‘I have my first pupillage interview. Any advice?’

By on

Aspiring barrister seeks top tips

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, an aspiring barrister seeks readers’ advice after bagging their first pupillage interview.

“Hello Legal Cheek. I am in my second application cycle for pupillage and have just been offered two first round interviews at mixed civil sets. I’m quite nervous as these are the first I have secured. I’d value any advice and tips on what to expect. Thank you in advance”

If you have a career conundrum, email us at


Not a KC

Wear a wig and gown. Dress for the job you want *double finger point*


Ensure you attended Oxford or Cambridge as an undergraduate.


Absolutely not necessary. Speaking as someone directly involved in pupil recruitment right now. And also someone who did not go to Oxbridge.


Get daddy to put in a word with the boys before hand. All sorted.


Avoid being an underrepresented group. Barristers love “tradition”.

Be EXACTLY Like Them! /s

Mention your favourite Glyndebourne opera, your public school, your Labrador, your enjoyment of the Mooserwirt and of course your Oxbridge college and enjoy being able to buy a townhouse in Fulham in a few years!

If you’re from a council estate, live with your extended family, go to the Notting Hill Carnival or enjoy watching Love Island, what on Earth are you going to talk about at chambers tea????


there’s no way to reallly prepare. pupillage vacancies are a joke. it is pot luck. you have 1-2 vacancies and near hundreds if not more applicants.
how can one possibly game it

A lot of

Salty solicitors in the comments.

Has a pupillage, isn't a w*nker

To give some serious advice amidst all the bitter and stupid people here:

(1) Read through all the materials on the interview format you’ve been given. Some of the advice below may not apply depending on the format of the interview.
(2) Know your application inside out. It’s very common to be asked about particular bits of experience and/or possible weaknesses on your application.
(2) It’s very common to get competency based questions these days. In light of that, review their selection criteria and think of a few examples of experience relevant to each (e.g. oral advocacy, personal skills etc).
(3) Try to be as relaxed as possible. You’ll probably crap yourself a bit at the first one but that’s perfectly normal and you’ll get much more used to it as it goes on.
(4) If you’re given a short exercise or problem to look at first, read through it start to finish before making notes. Then try to come up with a rudimentary structure for what you’re going to say before your prep time runs out!
(5) Ignore the sad stereotypes etc from the other comments. They’re either freshers or bitter solicitors who couldn’t hack it.

Best of luck!

Doesn't have a pupillage, is a w*nker

“Bitter and stupid” (See ‘Funny’).
Loosen up xoxo


“Couldnt hack it” eh..? That’s a shooting term from your inherited grouse moor isn’t it old bean?

The fact is as you well know that the Inns have barely moved beyond the 1970s when it was all about Mummy and Daddy having £250,000 to support you until you were aged 35 and holding your knife and fork and passing the port. Until the mid 70s there wasnt a single exam.

The Inns and the Lord Chancellor and MoR continually produce reports saying how they are improving, but the law is very good at talk and no action. We’re adept at it and have polished it for 30 to 40 years.

Better to be truthful to the young than wasting their time.

Scouser of Counsel (non-Oxbridge 2:1)

1. Ignore all of the foregoing tripe.

2. Be yourself.

3. Take a moment to think about the question that you have been asked before answering.

4. Don’t be too arrogant “when I get pupillage here I will…”

5. Have something interesting to say when you’re asked the inevitable “if
you can’t get pupillage what will you do
instead?” Don’t just answer “I’ll try to become a solicitor/paralegal instead” like everyone else does.

6. If you can, try to make eye contact as best you can (on that point, if you have any disabilities or needs, let them know in advance).

7. Make sure you tailor your answers to the Chambers. Generic responses don’t score highly.

8. If you have the opportunity to
discuss your work history (including summer jobs) say how your experience will help with being a barrister.

9. Don’t think that just because the person in front of you in the queue to go in has an Oxbridge first and you have a Redbrick/New University 2:1 you won’t get it. They might have no people skills.

10. Try to enjoy it and look upon it as experience for later interviews if you don’t get it. What’s the worst that can happen? You have to keep on looking. Hardly anything to worry about.

Best of luck.

Pupillage committee member

Agree with all of these, but would emphasise point 7.
Try to create a profile in your mind of the set you’re interviewing with. To do this, a good start is to read up about the set and its members in Legal 500 and C&P. This will tell you both how the set likes to present itself, and how clients see it.
Also see if you can find a few recent big cases its senior members have been dealing with.
And discretely speak to your mentor or people on mini-pupillages about the set, to find out how it’s perceived at the Bar.
This will all allow you to form some decent answers to the “Why us?” type questions, as well as showing you actually give a damn about the process.

Lanc not Manc

Three Oxbridge tossers who still don’t have pupillage didn’t like your observations, scousey!

Northerner with an Oxbridge 1st

Can you imagine the chip on the shoulder this one has?

BPTC Competent (2nd attempt) expired

Definitely talk about how you’re already planning your party for when you take silk. Also how you’re consulted informally by the Cabinet Office, banks, shipping firms, big pharma and Premier League footballers’ wives. And that you occasionally get tapped up for insights by a couple of Supreme Court justices.

Pupillage committees are made up of easily impressed and rather thick people who’ll swallow any old story.

You’re in mate.


Swear to God, I read one chambers profile where the barrister claimed he hung out with Shaolin ninja monks to learn their skills.

Yes. Yes I do believe pupillage committees love a good story.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Barrister

It’s true!


In addition to the comments on content above, I would add on manner etc that the ultimate question being asked (at least on the advocacy-type questions) is whether you might make a decent advocate. So think about/aim for eye-contact, structure, thinking before you speak, knowing how far to push a point, knowing when to modify/drop a point. Think about what you’ve seen good barristers on minis etc do in court.


Ignore the salty comments above. Every set is different, and will look for different things, but a few tips from me:

– imagine you are the only person interviewing (and chambers are only deciding whether or not *you* will proceed). You can’t do anything to control what other candidates will do, and you will probably do yourself down if you imagine yourself in competition with them. Just focus on yourself

– be confident, but in an understated manner. Chambers have decided you’re worth interviewing, so have an (understated) confidence

– go in knowing the key information / experiences you want to talk about, and use the Qs (as far as sensible) as a means to talking about those things

– if possible, try to start strong. First impressions count. This also means being dressed smartly and being the right amount of early

– know the answer to the obvious Qs like the back of your hand. You should be able to answer them without thinking

– I’ve never known it to be not okay to come in with notes. An interview isn’t a memory test. Ditto for taking a moment to collect your thoughts

– if you’re asked to argue for a proposition / say something you’re passionate about etc, keep it light. You may well be asked to argue the other side, and don’t want to be backed into a corner defending the indefensible

– show some glimmers / hints of personality, but not the whole thing. The important thing at first round is coming across as competent.

Best of luck!


All the barristers claiming to ‘be confident’ and ‘it doesn’t matter if your A Levels aren’t perfect!’ got pupillage 15-20 years ago, when there were far more pupillages available than today.

Most barristers would love for their children to become barristers too. It is perhaps in their interest to dilute the competition by claiming that your university/grades don’t matter.

Raven Scroft

Make sure you wear collar stiffeners in your shirt, unlike the chap in the photograph; such sloppiness says much about character. I will look at your watch, your belt and your shoes, and assess the information gleaned from that. If the bottom button of a two buttoned suit is buttoned up, you will have wasted your time turning up.


Surely the wearing of a belt is a major red flag?

Mary D

Not for a pupillage interview. One cannot expect students to have a properly made suit. One can expect them to have grasped the basics about dressing for work.

Law School

Don’t refer to your legal education as “law school”.


Best advice on site honestly. Anyway, I’ve just sent in my application to ULaw law school.

Mr Creetcher the Teacher

See me after Law School!

Law School Girl

Will you be my pupil master?

Mr Creetcher the Teacher

Do you do Chucky Cheese?

Join the conversation

Related Stories