I have been wondering what Chambers could do to improve the process of applying.
Firstly, they could make clear what they are looking for and how they assess it. If you apply for a Recordership or for Silk you are given a list of ‘competencies’ you have to demonstrate. It seems to me that a list of qualities that a set looked for in a pupil would help the Chambers and the applicants. It would provide a guide to the judgement of the applicants and more information than the PP form. At the same time, Chambers could publish their scroing systems for interview. It would be interesting to see how each set prioritised various skills and it might help people hone their applications.
Secondly, the PP could be adjusted to automatically keep applicants in touch with what is happening. It should record which Chambers meet target dates and send out a standard message when they do not. Applicants would not be in the dark and Chambers would not be able to ignore commitments.
Thirdly, Chambers ought to undertake the internal exercise of measuring up the quality of the pupil eventually chosen against the questions asked and the composition of the pupillage committee. This is a long term programme and it would necessarily be private. But there is no reason why sets should not see how good their own techniques are and start to keep some data so that an assesment can be made.
Fourthly, when Chambers take a pupil on, the first task of the person in charge of pupillage and the new junior tenant ought to be to debrief the new tenant on their interview, their pupillage experience and the weaknesses that are perceived. That is not to say that this is the be all and end all. But it is the one chance a set of Chambers has to understand how its procedures are perceived from the other side.
Fifthly, Chambers would ideally give feedback to rejected interviewees. This is tricky because if you interview a great many applicants it becomes impossible. But the default position should be that feedback will be given and Chambers should have to explain why they will not. Chambers should also ask for feedback from candidates. My hunch is that a number of the complaints made below would not be tolerated by Heads of Chambers who knew that it was happening on a regular basis.
Sixthly, the Bar should try and ensure that the small minority in the habit of dismissing every criticism as whinging do not run pupillage selection processes in their Chambers.