Before the interview
This is what you do before you get in the room.
Take it to the next level
“Skill alone is not enough. Case ownership and preparation are the keys to high quality advocacy.” (Rivlin report, 2015)
Preparation is the key to success. Preparation means doing your homework. Homework means researching set choices, drafting answers, doing mock interviews etc. Those are the basics.
What got you to the interview will not be enough to secure pupillage
Prior to interview, you need to go through your application form and prep notes again. You need to interrogate everything. Otherwise, you aren’t preparing for this process thoroughly.
Look at your form and your notes ask yourself, ‘How can I improve on this? What would make this answer better?’
- Firstly, can you easily identify your ‘X’ factor in your answers? If not, can you find a way to mention it?
- Think about your work experience examples: what was the point of doing X activity in the first place?
- You failed to win a moot: what did you do wrong and how would you do it differently if given the chance again?
- Think about an important legal decision and its consequences: Which types of people does it impact? Are the consequences serious enough to warrant a change in the law; if so, what should change? Will the decision have a commercial impact upon a third party? What does the decision say about our society? Etc.
- You mentioned a recently published report: tell us the recommendations it made/conclusions it reached and give us an analysis of how these will affect/impact justice/society. Are you for/against them? Why? What would you do instead? And can you do that in under five minutes?
Every argument you make, every example you give – all of it has to be taken one step further to have a good shot of getting pupillage.
The night before
- Your bundle: print it out, have one last read, check your pencil case etc.
- Pack your bag. Don’t forget:
- Your umbrella – besides looking like a drowned rat (and ruining a suit!) if it rains, you’ll show a lack of forethought.
- Power bank/charger for your phone – just in case.
- A notebook – to plan your submissions for an advocacy exercise or jot down anything you want to come back to in the interview. Most chambers will provide paper, but not all.
- Bottle of water – just in case you get a case of dry-mouth or get nervous and want to steady yourself. Pro tip: taking a sip of water before answering a question also buys you valuable seconds of thinking time. Stay hydrated, kids.
- Breath mints – more for the panel than anyone else, but you do yourself a favour. Not everyone wants to share those coffees you had on the way into chambers. Keep it minty-fresh.
- If you are interviewing at a chambers located within one of the Inns, make sure you know which doors are open! (On weekends they tend to shut most of the doors and you don’t want to be running around at the last moment.)
- Take your suit out of the closet, along with underwear and shoes. (Yes, really – this moment is where you’ll find you forgot to polish your shoes or that your favourite tights don’t go with your suit. If you do this the night before, you give yourself time to fix these things).
- You must have a proper night’s sleep (yes, your parents were right).
If you dress smartly, you will be fine.
Don’t forget that first appearances matter; small details in your physical presentation may end up subconsciously being held against you. Don’t give them any excuse to write you off.
Below is some common-sense guidance on how to dress appropriately. Remember – you don’t have the luxury of risk-taking (or statement-making!) until you have tenancy:
- Suits: recently dry-cleaned is preferable. Failing that, just make sure your suit is clean and ironed. If wearing a white shirt, ensure that it isn’t see-through (yes, this does happen, to both men and women). Also, buy a lint roller – thank us later.
- Ladies: no short skirts (hem below or close to the knee) and no low-cut tops. Tie your hair back (so that the panel can see your face!). Don’t cake your face in makeup. Don’t wear strong perfume. Always have a spare pair of tights on you. Small, non-dangly earrings are fine (dangly ones can distract) but no distracting jewellery. No stilettos.
- Gentlemen: no funky socks. Ties done up fully and no designs with club connotations. Simple belt. No excessive aftershave. Hair: don’t leave it messy. Facial hair: unless it’s a permanent feature on your face and/or very well-curated, don’t do it. In particular, don’t show up to your interview with patchy stubble (which one candidate did, in an attempt to look older – it did not work!)
- Coat: again, dry-cleaned is preferable. Generally a long black coat works well. Definitely no bomber jackets etc.
- Shoes: polished. Heels must be solid and even (if wonky, you will walk wonky).
- In general: any tattoos or piercings (except for ladies’ earrings) should not be visible.
- Try not to smoke for at least 30 minutes before the interview.
- Bag: smart. No gym kits or battered old cases.
Getting to chambers on time
If counsel can get to court on time when it is snowing, you can be on time for your interview. If this means you have to go to the town the night before, then so be it.
Barring armageddon, there’s no excuse for being late to a pupillage interview
- If something truly unforeseen happens, call chambers and let them know.
- You should feel confident about your travel plans, as you will have decided them the night before and printed out a map of the venue to take with you.
- Always get to the interview 15 minutes early. This will help you steady your nerves. It will also help in case there is a transport problem.
For multiple interviews on the same day, congratulations. Do ask chambers if there is any flexibility in interview times (but don’t expect it). If you are tight for time, just do your best.
If you turn up late, apologise, explain the reason for it calmly and then show that you’re ready to go. Whatever you do, don’t let being late throw you off your game.
Before you walk into chambers
Everyone has their own ritual. This can be visualising yourself succeeding or listening to a piece of uplifting music. Whatever it is, do it before your interview!
If you don’t have a pre-interview ritual, create one before your first interview. The idea is to get yourself into the zone, either pumped or relaxed, whatever works for you.
Last thing: smile. Smiling actually makes you feel more relaxed.
In the waiting room
- Always smile and be polite to any receptionist or porter that you meet. They are all members of chambers’ staff and may well be asked how you behaved. Besides that, they’re also people and therefore deserving of respect.
- Do not sit in the room scrolling through apps on your phone – it makes you look awkward and anti-social.
- Put your phone on ‘do not disturb’ / silent mode, or just turn it off. You do not want it going off in the interview!
- If the room only has candidates in it, feel free to look at your notes. Don’t feel compelled to talk to the other candidates. Be aware of how others might feel – don’t be the candidate who throws others off their game.
- If members of Chambers or pupils are in the room, talk to them. Do not look at your notes. You may be being assessed – be friendly yet professional.
Finally, as you are called in, take 3 deep breaths. This will calm you down.