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Exclusive: Aspiring barrister asked to pay £10 for feedback after unsuccessful 3PB pupillage interview

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139

And she’s paid it

An aspiring barrister hoping to train at 3PB was “astonished” when she was asked to pay a £10 administration fee to obtain pupillage interview feedback.

The student in question told Legal Cheek she recently interviewed at the chambers’ London HQ for a position at one of its regional outposts. Having thought the interview went well, the wannabe barrister — who we have chosen not to name — was “surprised” when she didn’t get through to the second round.

Keen to find out where she went wrong, the Russell Group university student requested feedback and scoring from 3PB, a mixed practice set. Then, she was told:

We have a policy of not providing feedback or marks for any candidate who is unsuccessful in the paper sift or the first round interviews at 3PB.

Though there are no specific rules requiring chambers to provide feedback to unsuccessful pupillage applications, the Bar Standards Board’s (BSB) ‘Pupillage Handbook’ lists it as “good practice”. A spokesperson for 3PB wished to point out to us it does give “substantive feedback to candidates after second interview.”

Not content, the unhappy student — who has made “well over” 100 pupillage applications and “always” asks for feedback — told us she sought advice from her university’s careers service. She was advised to make a Data Protection Act 1998 “subject access request” which she did. The 3PB team informed her it was “happy to comply” with the request, but:

[T]here is a standard administration charge of £10 which you will need to pay 3PB before any further action is taken.

The student, “desperate” for feedback, has now paid. According to her correspondence with the set, seen by Legal Cheek, 3PB has 40 days to “collate and send everything” it has about the student to her. She has described the whole experience as “demoralising”, and told us:

I think if chambers show they are unwilling to support those at the start of the recruitment process, then it is debatable whether they will be a supportive pupillage provider long term and during tenancy.

A spokesperson for 3PB said it receives “an enormous number of applicants” and this year interviewed just over 50 candidates. He added:

We have to strike the balance between giving as many people as possible a chance to interview and being in a position to give substantive feedback on each candidate. I regret time does not permit the latter when we interview so many… It is always possible for anyone to make a request under the data protection act. The charge is set out and is discretionary.

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139 Comments

Does not know Katie King

Here’s a better headline:

Exclusive: 3PB charges fee for subject access request, as is allowed by the Data Protection Act

This really is not a story.

(206)(27)

Does not know Katie King

From ICO guidance:

“Can I charge a fee for dealing with a subject access request?

Yes, an organisation receiving a subject access request may charge a fee for dealing with it, except in certain circumstances relating to health records.”

In other news, Exclusive: aspiring barrister pays £1.50 bus fare to attend pupillage interview.

Exclusive: Student pays £3 for lunch at Tesco

(79)(15)

Anonymous

Graduate of the University of Exeter – that explains a lot.

(19)(31)

Anonymous

Agreed. This isn’t even false news it’s farcical news — charging for a data protection request is routine.

I appreciate she is disappointed about the failure at interview and their stance on providing feedback, but the recruitment process is fairly resource-intensive for chambers (sifting, interviewing, further sifts, etc), so saying they do not give feedback in certain circumstances is understandable.

This article is silly.

(44)(11)

Anonymous

I would expect 3PB to contact Legal Cheek to remove the false accusation.

(34)(2)

Anonymous

Look at the posts on The Student Room. She posted on there earlier today that she had been charged for feedback. Everyone was outraged and encouraged her to report it to BSB and tip off Legal Cheek.

What no one on TSR knew was that it was an admin fee for a subject access request under the Data Protection Act, not a fee for feedback (as even the misleading headline of this article suggests).

(50)(0)

Scep Tick

Yes, but she had to pay for the data subject request because 3PB would not provide feedback. It was the only way to get it.

No wonder the Bar is such a posh boys’ closed shop if we mere plebs have to pay just to find out what went wrong.

(5)(24)

Anonymous

This is nonsense. Most organisations restrict the categories of people to whom they will provide feedback. It is too resource-intensive to do otherwise.

(14)(0)

Anonymous

The worst thing is, after this article, every idiot will start making Subject Access requests after pupillage interview.

(41)(2)

Anonymous

I wonder which Careers Service thought it was a brillo idea to make a subject access request in these circumstances?

To anyone out there reading this, student or careers’ advisor, it’s definitely not a good idea.

(19)(2)

Anonymous

Probably one those sham BPTC providers run by private equity fund. She should ask for a refund of her fees – now that is a good idea.

(9)(0)

Dooms

And why not?

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Does not know Katie King hits the nail on the head.

The headline is manifestly incorrect, she was charged a fee to make a Subject Access Request, not for the feedback per se.

(8)(0)

Anonymous

Sometimes Legal Cheek produce decent material. Other times, like here, it is nothing more than gutter press out for maximum clicks with a misleading headline.

(13)(0)

Outrage

This a cunning plan to by the new clerk who deserted 1 Gary’s Inn Square Chambers to ensure that only his “people” apply to 3PB.

(2)(6)

Anonymous

So your theory/allegation is that there is a Machiavellian clerk at 3PB, who is determined to only recruit “1 Gary’s Inn Square” (Sic) BPTC students/people and he is achieving this by legitimately charging £10 for a SAR?

How do I become a 1 Gary’s Inn Square BPTC student? Clearky that’s a sure fire way of getting pupillage at 3PB!

(9)(0)

Anonymous

Christ the 3PB lot got wind of this quick. Welcome folks!

(23)(1)

Anonymous

Yes I’m fairly confident those replies above are written by 3PB members.

(15)(10)

Does not know Katie King

Hi! Nope, reporter here, who has defended KK on these pages before. This story is bollocks.

(10)(4)

BarryStir

I am not from 3PB. What is it about “entitlement” ……………… You failed get over it. “But I ALWAYS ask for feedback” ………….

(3)(2)

Anonymous

50?! Lol. That’s hardly any. It would take about 5 minutes to write up some feedback at the end of the interview.

What a load of balls.

(22)(9)

Anonymous

The way barristers behave is outrageous. In any other profession it wouldn’t be allowed.

It’s basically because none of them have ever had a proper job, ever.

(13)(40)

Barrister

LOL, you are a law student, how would you know? As it happens, I have had multiple “proper jobs” and had to work about 10% as hard as I work now.

(14)(2)

Anonymous

What a ridiculous thing to say. Barristers give up their spare time to sit on pupillage panels. They are regulated intensely to make sure the process is fair.

To suggest that they are elitist or posh for not spending even more of their own time providing inevitably generic feedback to law students is laughable.

(9)(0)

Anonymous

It happens in every place of employment. Have you ever had a job?

(0)(1)

Pepe the Frog

Good luck to her if she had wanted to apply to them again next year. Can’t be difficult for them to figure out who this is. Going to LC with this shows, ahem, great judgement!

(18)(2)

Anonymous

Erm… after demanding an organisation to give you feedback via FOI, I doubt going to a newspaper will make you any less likely to interview again.

(13)(0)

Anonymous

Katie, you should know that any Subject Access Request costs £10 as per the ICO guidance, so all 3PB have done is ask for the fee which they are legally entitled to. I do not see how this is Exclusive News? Some please enlighten me?

(28)(3)

Anonymous

There is no enlightenment needed comrade. You are already among the enlightened ones.

Subject access request.
Get over it.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Turning a non-story into…well, a non-story. An admin fee for an SAR is the norm. Yawn.

(11)(0)

Anonymous

£10 sounds like a fair fee to cover time/admin and is consistent with fee for a subject access request. Non-story and does not impact 3PB’s reputation.

(12)(4)

Anonymous

I understand the desire for feedback, and as a pupillage interviewer I am happy to give it. However, in my experience the feedback is hardly ever about something that the person can work on or change, and is frequently “You weren’t as good as the candidates we chose.”

(30)(1)

Anonymous

This isn’t spin, it’s a demonstrably untrue headline. She paid £10 to request the data chambers held on her per the DPA.

It won’t be the feedback she seeks.

First round feedback is always the same, either:

1. We liked 10 people more than you and are giving them a second round.

2. You are a nutjob/sleep inducingy dull/odd/a mixture of the previous. Your form doesn’t disclose this but you are. Big time.

3. You lied about something on your form.

Number 1 is unhelpful. Numbers 2 and 3 are subjective and open a can of worms.

Post second round, chambers can and usually will give some nuanced feedback. Stop asking after a first round in the hope that they will stroke your ego or suggest one tiny magical change that will open the magical portal to Narnia/pupillage.

(32)(8)

Anonymous

Interested in why people have given this the thumbs down.

Do you not agree with the feedback/principle/both or something else?

(5)(5)

Anonymous

she’s smart – I’m going to start making these disclosure requests too!

(3)(5)

Anonymous

Hope this is sarcasm, it’s a very poor idea.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Well over 100 applications. And still no pupillage.

How much more “feedback” does she need?

(61)(8)

Anonymous

Some candidates who go on to be excellent barristers often don’t find pupillage straight away, or during their first application cycle.

(5)(1)

Anonymous

People are comparing pupillage feedback requests to Subject Access Requests, and I cannot understand why. The context here is different.

Pupillage is obviously very difficult to get, applicants pour a lot of time and effort into making their applications, and they agonise over any interviews they obtain. The least chambers can do is take a minute to email whatever notes they made of the rejected applicant in interview, provided they’re not offensive ones.

(11)(5)

Anonymous

People are not comparing. She made a subject access request.

(9)(0)

Anonymous

But she asked for feedback first, which she was refused.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Exactly. So she made a subject access request for which she was asked to pay an admin fee. Hence comments surrounding subject access requests.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

No. The least they can do is to not give feedback. You are asking a small group of people to do something that is quite resource-intensive that they will not be paid for. Most organisations restrict the number of people to whom they will give feedback. It is not unreasonable.

She asked, they said no. That’s fair. She made a DPA SAR and they said yes if you pay the fee. That is also fair.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

If God exists, why does he allow so much pain and suffering?

(22)(0)

Former LC victim

First world problems…

(0)(0)

Barrister

“The student, whom we don’t want to name, made an unfair accusation against a chambers, which we will name.”

(32)(1)

Anonymous

The twitter post looks quite misleading to me, LC may need to make a retraction

(7)(1)

Anonymous

Saying they interviewed 60+ people is no excuse when top ranked chambers interview at least the same no of candidates and often do provide several lines worth of feedback.

Feedback after 1st round provides candidates with much needed info. Sometimes, yes, it’s that one was not as good as another 10X candidates, but my educated guess for strong candidates is that often it’s just one or two tweaks needed to get to second round/offer stage. With feedback, those tweaks can be made. Without, it’s a lot harder to do. And most importantly, chambers really don’t have any excuse/good reason not to do it.

(9)(6)

Anonymous

Have you ever conducted first round pupillage interviews? Pontificating from a position of ignorance about the ease of giving meaningful feedback must be nice but is ultimately useless.

(15)(4)

Anonymous

Your response highlights the real issue here – this is not about time, it’s about attitude. Some chambers believe that taking the time to note down a few points of feedback (and giving it upon request) is a worthwhile thing to do. Other chambers disagree. All I did was point out that if many sets can do it, other sets don’t really have an excuse anymore.

(4)(7)

Anonymous

I’d like to know which chambers give out post 1st round feedback and to see what it is. It’s likely to be meaningless drivel.

(4)(1)

Anonymous

It probably is but that is no reason not to do the best you can. It’s only fair given the amount of time candidates give up to apply and how thankless the task is for them. I see it as part of why we offer pupillage, i.e. to sustain the future of the profession.

Anonymous

You make it sound like pupillage applicant are doing chambers a favour- they’re not. They aren’t owed anything except a fair interview process. If you accept that the first interview feedback would be meaningless rubbish, what possible benefit could anyone gain from giving/receiving it?

DB

Outer Temple Chambers binned me after first round (their loss) but did provide fabulously detailed feedback on scoring and their criteria. Not only would that be exceptionally helpful if I was to apply again, it also makes me (now a practitioner elsewhere) hold them in high regard.

Taking the time to provide constructive feedback reflects well on Chambers and assists pupils; it is a shame 3PB find it too draining on resources.

Anonymous

That’s a good point. I was interviewed by a certain chambers (which I won’t name) who tersely refused (uniquely out of my two dozen or so interviews) to provide feedback. Now in practice elsewhere, I still hold them in low regard well over a decade later.

Anonymous

‘Without it it’s a lot harder to do’

Well, guess what? It’s hard work. It’s hard work pleasing solicitors, clients, judges, clerks, leaders, juniors, court ushers, BTEs and everyone else. Get used to it.

(2)(2)

Anonymous

I accept that this is similar to going to court and having no flipping clue what is going on. Presumably by this point however, you have done your 1st six, been given some instruction/support from chambers, so you can figure the rest out.

Where it is not the same is the following:
1) Where for the interview you have no idea what is expected of you (because there’s no guidelines to go on)
2) You also don’t know, deep down, what the particular interviewing panel is going for, because guess what, you’re not a mind reader!

Some sets are good at making clear who they are and what they want. Many others are not. (And before you say it, no, doing a mini won’t solve that problem sometimes!) More importantly, what a chambers want AND what the person interviewing you wants, is not always the same thing. This is aside from the fact that (based on psychological studies of interviewing and things like body language) people don’t know what candidate they actually prefer until the person walks through the door. There are many other factors that go into pupillage interviews but my point here is made.

This is not to disrespect those who take the time to interview candidates – they do a tough job, and we are all grateful for it. However, the idea that “it was always like this” or “it’s hard, suck it up” is exactly the kind of silly response that should have no place at the bar. The approach should be, “we’re doing our best, bear with us, but when we can take 5mins to improve the way things are done, we’ll do that.”

In other words, in the time it took you to write your post, you could have written feedback for a candidate 😀

(9)(2)

Anonymous

Not sure of the circumstances of 3PB. However, most Chambers make it clear at what point they are willing to provide feedback. I presume the student would have known about this, or could have found out.

If they do not provide feedback at the stage the student was rejected, there is obviously nothing the student can do or say to compel Chambers to do so (noting, obviously Chambers are under no duty to provide feedback anyway). Therefore, asking 3PB to do something for you, which they have not said they would do, surely it is not bad practice to ask for a standard fee, which is charged by everyone else in similar circumstances.

Obviously, the pupillage application process is brutal for all involved, particularly those applying. However, there are other steps students can take to try and give themselves the best chance they have in securing pupillage. Go to your Inn, law school, friends, careers advisers, legal contacts for feedback and interview practise.

Further, I cannot see how an FOI request would necessarily give the student the feedback they are seeking. It certainly won’t be accurate and relevant.

(3)(1)

Anonymous

This wasn’t an FOI request. It was a DPA request.

The two are totally separate.

3PB are not subject to the FOIA.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Even if they were, the information would be exempt under s40.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

FYI: KK/LC

Under section 18(1) of the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981 it is a criminal offence for any person, without the prior consent in writing of the Bank of England, to reproduce on any substance whatsoever, and whether or not on the correct scale, any Bank of England banknote or any part of a Bank of England banknote. The Bank of England also owns the copyright in its banknotes.

(14)(1)

Anonymous

She won’t receive this data until the pupillage cycle is over any way.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Yep 40 days to provide the data

(1)(0)

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