It’s important to be prepared for your pupillage interview. The list of questions you could face is illustrative and not exhaustive, so you must be ready for anything.

How To Respond To Pupillage Interview Questions

Your CV and experiences will form the basis of pupillage interview questions you are asked. It’s important to know your CV inside-out and to be prepared to demonstrate hard evidence of how your skills can add value to the chambers you are interviewing with.

Your response to some questions will be deliberately challenged by the interview panel. This is intended to assess how you perform under pressure. If you’re unsure how to answer a question, don’t panic. Ask for the question to be repeated and drink some water to give yourself a little time to compose yourself and think about your answer.

It is also acceptable to ask for a minute to compose yourself as a rushed answer looks worse than asking for time to think about your answer.

Every answer you give should come with examples of things that you have done at university, during work experience, in your spare time and in general life. Don’t rely on the same example for every question, but demonstrate how you have shown intellect, flexibility, determination, teamwork, research skills, oral advocacy, persuasion, and conflict resolution, among other skills.

General Pupillage Interview Questions

Pupillage interview questions tend to fall into several categories, starting with general questions. Some examples include:

Why do you want to be a barrister?

The first question an interview panel is likely to ask you is why do you want to be a barrister? You need to know this answer off the top of your head, but practice making it sound spontaneous and sincere. When answering this question, you must make it personal to you and immediately refer to your experiences to back up your reasons for wanting to be a barrister.

What other careers have you considered and why?

This question is deliberately asked to assess your commitment to the Bar. While considering other careers is not a problem, you should answer by demonstrating that you have considered other careers that involve some aspect of the law or require skills that are transferable to the legal profession.

Be honest, but ensure that you give clear explanations why you have considered other careers and why you ultimately chose to pursue a career as a barrister.

What is the most important characteristic for a barrister to possess?

This is another deliberate question asked by pupillage interview panels to gauge what you think makes a good barrister. Your answer should be sincere, and perhaps you can draw on your experiences of seeing a good barrister in action in Court who you thought demonstrated great character when handling a difficult case.

What will you find the most difficult aspect of pupillage?

Pupillage interview panels will not expect you to be strong in every area of the law. This is a question that genuinely seeks to discover how a chambers can best help you develop if there is an aspect of pupillage you could find difficult. Answer honestly, the question is not designed to catch you out, but your answer should demonstrate humility.

Make sure you show how you plan to overcome any difficulties because this demonstrates your commitment to learning and shows the panel that you are teachable.

Pupillage Questions For Competency Based Interview

The best barristers demonstrate a high-level of competency. As part of your pupillage interview, you could be asked the following:

Describe a time when you acted on your own initiative

Being a barrister often requires you to think on your feet and under pressure – without support. To describe a time you had to act on your own initiative, draw on your experiences to clearly demonstrate the problem or challenge you faced, how you overcame it and the result of your actions. Interview panels are looking for hard evidence that you can handle yourself under pressure.

How do you react to criticism?

Competency is not all about how you perform as a barrister, it’s also about how you react in the face of adversity. This question is asked deliberately to gauge how you would respond to criticism. Are you reactive, defensive or dismissive?

Or are you proactive, responsive and adaptable? The best barristers take criticism in their stride and seek to improve in those areas where they have faced criticism.

Tell us about a time where you had to work as part of a team to achieve something

This question is an opportunity to demonstrate that you are a team player. Barristers in chambers often work as a collective to solve problems. Here you can showcase your advocacy skills and other skills that you have which a good barrister would use.

The best way to demonstrate these abilities is to use the S-T-A-R method:

Situation – It’s important to give a structured answer, first outlining the situation you faced as a team.

Task – Then specify the task – meaning the outcome you were trying to achieve.

Action – Next, describe the specific actions that you took as a team and the contribution you made individually.

Result – Lastly, tell the interview panel about the results of your actions and what those results say about you as a candidate.

Law-Related Pupillage Interview Questions

Law-related interview questions are asked to get an understanding of your view on current laws and the challenges facing the legal profession. Some questions you could be asked include:

If you could change any law, what would it be and why?

This question is asked to assess your advocacy skills and your ability to present a reasoned, logical, compelling and well-structured argument. It’s important to clearly explain why you have chosen a specific law to change and draw on oral and written advocacy skills to argue your reason for changing that law.

Tell us about a recent legal decision you have disagreed with and explain your reasoning for your point of view

This question is asked to assess how well you keep up with current high profile cases and how your personal and professional experiences may influence a particular viewpoint. Can you remain impartial and stick to the facts of a case and use those to present a logical reason for disagreeing with the outcome of a case.

For example, the recent 2022 Johnny Depp and Amber Heard libel case could be a good one to cover.

What do you think is the future of the Bar? What are the greatest challenges currently facing the profession?

A chambers interview panel may ask this question to get an understanding of your views on the Bar and what the future holds for the legal profession.

The UK justice system is constantly under scrutiny, so it’s important that you give an answer that reflects where you think the Bar is currently and demonstrates that you have an understanding of the challenges that the legal profession faces and how they can be overcome.

Debate-Related Pupillage Interview Questions

Debate-related pupillage interview questions are more difficult to prepare for, but you won’t be expected to solve a specific problem in two minutes. Instead, you will be expected to present a logical, well-presented and well-structured argument to address a hotly debated topic relating to law.

For example:

  • The death penalty – for or against?
  • Should foreign criminals be deported after serving their sentence?
  • Should minors be charged as adults for heinous crimes?
  • Should attempted suicide be criminalised?

These are some of the most widely debated topics in law, both historically and today.

Current Affairs Questions

Current affairs can have a huge bearing on UK law. For example, Britain’s exit from the European Union changed the way the legal system has to operate. Questions around current affairs are asked to assess how well you keep up with issues that have a bearing on the legal profession. You could be asked questions like:

What newspapers do you read and why?

This question is asked to assess where you get your knowledge of current affairs topics from and how you process that information in relation to the law.

How has Brexit affected UK law?

Arguably the biggest issue to affect UK law in recent years, Brexit is a huge topic. If you’re asked this question, you should take one aspect of Brexit that you are familiar with and give a well-structured answer as to how that one aspect has changed UK law.


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Think On Your Feet Questions

These questions aren’t asked to catch you out, but rather to assess how you would respond on the spot. Some chambers interview panels ask some really awkward questions. For example:

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?

This is a really loaded question, but one you may have to answer. This question is asked to assess how diplomatic you can be and argue a case sensitively and professionally without feeling conflicted. You would need to answer this question honestly and remain true to your convictions.

Who do you most aspire to be like?

This question is asked to give pupillage interview panels an idea of who inspires you and why. It can reveal a lot about your character and the characteristics you potentially view as making someone a good barrister.

Explain how to get from A to B on the tube to an alien

According to The Inner Temple, this is a genuine question asked by some chambers interview panels. The question is asked to assess how clearly and concisely you can provide an explanation for something that requires logical thinking in the moment. You will need to demonstrate that you can answer without using jargon to ensure that you are fully understood.

Questions For The Pupillage Interview Panel

It’s important to prepare questions for the chambers with which you are interviewing. This is your opportunity to ask questions about how they cover the specific areas of law you’re interested in as part of your pupillage, and to ask about the culture and the wider opportunities available to you.

Having relevant questions for pupillage interview panels demonstrates that you have a genuine interest in their chambers. A lack of questions could be perceived as a lack of interest, so ensure that you have your questions to hand or memorised, because you won’t get another opportunity to ask them.


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