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Barristers answer your questions on the mini-pupillage application process

25 Jan 2023, 13:38

We asked barristers Paul Skinner, from Henderson Chambers, and Andrew George, from Blackstone Chambers, about what they look for in mini-pupillage applications and interviews. They sit on mini-pupillage committees and are in the know.

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Try to show your skills at identifying strong and weak arguments and your ability to provide an objective opinion.

If you're interested in a mini-pupillage, it can help to know what recruiters are looking for. Find out from two experts: Paul Skinner , a barrister and mini-pupillage co-ordinator with Henderson Chambers , and Andrew George , a barrister with Blackstone Chambers .

What does the selection process for mini-pupillages involve?

Paul: Applications to us are made via our application form on our website. We take into account all academic qualifications and look for evidence of a genuine enthusiasm for a law career at the bar and for non-academic achievements.

Andrew: We have our own application form containing sections on exam results, relevant work experience and mini-pupillages. There are also sections asking why candidates want to be a barrister and why they want to come to us: these are often the ‘tie-break’ answers and should be considered very carefully.

What happens in the mini-pupillage interview?

Andrew: Interviews last 15–20 minutes and are conducted by a panel of five or six drawn largely from chambers’ pupillage committee. The interview starts with questions based on the candidate’s application form and moves on to a presentation by the candidate on one of six topics provided to him or her 15 minutes before the interview starts. The presentation is interactive, attempting to replicate some of the conditions of court room advocacy, and candidates are challenged and questioned from the outset. Our mini-pupillages are only awarded to candidates applying for pupillage, so the interview process is more rigorous than for unassessed mini-pupillages.

What makes an applicant stand out from the crowd?

Paul: Applicants who stand out have a strong academic background coupled with a record of non-academic achievements, evidence of enthusiasm for a career as a barrister (including an aptitude for advocacy and public speaking), and an indication of good reasons for wishing to undertake a mini-pupillage with us.

Andrew: Some applicants (often mature applicants) stand out from the crowd by virtue of their previous career and achievements. If this doesn’t apply to you, a form that demonstrates a combination of academic excellence, activities demonstrating commitment to advocacy, an interest in chambers’ areas of law and strong interpersonal skills is the ideal.

What qualities do mini-pupils need to demonstrate in order to be invited for a pupillage interview?

Paul: The best candidates take the opportunity to engage fully with the cases they are involved with, showing enthusiasm for paperwork and attendance at court and undertaking research as necessary. They demonstrate that they are keen to learn and would be an excellent addition to chambers. Mini-pupillage at Henderson is not a prerequisite to being offered an interview for pupillage, however.

Andrew: Mini-pupils should demonstrate skill and enthusiasm as an advocate; an aptitude for the workload and work patterns of a barrister (especially the ability to work under pressure); and the drive to operate in a competitive referral profession. These skills are best shown by engaging with the legal cases you are involved in during the mini-pupillage and enjoying the experience of being in chambers. Try to show your skills at identifying strong and weak arguments and your ability to provide an honest, objective opinion.

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