You’ve made the cut. You’ve secured that pupillage interview. And as you wait sweaty-palmed to meet your inquisitors, you realise that the next 30 minutes will determine whether you’re taken on by a top set of chambers, or spend the next 12 months working part-time in a frozen chicken factory. @Wigapedia advises on what NOT to do next…
1. Pretend you know any law.
You don’t. In fact, you know — in legal professional terms — less than the chambers cat (and we don’t even have a cat). You can (pretend to) be interested in the law and express a tentative opinion about it. But you’re not kidding anyone that you know much beyond Donoghue v Stevenson. Only half of us have heard of that case anyway, and the half that have can’t even remember if it’s the boy who was eaten in the boat, or the snail in the ginger beer case…
2. Act like you think a barrister should act.
Because in fact you’re acting like an actor thinks a barrister should act. Mainly like a complete arse. Many barristers are complete arses. But they don’t want some spotty uni-leaver reminding them of their arse-like qualities. (That’s what the solicitors do.)
3. Mention that your dad’s a judge, or your mum is a solicitor.
We’ll all resent the fact you’ve been given an unfair leg up this far — even if you haven’t — and we’ll be damned if we’re going to help you get another one. We got here the hard way. We used to live in a ditch and had to eat mud for breakfast…(cue violins)
4. Wear that tie/scarf/brooch which you think shows you have a great personality.
It doesn’t. It shows you have terrible taste in accessories. That tie with comic figurines on it? Or the brooch that looks like you’re being attacked by an enraged gecko? They’re just likely to distract us from your answers. And believe me, we don’t need much distracting. Oh look, a bee….
5. Get the name of chambers wrong.
Even a little bit. Saying ‘Hardwicke Building’ (when it’s actually ‘Hardwicke’) or Temple Garden Barristers (instead of Temple Garden Chambers) acts like nails on a blackboard to the interviewers.
If you’re too young to know what a blackboard is — it’s a board, that’s black and on which nails scraped down it, sound intensely irritating. (Later renamed a ‘chalkboard’ — see above — for anyone who was unable to cope with objects being assigned a colour.)
6. Try to remember and say back the names of the interviewers.
We don’t think it’s engaging, or cute, or impressive. It sounds like you’re pitching an advertising concept in Mad Men. And you’re not sharply-enough dressed to do that. And have you looked around the room? We mainly look like refugees from a TK Maxx warehouse explosion.
7. List your hobbies as “reading”, “walking” or “going to the cinema”.
Unless you consider normal day-to-day activities such as “blinking” and “breathing” are also hobbies, these things are not hobbies for most sentient and/or mobile individuals.
Hobbies are racing swans or building models out of scrap metal or land yachting. Oh, and while we’re on the subject; things like “visiting mausoleums” or “attending séances” are not hobbies either, they are just downright weird.
8. Stare at us blankly when asked obvious questions.
Most barristers’ chambers have interview panels made up of those who couldn’t think of a good enough excuse to avoid being on the panel. They are mainly not even semi-trained in interview techniques, and so tend to ask questions of almost comic inevitability. “What attracted you to our chambers?” or “What makes you think you’d be a good barrister” or “What would you like your practice to look like in five years’ time” are not exactly left-field, are they?
So if you’re not prepared with a zinger of an answer for these types of questions, the trickier ones — such as “What would you do if the judge stormed out of court shouting he was bored stupid by your submissions” — are really going to stump you, aren’t they?
9. Regale us with tales of your prowess as treasurer of the university bungee-jumping society.
You know how much Jeremy Clarkson cares for cyclists? Well, we care a lot less than that about your position of quasi-leadership in any university club. President of the Union? That’s mildly interesting. CEO of your own legal services company? Now we’re listening.
10. When asked why you want to be a barrister, use phrases like “fighting for justice” and/or “fighting for the underdog”.
We’re recruiting barristers for our chambers. If we wanted a Marvel superhero, we’d have asked you to come in a leotard and a cape. And we’d expect you arrive by flying in through the window. It’s perfectly acceptable to say you’d like lots of money and fancy parading round in a wig. At least it’s honest.
11. And finally…you know that bit where we ask you if you’ve any questions? The correct answer to that question is almost universally…
Unless of course it’s an interesting question we’ve not heard 200 times already. Which it won’t be. That’s actually our signal that the interview is over and it’s time to exit. “So make like a tree, and leave.” © Biff Tannen