Key #3 – Legal news
Knowing the legal news is the third key to securing pupillage.
It is not enough to be familiar with the most recent UKSC case in your field; candidates who focus solely on the most obvious part of this task are entirely missing the point.
Why this matters
Barristers are obsessed with their subject. You need to be too.
You must develop a broad, as well as deep, knowledge of your proposed field of practice. This means knowing not only the main ‘trends’ or ‘concerns’ in your field but also knowing what new laws or initiatives are being proposed, and having a fully-reasoned view on them ready to articulate when asked to discuss it.
“It is important to know about developments not just in terms of black letter law (i.e. case law) but also in practice. For example, when interviewing prospective PI/Clinical negligence pupils, I expect them to know about proposed changes to the discount rate, the proposed introduction of fixed costs, and any political issues affecting the practice area etc.” – Barrister, Call 2009.
You must be able to think critically about recent developments and to communicate those thoughts clearly.
This is just one way in which you can distinguish yourself from the competition.
How to get this wrong
Example: two candidates have first round interviews:
Candidate 1 has saved up a ton of reading to do and does it a few days before the interview.
Candidate 2 has spent months reading the legal press and taking notes.
Who do you think is going to be better prepared at interview?
However, knowing the developments in your field is not just something you do to prepare for interviews. Top candidates keep up to date at all times – if only because it helps to assist them in developing their answers and tackling unfamiliar topics.
How to get this right
The key is to immerse yourself in the legal news ‘world’. By keeping up to date on the changes in both law and policy, you will not only keep yourself informed but will also start to develop the critical analysis that is crucial.
Example method for collating legal news
- Ensure you are signed up to all relevant email lists/newsletters. Examples include:
- Read the newsletter every day and pick out the items relevant to your area of law. Start this as early as you can.
- For each item that is relevant, collate it into a Word or Excel document and group it using various headings and sub-headings.
- Summarise the item in one sentence.
- Throughout this process, think critically about what you are reading.
Going one step further
If you use twitter or LinkedIn, you can follow barristers in the field that you wish to go into. This is not just to build up your own profile, but when legal news ‘drops’ you will get their instant reaction and assessment of this.
How to use this information correctly
The earlier you begin collating this information, the more it will help when you are drafting your application form.
This must continue throughout the interview period, because chambers will expect you to be up to date on all relevant topics. Several candidates reported that they were expected to know, in detail, policy recommendations and proposed new laws – even if these were announced only days before their interview.
Collating this information is an ongoing process, not a one-off event.
Once you have created a word document containing all the information, you should begin memorising it as best you can. Deploy it at interview and watch as your panel is blown away.