By popular request.
Jewellery: discreet please. Wedding rings are fine – if yours looks like it really belongs on Snoopy Dawg-Dawg then it may require some adjustment. Men’s signet rings are fine – half the panel will be wearing them. Masonic rings are not such a good idea these days. Women’s rings are fine too, providing that the stone is not the size of a small mountain. But do try not to be the lady on the white horse. Similarly, for women small and smart earrings are not a problem. Some people still think that pearls and diamonds are for evening wear only so I would steer away. The bright red fishing lure – original though it undoubtedly is – should be left at home. Earrings for men are still a huge risk. Necklaces are fine for women, but do try not to convey the impression that you would be at risk of being mugged on your way to court. Once you are a tenant you can be as bling as you like, but less is more at interview. If the panel can see a man’s necklace, he is either not sensibly dressed or a time machine has transported everyone back to the 1970’s.
Providing that your form was filled in honestly, I see no need to correct the grade you are likely to get. However, at interview you must not tell lies. Consequently, if asked, you must explain the change and be able to explain it. ‘I stopped working because going on the lash was much more interesting’ is not an acceptable explanation. There is also the tricky matter of an offer being conditional on a particular grade. I don’t know if Chambers are doing this, but if so it might be sensible to volunteer that you may have slipped a couple of points. If they want you it is unlikely to matter.
Traditionally Chambers did not worry about the BVC grade. That seems, anecdotally, to be changing. If that is so then a Competent is unlikely to be good enough. The real issue is why that is your grade. A good explanation should be enough. The best advice I can give is to check Chambers own requirements. If they are not looking for a VC or higher then I would not worry about a Competent grade. Whether it is high or low is irrelevant, providing you didn’t just scrape through by one or two points.
I agree that the more specialised the pupillage, the more depth to the legal knowledge required. The reason is simple enough: if you want to do patent work then it is presumed that you have bothered to find out quite a lot about it. How else can they distinguish you from the common or garden sociopath applying for such a pupillage?
If the Smarties were on the desk then I would tend to the view that those behind it were not smart.
One final thought. Do not try and make the panel laugh. The strategy is simply too high risk. By all means make a light hearted comment if the occasion arises, if it is appropriate and if it is in tune with the atmosphere. But jokes and comedy routines will not succeed unless you are Emo Phillips (and in some Chambers not even then). Barristers take pupillage selection terribly seriously and the best you will do is to achieve nothing.