You are sitting on your couch reading the news – the news you’re currently focusing on is the skirmish going on in Eastern Europe. You decide you’ll check your email, and there it is: an invitation to a pupillage second-round interview from one of the chambers you interviewed with weeks back – you took our tips and other tips and your hard work has paid off. After flipping your couch over in celebration you finally start thinking logically, ‘wait a second I have no clue what I’m expected to do on that day. And that is where this post comes in: by the end of this post you’ll feel a lot more confident about your efforts toward the second-round interview. Before we move on you should know that typically, 10 or so candidates are invited back for a second-round interview, so for you to have made it this far you deserve a pat.
As usual, the second round interview for pupillages will vary by chambers, however, it’s consistent for second-round interviews to last somewhere between 30 – 45 minutes in length, and have more members sitting in on the panel. In some chambers, the whole Pupillage Recruitment Committee (PRC) will be in your second-round interview! While second-round interviews will vary, the following are by far the most common when going in for second round interviews
- Advocacy Panel: it is known as the advocacy panel because this set will favour peppering you with an advocacy exercise in the form of a pre-prepared oral presentation on a non-legal topic of the candidates’ choice, the advocacy exercise may be emailed to you a week prior. The presentation will be at the start of the interview and is intended to encourage you to relax and demonstrate your oral advocacy on a topic that interests you. If you are facing this panel, please do choose a topic that interests you. It could be something you are passionate about or something which you just find fascinating. It could be a hobby, something you read in the paper or something you have studied. Topics could be anything such as “how to own a football club”, “how to corner a motorbike”, “how to drift with an automatic car” and “doping in the Tour de France”. Most sets will not allow you to have a PowerPoint or other props, some might allow you to bring in your prepared notes, and others might not.
- A Conference Discussion: Here you will have a discussion in the format of a conference with instructing solicitors on the Opinion produced for the written case study (the interview panel will act as instructing solicitors). The panel in this scenario is not entirely particular about whether your opinion is the right one but what they are more interested in is in understanding the reasons for your opinion and how you have applied the legal principles to the facts.
- The point-scoring system: In this situation, you might be given a case study to prepare the night before, and then a choice of four-five topics to prepare about 30 minutes before the interview. You will be given points for each element of the interview.
- The Whole PRC: Having this panel means that you will be interviewed by the whole Pupillage Recruitment Committee, you might be sent a case study the weekend or week before the interview for you to prepare. And yes each member of the PRC – some sets’ PRC may have up to 9 members – will be asking you one question or the other, so come super prepared.
- Others: There are other structures where the main way of testing you might be through you being assessed on an ethical, moral problem or philosophical issue.
Now you have a fair idea of the possible structure that you’ll face in your interview, it’s now time to look at some of the tips to embrace for and during your second-round interview.
Regardless of whether you are sitting before the whole PRC, dealing with a panel that favours the point-scoring system or the panel that sent you an advocacy exercise to prepare, it’s a good practice [wherever you can] to have your answers structured. What it should mean for you is that when answering a question, your answer should have an opening – topic sentence (your main idea), a middle – body (supporting details) and a closing – summary and a sign you’re ending the answer. If you are confused, think about when you write a paragraph, you need to have the topic sentence first, then the body, and then the last sentence, which will either tie together the paragraph or lead to the next one. The benefits of giving structured answers include: you will come across as an intelligent person, you will be doing what barristers love – barristers prefer clear, focused answers. Further, the details in your structured answers provide depth and prove your point; by providing a closing, you are signalling to the interviewers that your answer is finishing, and they can think about the next question or engage you in your answer. Finally, structure helps keep your answers from being too long – you don’t want to bore your interviewers to death! This brings us to our next tip
There’s a fantastic proverb that I love that says ‘you will say the wrong thing if you talk too much – so be sensible and watch what you say. At your pupillage interview, you will never get into trouble for talking little or only giving answers to what you have been asked. Keep your answers short and simple, and use plain English – there’s no use trying to impress your interviewers with Latin when it’s not called for. Some applicants’ answers are often too long. You may have a lot of important things to say, but if you are being interrupted by the panel then that’s usually not a good place to be. To form the habit of offering answers that deal with the question, I will advise that you do a little practice with a friend or listen back to your recorded answers.
Act like a Barrister
When I say act like a barrister, I’m not advocating that you be what you are not – by all means be yourself during the process. When I say act like a barrister, I’m talking about those skills or traits that are found in a barrister. You already know as a result of being self-employed a successful barrister has to have the drive, commitment, passion and confidence in their abilities, and not to talk about the fact that they are dressed immaculately. At your second interview, you’re at the cusp of an offer so by all means throw the kitchen sink at the goal. Treat the panel with respect, as in any job interview. This includes dressing as you would on a mini-pupillage or a vacation scheme. Suits are essential – preferably a dark one – unless you have been specifically informed otherwise, and should be worn with a shirt and tie, a white blouse, or a dark dress underneath. In acting as a barrister, endeavour to display confidence, drive and commitment. One way to do this is by pointing the panel to your experiences.
Yes you have made it this far and you have reason to fret whether you will do well considering the competition out there. But let me tell you a secret, your fretting will not change the second interview; instead, it could make things worse. If you enter an interview and you are sweating profusely or you are showing bouts of jitters some interviewers might not be so accommodating. Try to relax. If this is not possible, try to appear relaxed, and you may find that you forget to feel nervous a few minutes in. While there is no point pretending that the panel does not hold more power than you during the interview, you should however remember that the panel members are trying to identify someone that in a couple of years will be able to inspire confidence in professional and lay clients and bring success to their clients by holding their own in front of all manner of judges.
Although this will vary by set, it is most likely that applicants who have received an invitation for a second interview are entitled to get feedback as to how they performed if asked for. Ask for feedback, and use it wisely, you never know if you will be performing several more interviews before you find the right one. When you have been offered such feedback, endeavour to keep a note of the feedback given.
If you have attended a second-round interview and in the end, you felt that you didn’t do well, there’s no need to dwell on that assumption. The only way you will know your fate is when it’s revealed to you by the chambers. When your second-round interview is over, please do not do another one in your head. Let it go. Go do something you enjoy. Give yourself some credit. Many sets get hundreds of applications every year. To have gotten to the second-round interview stage is an achievement not to be sniffed at. The second-round interview process can be intense and it’s important to take time to celebrate your successes.
Charles is a writer, practising lawyer and personal trainer who loves learning and developing himself. He graduated from Middlesex University, London with eight first-class grades in the second and third years of his law degree, and received a postgraduate offer from Cambridge University. He loves strength training, boxing and encouraging people to succeed in their pursuits (legal ones)
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