A typical first-round pupillage interview is 10-15 minutes. Even a second-round session might not be longer than 20. That’s not a lot of time to make the impression that is going to get you a career that (you hope!) will be your passion for years to come.
So what can you do to maximise your chances of winning that coveted pupillage offer from the set of your dreams? Here are 3 ways to impress at interview.
Impress a Pupillage Interviewer: Speak slowly, clearly, and take your time to think
It sounds so basic. I know. It sounds like the sort of advice you give a child before they go and stay with their grandparents. Be that as it may, this is the single most important piece of advice you will get as your prepare for your pupillage interviews.
They know you’re smart and know the law, otherwise they wouldn’t have invited you for an interview. They know what it is you’ve done, what experiences make you qualified, so then the question becomes: Why have an interview at all? Why not just pick from the best paper applications? After all, the majority of a barristers’ work is paper-based, right, so what better way to demonstrate aptitude in this area than through a paper application?
The fact is that barristers talk. Barristers are paid, sometimes in 6 minute chunks, to talk to a judge and convince them that they are right and their client should win the case.
Who is more persuasive – someone calm, clear, deliberate, and leads the judge gently through their points, or someone mind-blowingly smart but incapable of ordering their thoughts and who garbles their submissions into an incomprehensible jumble? I know who I would pick.
Think of the panel. Think of how many applicants they’ve seen that day, each essentially identikit persons of each other, each perfectly suited to the job. Think of how many things they’d rather be doing (e.g. their jobs). They’re tired, it’s probably uncomfortably warm in the interview room, and all they want is to get through their list.
If you turn up, smile, are willing to get stuck in with good grace and better humour, they’re going to think you’re the bees’ knees for brightening up their monotony.
Impress a Pupillage Interviewer: Be argumentative
You get zero points for sitting there and agreeing with what the interview panel is saying. The barristers interviewing you are all professional arguers! Some of them might even be experienced QCs. They’re used to people listening to them and going “huh, I guess you’re right.”
So don’t do that. If they say something debatable, point it out. If they present an argument in a perfectly reasonable manner, look ahead, see where it goes, and tell them why they’re wrong. This is hard – after all, you’re trying to pick holes in arguments at speed – but it’s what you’ll have to do on the job.
No matter what else happens in your interview, if you’re the applicant that takes an assumption underlying their argument that nobody else has noticed, exposes it to the light, and then demonstrates why it’s wrong, you’ve got that pupillage offer.
Published: 16/02/18 Author: Oliver Jackson
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