Securing a pupillage is a highly competitive process that involves rigorous interviews. This comprehensive guide not only explores various pupillage interview questions but also provides effective strategies to tackle them. Additionally, it incorporates valuable insights from an aspiring pupil barrister who shares experiences, observations, and anecdotes about the interview process.

Understanding Pupillage Interviews

Pupillage interviews are dynamic encounters that can cover a diverse range of questions. While the list provided here is not exhaustive, it offers a glimpse into the types of inquiries you might face. Interviewers may intentionally challenge your responses to assess your performance under pressure.

If you find yourself unsure of how to answer a question, stay composed. Request a repeat if necessary or take a moment to gather your thoughts with a sip of water. The key is to remain calm and focused during the interview.

Strategies for Effective Responses

Give Examples and Be Diverse

  • Illustrate your answers with examples from various aspects of your life, including work, university, spare time, and general experiences.
  • Avoid relying on the same examples for different questions to showcase versatility.

STAR Approach for Competency-Based Questions

  • Structure your responses using the STAR approach (Situation, Task, Action, Result) when describing experiences.
  • Emphasize problem-solving skills and positive outcomes.

Honesty and Humility

  • Be honest in acknowledging weaknesses or challenges you may face.
  • Demonstrate humility by expressing a willingness to overcome difficulties and a commitment to learning.

Categories of Pupillage Interview Questions

General Inquiries

  1. What initially sparked your interest in pursuing a career as a barrister?
    • Example Answer: “Growing up in a family of legal professionals, witnessing the impact of justice on individuals inspired my journey.”
  2. Considering diverse career paths, why does the prospect of practicing law captivate you?
    • Example Answer: “Law’s dynamic nature allows me to combine analytical thinking with a passion for social justice, a unique blend not found in other professions.”
  3. Reflect on a barrister you admire. What specific qualities make them stand out to you?
    • Example Answer: “Sir/Madam [Barrister’s Name] exemplifies unwavering integrity and a relentless pursuit of fairness, qualities I aspire to embody in my practice.”
  4. How do you handle uncertainty, and how will you navigate uncertainties during pupillage?
    • Example Answer: “I thrive in uncertainty by approaching challenges with adaptability and a strategic mindset, traits that will serve me well in navigating the complexities of pupillage.”

Personal and Competency-Based Queries

  1. Which legal blogs or podcasts do you follow, and how do they contribute to your understanding of legal issues?
    • Example Answer: “Regularly following blogs like The Lawyer Portal broadens my perspectives, offering insights into emerging legal trends and diverse viewpoints.”
  2. Capture your essence in five words that exemplify your commitment to justice and advocacy.
    • Example Answer: “Passionate, tenacious, empathetic, resilient, and dedicated.”
  3. Share an instance where you demonstrated leadership within a team project.
    • Example Answer: “Leading a moot court team, I orchestrated collaborative efforts, fostering a supportive environment that contributed to our success.”

Legal Scenario Questions

  1. If you had the authority, propose a new law that addresses a contemporary societal challenge.
    • Example Answer: “I would propose a law promoting environmental sustainability, encouraging businesses to adopt eco-friendly practices to combat climate change.”
  2. Discuss a historic legal precedent that you find intriguing and explain its relevance in the present context.
    • Example Answer: “The [Landmark Case] remains relevant today, serving as a precedent for privacy rights in the digital age.”

Debate and Critical Thinking Questions

  1. Argue in favor or against implementing AI technology in legal research.
    • Example Answer: “Supporting AI in legal research enhances efficiency, but we must carefully address ethical considerations and potential biases.”
  2. Examine the ethical considerations surrounding the use of social media evidence in legal proceedings.
    • Example Answer: “While social media evidence can provide valuable insights, ethical concerns arise, necessitating a balance between relevance and individual privacy.”

Quick Thinking Scenarios

  1. You discover a conflict of interest during your accepted pupillage. How would you address it?
    • Example Answer: “I would promptly disclose the conflict, seek guidance from senior members, and take appropriate steps to ensure transparency and ethical practice.”
  2. Explain complex litigation strategy to a non-legal audience in a concise and understandable manner.
    • Example Answer: “Imagine a chess game; our legal strategy involves anticipating the opponent’s moves, presenting a compelling case, and strategically countering any challenges.”

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Practical Exercises in Pupillage Interviews

In addition to traditional questioning, pupillage interviews often incorporate practical exercises, offering candidates a unique opportunity to showcase their skills in real-world scenarios. These exercises aim to evaluate various competencies, including advocacy skills, presentation skills, ability to think on one’s feet, articulate arguments, persuade, analyze, and demonstrate awareness of current legal issues. Understanding the nature of these exercises and how to navigate them is crucial for success in the competitive pupillage selection process.

Nature of Practical Exercises

The nature of practical exercises varies between chambers, each designed to assess specific attributes essential for a successful barrister. These exercises may be integrated into first or second-round interviews, with chambers providing advance notice of their inclusion. Candidates should be prepared to face interruptions and challenges from the interviewing panel, testing their ability to handle pressure and maintain composure.

Types of Practical Exercises

  • Advocacy Exercise

Example: Appealing a sentence in the Crown Court or presenting a plea in mitigation.

Format: Conducted either unseen or with limited preparation time (e.g., 15-30 minutes) before the interview.

Expectations: Simulates a courtroom or tribunal environment, requiring candidates to defend their position and articulate arguments effectively.

  • Analysis and Discussion of a Legal Problem

Preparation: Candidates may receive advance notice (one or two days) to prepare a written response to a legal problem.

Format: The interview panel poses specific questions relevant to the prepared answer during the interview.

Alternate Format: Candidates might receive the legal problem on-site, allowing a brief period (e.g., 30 minutes) for consideration before facing panel questions.

  • Analysis and Discussion of an Ethical or Moral Problem

Format: Involves presenting one side of an ethical or moral issue or engaging in a discussion with the interview panel.

Expectations: Candidates demonstrate their ability to navigate complex ethical scenarios and present well-reasoned arguments.

  • Short Presentation on a Set Topic

Duration: Expected to last 5-10 minutes.

Notice: Chambers may provide advanced notice (e.g., 48 hours) or reveal the topic only 15-20 minutes before the interview.

Follow-up Questions: The panel may use the interview to ask additional questions related to the presentation.

  • Written Response to a Legal Problem

Preparation: Candidates are given a fact pattern of a legal problem and a short period (e.g., one week) to submit a written analysis ahead of the interview.

Length: Similar to an essay at university (up to 3000 words).

Interview Questions: The panel may question candidates about their written response during the interview.

Navigating Practical Exercises

Coping Under Pressure

Expect interruptions and challenges from the panel.

Maintain composure, react positively, and stick to your points.

Simulating Real-World Scenarios

Recognise that these exercises aim to replicate the challenges faced in legal practice.

Demonstrate practical skills relevant to courtroom advocacy, legal analysis, and ethical reasoning.

Effective Communication

Articulate arguments clearly and persuasively.

Be prepared to defend positions and respond to panel queries.

Comprehensive Preparation

Understand the specific competencies assessed in each exercise.

Utilise the preparation time wisely, whether for written responses or oral presentations.

Insider Insights

  1. Your First Interview Will Be Your Worst: Be prepared for initial nervousness and consider it a learning experience.
  2. Prepare to Be Unprepared: Juggling interviews with full-time work requires focused and clear preparation.
  3. Some of the Questions Will Be Bonkers: Anticipate unconventional questions designed to test quick thinking.
  4. Most People Are Lovely: Despite stress, interviews offer a chance to meet potential future colleagues.
  5. It Might Not Always End in Pupillage, but It Will End: Acknowledge setbacks, learn from experiences, and focus on continuous improvement.


Successfully navigating pupillage interviews requires a combination of thorough preparation, strategic responses, and adaptability. By understanding the diverse range of questions and incorporating valuable insights, aspiring barristers can approach interviews with confidence and resilience. Each interview, whether successful or not, contributes to the journey of growth and development in the pursuit of a fulfilling legal career.


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