, and finally, we are looking for interpersonal skills. We look at how you relate to members of Chambers but also how you interact with your co-applicants".

Michael Edmonds from 4 Breams Buildings both defends and prosecutes in various areas of criminal law.

"You need to know your pupillage form back to front. Committees are going to be interviewing 50 to 100 applicants in the space of one weekend and so they are unlikely to remember your face at the end of it. So you must make a link to your pupillage form in your interview - that will be what they remember when they come to review applicants later".

Morayo Fagborun Bennett from Hardwicke specialises in all areas of social housing, residential and commercial property.

"Listen out for clues - that is part of the skill you will have to develop when presenting in front of a judge. During the interview you might get asked 'have you considered so-and-so?' Pause for a second - it might be a lifeline for you. We're usually not trying to trip you up, we are trying to identify if you will be able to develop a successful career at the Bar."

Sarah Branson from Coram Chambers is a specialist family law practitioner and has extensive experience in all aspects of the law relating to children.

"What you wear is very important. The key is, if we notice what you're wearing you've probably got it wrong. If you don't know how to dress at interview how can we trust your professional judgement? Keep it simple and smart."

City's Pupillage Advisory Service provides a team of experienced barristers and careers professionals to guide BPTC students to pupillage. They offer advice sessions in term time, access to all our workshops and events and even a session via Skype. Students can take advantage of Mock Pupillage Interviews, Pupillage Advice Sessions, Advocacy Exercises and Group Exercises. The next PAS event, 'How To Succeed in Pupillage Interviews' takes place on Monday 2nd June.

The City Law School is one of London's major law schools and offers a range of academic and professional courses. It is the first law school in the capital to educate students and practitioners at all stages of legal education. It incorporates the former Inns of Court School of Law (ICSL) - the original provider of bar training.

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