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Thursday, 5 June 2008

More on Interviews

By popular request.

Jewellery: discreet please. Wedding rings are fine - if yours looks like it really belongs on Snoopy Dawg-Dawg then it may require some adjustment. Men's signet rings are fine - half the panel will be wearing them. Masonic rings are not such a good idea these days. Women's rings are fine too, providing that the stone is not the size of a small mountain. But do try not to be the lady on the white horse. Similarly, for women small and smart earrings are not a problem. Some people still think that pearls and diamonds are for evening wear only so I would steer away. The bright red fishing lure - original though it undoubtedly is - should be left at home. Earrings for men are still a huge risk. Necklaces are fine for women, but do try not to convey the impression that you would be at risk of being mugged on your way to court. Once you are a tenant you can be as bling as you like, but less is more at interview. If the panel can see a man's necklace, he is either not sensibly dressed or a time machine has transported everyone back to the 1970's.

Providing that your form was filled in honestly, I see no need to correct the grade you are likely to get. However, at interview you must not tell lies. Consequently, if asked, you must explain the change and be able to explain it. 'I stopped working because going on the lash was much more interesting' is not an acceptable explanation. There is also the tricky matter of an offer being conditional on a particular grade. I don't know if Chambers are doing this, but if so it might be sensible to volunteer that you may have slipped a couple of points. If they want you it is unlikely to matter.

Traditionally Chambers did not worry about the BVC grade. That seems, anecdotally, to be changing. If that is so then a Competent is unlikely to be good enough. The real issue is why that is your grade. A good explanation should be enough. The best advice I can give is to check Chambers own requirements. If they are not looking for a VC or higher then I would not worry about a Competent grade. Whether it is high or low is irrelevant, providing you didn't just scrape through by one or two points.

I agree that the more specialised the pupillage, the more depth to the legal knowledge required. The reason is simple enough: if you want to do patent work then it is presumed that you have bothered to find out quite a lot about it. How else can they distinguish you from the common or garden sociopath applying for such a pupillage?

If the Smarties were on the desk then I would tend to the view that those behind it were not smart.

One final thought. Do not try and make the panel laugh. The strategy is simply too high risk. By all means make a light hearted comment if the occasion arises, if it is appropriate and if it is in tune with the atmosphere. But jokes and comedy routines will not succeed unless you are Emo Phillips (and in some Chambers not even then). Barristers take pupillage selection terribly seriously and the best you will do is to achieve nothing.


Usefully Employed said...

I've already posted this elsewhere, but I'm at a non-London chambers, and the pupillage committee are understandably nervous about accepting pupils from far afield who will apply for tenancies back home as soon as they've completed pupillage, or after a year or so. If you're going to a new city in search of pupillage then be prepared to demonstrate your links (or in their absence, commitment) to the area.

Anonymous said...

Hi Simon,

Thanks once again for the heads up! I have a question with respect to " finishing touches" for want of a better phrase.
A couple of weeks ago, I took myself off to my hair doctor and had my tresses both cut and coloured; the cut is very attractive and quite flattering but I skunked the colour; would chambers form a bad impression of a candidate on the basis of a loud hairdo?!?!
(Ps: perhaps you should set up shop as style guru to the prospective pupil!!)

wayne jaggernauth said...

I'd like to know what time schedule Chambers' operate in respect of short-listing. Its already June, and I suspect that if an offer of an interview has not been made, then it is unlikely to be made. With Olpas rules, it may make sense for Chambers to complete selection by end of June, so that offers of pupillage can be made from 1st July.

Anonymous said...

*Engage Panic Mode* - Oh Wayne, please dont tell me you've had the lergie email doing the rounds saying that if your OLPAS status doesnt change with respect to your chosen chambers (i.e. you never hear anything) the less likely you are to be called for interview....!
(*Panic Mode Engaged - EEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!)

wayne jaggernauth said...

Well I did get a prompt rejection the day following the OLPAS deadline from one set. I also did a mini just over two weeks ago and they were in the process of short-listing at that set.

Is it that some sets have a second rounds of interviews if their first lot are not suitable?

Ah.. I pity the selectors. Sometimes brilliance can indeed be blinding. At least I take comfort in the fact that I'm always going to be likeable, with or without pupillage!! (oh where's my modesty today?? - thinks two bottles of Henny's Dry Cider is in order).

Anonymous said...

Wow, Wayne, thats a FAST rejection!It must have been painful, but at least you know where you stand with that set. I sometimes wish chambers would hurry up their decisions a bit, but then come to realise that this is impractical; the pupillage committee have to conduct their own business as barristers and then at the end of all that, read between 40 and 800 applications for pupillage for which they dont get much except blame from other tenants if they happen to choose the wrong person! I have come to the latent conclusion that no news, however frustrating, is good news
For what its worth, I wish you well, and hope that you hear something positive very soon!!

wayne jaggernauth said...

Thank you LawMinx, and all the best to you too.

Bar or Bust said...

I find it interesting that you pick out masonic rings in particular. Is there a general dislike of Freemasonry at the Bar, or is it the idea of someone trying to curry favour by publicly displaying membership that is the problem?

I wear mine at all times, although I have the swivel front variety so that it can be discreet when the need arises.

Josephine Bloggs said...

Wayne, given that the Bar Council has agreed a common timetable to apply to all pupillage providers, OLPAS and non-OLPAS, which states that no offers can be made in the period 1 May to 31 July it would make sense that you may not hear from Chambers until late July. Chambers have hundreds of apps and a job to do as well, so if you haven't heard yet it doesn't necessarily mean it's a no-hoper - lots of Chambers seem to be sending out their rejection letters first, too, so no news could be good news, surely? Chin up!

Simon, thanks for these posts on interview - as always some very sound advice with the added bonus of making me chuckle rather than weep with despair! I checked my googlemail for the first time in literally months and spotted an email from you sent in September (!). I'm sorry I never replied - I'm afraid I fell prey to the BVC a little this year and Josephine Bloggs consequently became neglected... Perhaps I should revive her now that exams are over and I am existing in a persistent state of waiting.

Anonymous said...

Josie BLOGGS!!!!!! :))

Welcome back to the Ether!!!!! You simply HAVE to start blogging again, we are all DYING to hear of your take on matters bar vocational!!

Usefully Employed said...

BoB - personally I would take it off. There are many freemasons at the bar - but those who are won't choose you because of your membership, yet you'll never know what secret grudges against it others may hold and how it will affect their vote. People may also silently hold the assumption you've put it on as a 'secret symbol' to any knowing eyes on the panel.

I hear sentiments voiced both ways in my chambers. Whilst it will feel wrong to leave your system of belief (if you can call freemasonry that) at the door, pupillage and tenancy are regrettably a case of fitting a certain mould then working hard to change it once you're in.

Lost London Law Student said...

BOB a mason! Truely shocking indeed. I have some mason things inherited from my grandfather, shouldn't really have them though.

Last I heard 12% of the judiciary are members of the freemasons, make the grand sign and a judge is obliged to give his brother a more lenient sentence. These days are probably gone. That and masonry all the whole to be honest is about scratching backs, and any element of them being related to the occult is stuff of 18th century fantasy.

Simon - glad you mentioned shoes! These things nowadays are overlooked! As the saying goes "he with the cleanest shoes, gets the job" I've just polished mine ;)

Bar or Bust said...


Its nice to see that misconceptions and half truths reign supreme. If soemone was in the dock and did a sign to a Judge that was a mason he would probably get years added on. There is no such obligation on Judges to be lenient.

It is not about scratching backs, but you are correct that it is not occult, merely esoteric. However this is fairly off topis so I shall leave it at that :)

Matt said...

I can understand why masonic jewellry would be a bad idea - Masons are not encouraged to demonstrated favouratism simply because of membership of the fraternity, and would most probably view the open display of rings etc... as a rather unsubtle attempt to influence the panel.

As for 12% of the judiciary being Masons: As low as that?

Very good posts Simon. They've been extremely helpful. Fortunately, on the whole, it's stuff that I've largely thought of, but there are one or two things in there that perhaps would have tiptoed by unnoticed. Thanks!

wayne jaggernauth said...

Here's another reason why its good to get to know the Clerks in Chambers. I've called one of the sets I applied to, and was told they are only now sorting out the OPLAS applications. So, there is hope still.

Bar or Bust said...

I think I possibly need to clear a few things up:

I don't expect my membership to bring me any advantage/disadvantage in pupillage interviews, nor would I want it to. I believe in meritocracy first and foremost.

Although I am very proud of my membership I appreciate that other people are not fans of Freemasonry, thus the reason why my ring has a reversible face so that it looks like a plain gold signet when the need arises. If asked in interview about membership I would answer truthfully, but see above why I would not choose to make it known otherwise.

Hope that clears it up,


Nin said...

Hi Simon,

Just wondering on whether you might find time to give us the benefit of your wisdom on how not to royally b@lls up pupillage and how to secure a tenancy - perhaps a 'tenancy and how to get it' post?

Have benefited hugely from your advice over the last year or two (and secured pupillage) and am now concerned to make sure that I don't stuff up.

Any advice gratefully received.

*is a wee bit scared*

Anya said...

*seconds nin's post, with particular reference to last month before tenancy decision*