Career in Law | Blog

6 Predictable Pupillage Interview Questions And Answers

Updated 17 March 2019

With the pupillage interview season well on the way, we thought it would be timely to review six most common interview questions and share our pupillage interview tips and advice on how to answer these questions.

1. How well do you know your application

You can be certain that your CV and cover letter will be scrutinised in more details during the interview panel. Typically, interviewers like to start with questions around your pupillage application, so knowing your application will ensure you make a good start by showcasing a detailed preparation. Questions could include:

  1. Discuss relevant work experience
  2. Degree subjects
  3. Exam results
  4. Interest and extra-curricular activities

Is also worth remembering the interviewer's will interview 100s of applicants and they will not remember your face, so always link yourself to the form to ensure you are memorable to the interviewers.  Equally having something quirky or memorable on your CV could make you stand out in the interviewing panel memory.

2. Showcase your advocacy skills

The interviewing panel will test your advocacy skills and ultimately how convincingly can you articulate an argument- a key quality required by barristers. Be sure to analyze the question objectively as you may well be asked to provide your view but also an alternative view. Some questions may include:

  1. If you could change one piece of legislation what would it be?
  2. Discuss a recent piece of news related to a career at the bar
  3. What area of law interests you the most currently
  4. What do you think about the holocaust?
  5. Do you agree with the death penalty?

It’s important to remember there is no right or wrong answer to these questions and according to the secret barrister, the key is to immerse yourself in current affairs. 

3. Case study question

This part of the interview you are essentially presented with a case study e.g commercial contract and asked to answer a set of questions around the construction or interpretation of that contract. A lot of aspiring barristers get this wrong by assuming that they are being tested on their legal knowledge but in fact, you are being tested on your ability to think on your feet while constructing and presenting an argument that deals with the question. However, demonstrating some basic knowledge of the area you are interested in would be advantageous and certainly impress the interviewers. These scenario questions usually vary from set to set depending on their core areas of practice but it will usually be linked to an area of law the set is known for as per below:

  1. You are given a set of facts from which you are required to make a bail application for your client
  2. You are given a commercial contract with a set of terms you are required to interpret

4. Why a career in law

These questions are designed to test your knowledge about different legal professions and particularly a good understanding of the bar. Keeping yourself up to date with recent developments affecting the bar is a must. Equally a sound knowledge of bar traditions and history is required. The questions may include:

  1. Why barristers wear wigs and gowns
  2. Share with us one or two challenges you believe the bar is currently facing
  3. Why solicitors and barrister’s profession separated

5. Why a career at the bar

These questions are plainly designed to test your motivation for becoming a barrister and what steps you have taken so far that led you to decide on this profession. The questions are inherently personal, so any answers you provide must be personal to your experience and skills you have that are suited to a career as a barrister. The key here to stand out from the crowd is to pick one or two points that have sparked your interest personally in a career as a barrister and discuss it in more details by linking it with relevant skills and attributes while matching with the set’s requirements. Some questions may include:

  1. Why have you decided to be a commercial/criminal/family barrister?
  2. Why should we offer you a pupillage?
  3. Why a career as a solicitor is not for you?
  4. Why this set of chambers?
  5. What does it take to become a good barrister?
  6. Discuss your experience so far that had prepared you for life at the bar

6. Why this set of chambers

Similar to other jobs, you will need to convince the interviewing panel that your choice of chambers fits well with your profile and career goals. Simply throwing some facts about the chambers will not be enough to get you through. Catriona Hodge of 5 Essex court advises avoiding sounding robotic but instead demonstrate clearly what motivated you to apply at this set. You will need to be specific with you reasons why you have chosen this set and you will need to link it with relevant attributes and experience sought by the chambers. 4 New Square Chambers, for example, has helpfully put up a document, which sets out what they are looking for from a pupil and future tenant.

Top tip

To succeed at the bar you will need to demonstrate a high level of perseverance and pupillage interviews are no exception. Do not give up if you do not pass an interview. According to Catriona Hodge at 5 Essex court, you should treat it as a learning curve. The fact is that It is quite rare to see barristers who have not been through multiple interviews before finally securing a pupillage. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback because that feedback could be crucial to nailing the next interview.

What is the most unconventional pupillage interview question you were asked? Please feel free to share your experience and comments below. 


Joe Simmons

Legal recruiter and blogger @purelegaljobs

Useful links:

Pupillage interview uncovered

11 things not to do in a pupillage interview

Jobs for barristers without pupillage