Pupillage Interviews

Interview Questions

Below are some examples of questions you may be asked at a pupillage interview. This list is by no means exhaustive; you should expect to be asked questions arising from your CV and experiences. Some interviewers deliberately challenge your responses to interview questions; this is intended to assess how you perform under pressure.

If you are not immediately sure how to answer a question do not panic. Ask for the question to be repeated if you have not fully understood what you are being asked or take a sip of water if you need to buy some time to think.

Give examples of things you have done (at work, at university, in your spare time or in general life management) in your answers and do not rely on the same one or two examples for many questions. When giving an example of an experience you have had, you may find it helpful to follow the STAR approach to structure your answer: situation, task, action, result.

If you are unsuccessful at interview, always ask for feedback so that you can improve for next time. Remember, if you are a member of Inner Temple you can contact the Education & Training Department to apply for a mock interview under the Inn’s Mock Interview Scheme. Please note that you must have already secured a pupillage interview to be eligible for this scheme.

If you are unsuccessful at interview, always ask for feedback so that you can improve for next time.

General questions

  • Why do you want to become a barrister?
  • What other careers have you considered and why?
  • What is the most important characteristic for a barrister to possess?
  • What will you find the most difficult aspect of pupillage?

Questions about you / competency based questions

  • What newspapers do you read? Why?
  • What do you do in your spare time? What do your hobbies say about you?
  • Describe yourself in five words.
  • What is your biggest weakness?
  • Describe a time when you acted on your own initiative.
  • How do you react to criticism?

Law-related questions

  • If you could change any law, what would it be and why?
  • Give an example of a recent legal decision you have disagreed with and explain your reasoning for your point of view.
  • What do you think is the future of the Bar? What are the greatest challenges currently facing the profession?

Debate questions

  • Give 3 reasons in favour / against giving state-funded liver-transplants to alcoholics.
  • Should pupillage be compulsory in order to become a barrister?
  • Should foreign offenders in UK jails be deported once they have served their sentence?

Questions to test your ability to think on your feet

  • You have accepted pupillage with one set of Chambers. Another set, which you prefer and have always wanted to join, then makes you an offer a week later. What do you do, why and what approach do you take?
  • Explain how to get from A to B on the tube to an alien.
  • What qualities do you most admire in other people?
  • Who do you most aspire to be like?

The Modern Bar

  • How will Alternative Business Structures – including Legal Disciplinary Practices - affect the work of barristers? Are there any ethical implications that you can foresee with these practice structures?
  • Do you think the Legal Services Act (2007) is positive or negative for the Bar?
  • What is the most important of the Neuberger recommendations on access to the Bar?

And finally, always prepare answers to…

Do you have any questions for us?

Practical Exercises

In addition, many Chambers ask candidates to undertake practical exercises. The nature of the exercise will vary from Chambers to Chambers, but can aim test your:

  • advocacy skills;
  • presentation skills;
  • ability to cope under pressure and think on your feet;
  • ability to articulate an argument;
  • persuasiveness;
  • analytical skills;
  • ability to put together a reasoned argument; or
    awareness and understanding of current issues.

Individual Chambers will incorporate practical exercises into the recruitment process in different ways: some will only ask candidates to complete an exercise at a second round interview; others will include it in a first round interview. Chambers that operate two rounds of interviews are more likely to include a practical exercise at the second round interview. You will normally be given advance warning that the interview will include a practical exercise.

During any of these exercises, you should expect to be interrupted by members of the interviewing panel and challenged on points in your argument. This is to test how you cope under pressure. Keep calm, react positively and do not be afraid to stick to your point.

Keep calm, react positively and do not be afraid to stick to your point.

Practical exercises may include:

Advocacy exercise

For example, appealing a sentence handed down in the Crown Court or presenting a plea in mitigation. Sometimes this exercise is conducted unseen or, more often, with limited preparation before the start of the interview (e.g. 15-30 minutes). As this exercise aims to simulate a courtroom or tribunal environment, you should expect to be questioned and be prepared to defend your position and argue your client’s case.

Analysis and discussion of a legal problem

You may be given advance warning of this (for example, one or two days) to prepare a written answer. During the interview the panel will ask you a number of specific questions relevant to your answer.

Alternatively, you may be given the problem when you arrive for the interview with, for example, 30 minutes to consider the problem before the interview begins. The interview panel will then ask you questions on the problem during the interview.

Analysis and discussion of an ethical or moral problem

This may involve presenting one side of the issue or discussing both sides with members of the interview panel.

Short presentation on a set topic or subject of your choice

Presentations are normally expected to last for 5-10 minutes. You may be given advanced warning of this and the topic (e.g. 48 hours notice) or only be told 15-20 minutes before the interview.

The interview panel may take the opportunity during the interview to ask you follow-up questions about your presentation.

Written response to a legal problem

You are provided with the fact pattern of a legal problem and given a short period of time (e.g. one week) to submit a full written analysis and response ahead of your interview. This may be similar to the length of an essay at university (i.e. up to 3000 words). The panel may question you on your answer during your interview.

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