A pupillage interview involves a series of questions and practical tasks to assess your suitability for a career as a barrister and in chambers. Here’s what to expect.

What Should You Wear To A Pupillage Interview?

You won’t be assessed on your dress sense, but in a competitive legal market, pupillage interview panels could be swayed by the smallest details – from your handshake to what you’re wearing. Smart, professional clothing is recommended to make a good impression.

Pupillage Interview Questions

The bulk of the pupillage interview process will involve several questions about your CV, your work experiences and your life experiences. This part of the process is an opportunity to apply your academic and general experiences to the questions asked of you and to demonstrate your commitment to the Bar and why you want to join a specific chambers.

You can learn more about pupillage interview questions in our dedicated guide.

Pupillage Advice: Practical Exercises

In addition to pupillage questions, you may be asked to undertake practical exercises as part of your pupillage interview process. The format of the exercise will differ from chamber to chamber, but will likely require you to demonstrate:

  • Advocacy and presentation skills
  • The ability to think on your feet and cope under pressure
  • The ability to articulate an argument clearly and persuasively
  • Analytical skills
  • The ability to structure a reasoned argument or show an understanding of current affairs

The incorporation of practical exercises will vary from chamber to chamber, and some will only ask you to complete an exercise as part of a second-round interview. Others may include a practical task in your first interview. You will normally be given advance warning that a pupillage interview will include a practical exercise.

Pupillage Requirements For Practical Exercises

As part of a practical exercise you will be required to demonstrate a positive and calm approach when put under pressure. During any practical exercise, you should expect members of the pupillage interview panel to interrupt you and challenge you on the points of your argument.

This is intentional, to assess how you react under pressure. When challenged, you should keep calm, remain professional and don’t be afraid to stick to your point.

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Types Of Practical Exercises At Pupillage Interviews

The different types of practical pupillage interview tasks you can expect to face include:

Advocacy exercise

An advocacy exercise aims to simulate a courtroom or tribunal environment, so you should prepare to be questioned and to defend your position and argue your client’s case. Advocacy exercises are usually conducted unseen or, more often, with very limited time to prepare – usually 15 – 30 minutes before your pupillage interview is about to start.

You could find yourself, at a moment’s notice, having to appeal a sentence handed down in the Crown Court or presenting a plea in mitigation, so be ready for anything.

Debating

Debate exercises are used to assess your advocacy skills and your response when confronted with counter-arguments. For example, you may be asked to debate on the topic of mandatory vaccines. You could be given advance notice of a debate exercise or you might be informed just before your interview starts.

Flexibility is important during a debating exercise because after you have presented an answer, the panel could ask you to present the opposing point of view. While there is not a set formula for preparing for these questions, two common techniques used as part of debating include ‘stakeholder’ analysis and ‘economic, social and political’ analysis.

Using these techniques will help you to present a clear and structured argument on how a particular issue affects different interest groups or you can present one economic, one social, and one political argument to support your point of view. An awareness of current affairs is good to have as debate tasks tend to revolve around an issue that’s currently in the news.

Analysing and discussing a legal issue

For this type of practical exercise, you could be given advance notice of 1 or 2 days to prepare a written advocacy statement. As part of your pupillage interview, the panel will ask you several questions that are specific to the answers you give in your written advocacy statement.

Alternatively, you could be presented with a legal issue 30 minutes before your interview, and you will need to consider the problem prior to your interview starting. During your interview, the panel will ask you questions about the issue.

Ethical or moral problem analysis and discussion

This type of practical exercise could involve presenting on one or both sides of an ethical or moral issue with the interviewing panel. You could be given advance warning or presented with an issue just before your interview starts. This type of task is designed to assess how you would respond to a legal issue when ethical or moral dilemmas are presented.

Presenting on a subject or topic of your choice

You could be asked to present on a subject or topic of your choice for 5 – 10 minutes as part of your pupillage interview. You could be given 48 hours notice or only be told 10 – 15 minutes before your interview. Make sure you have a subject or topic in mind and some brief, well-structured notes so that you are prepared either way.

Responding to a legal issue in writing

This type of task will see you presented with a fact pattern on a legal issue, and you will then be given a short window of time – usually one week – to submit a full written response and analysis prior to your pupillage interview.

Your analysis and response should be the length of a standard university essay – approximately 3,000 words. The pupillage interview panel will then ask you questions about your analysis and response.

Pupillage Interview Tips

When the day of your pupillage interview arrives, make sure you:

  • Are dressed appropriately in smart office attireĀ 
  • Have a list of questions about the chambers ready
  • Have checked our guide for pupillage interview questions that might come up
  • Do as much research as possible on the chambers you've applied for
Pupillage Interview Questions
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