Day 197, week 41: interview tips

I see that The Times has just published a guide to doing an interview for prospective pupils and trainees (see  It all looks pretty useful stuff but perhaps it doesn’t go far enough in the tactics which can be deployed.  Remember, it’s a bunch of lawyers which will be interviewing you.  They’re as cynical as it comes and of course you have to tick the boxes The Times suggests.  But what about trying to get through to each of the individuals personally?  First, get hold of a list of the people who will be interviewing you and then spend at least as much time mugging up on them as on any bit of law.  Here are a few suggestions to get you going:

1.  If you’re going to look on facebook you might be surprised to find a lot of barristers already listed.  Check out who their friends are and their friends of friends.  Maybe somewhere you can find a contact which you can follow up.  A word in an ear before the interview will be worth a lot more than knowing a million law cases.

2.  Then you might want to google each member of the people interviewing you.  See if they have any particular interests.  If it’s cricket, for example, start preparing some cricketing analogies which you can throw in such as “playing with a straight bat”, “throwing a googly” or “hitting the other side for six”. 

3.  Check to see if any of them has been involved in any big cases recently.  You’ll only flatter their egos by mentioning these cases however obscure they’ll be.  It’s such a cut throat world that lawyers rarely give each other praise and it’s therefore all the more welcome when it does come, even from a self-serving interviewee.

4.  Finally, if you’ve got time on your hands and really want to make an impression, go and join a couple of the clubs which these people may belong to.  Maybe it’s the Bar Clay Pigeon-Shooting Society or the Law Society Wine-Tasting Club.  Whatever it is, a nice little coincidental meeting will clearly not go amiss.

These are just small examples.  Use your imagination and try and get some connection with your interview panel.  Then remember that after that it’s just down to straight luck as OldSmoothie showed me earlier this year (at when he gave me instructions when choosing people for mini-pupillages in the following terms, “No-one who’s been to a polyversity or whatever they call themselves these days. Doesn’t fool me. No-one over fifty – we’ll be subsidising their rent for ten years and then they’ll retire. Oh, and no-one called Wayne or Shane. Just wouldn’t look good on the board.”  It reminded me at the time of the apocryphal story of a recruiter for an investment bank who randomly picked up half of the application forms and threw them in the bin. “Well”, he answered, “we don’t want the unlucky ones.”

Oh, and let’s just hope you don’t get UpTights on the panel!

July 10, 2007 · Tim Kevan · 11 Comments
Posted in: Uncategorized

11 Responses

  1. Just Me - July 10, 2007

    Do tell Baby B are any of the benchers on facebook?

  2. Mike - July 10, 2007

    The ‘apocryphal’ story of the investment banker… It is not apocryphal – I was working for a Swiss Investment Bank, had advertised for someone to do ‘research’. HR made the mistake of placing the advert in the Sunday Times – I was innundated with applicants. Two plastic carrier bags full.
    I was sorting them in to three piles.
    The Partner, to whom I reported, came to see how I was getting on…
    “Those are ‘No’, those are ‘maybe’ and those are ‘Yes’ interview.
    “May I help ?”
    He then told me that Napoleon would never work with an unlucky General, at which point, he emptied one carrier bag in to the bin…
    I sat there open mouthed… my mind recalling all the applications I had made for pupillage…
    “Well, you wouldnt want to work with anyone who was unlucky – wouldnt do your bonus any good at all…”
    I have since heard the story retold several times.
    It is possible that he also heard the story and acted it out on a whim…
    …and when I next receive another rejection letter (from Chambers who still bother with such things…), I will sit and wonder if someone somewhere has read your blog and decided to act it out…
    C’est la vie – must dash, another pupillage application to submit !

  3. Sass - July 10, 2007

    I’m so glad I still have years to sort all this out! Well done on the tape by the way.

  4. Sherry - July 10, 2007

    Your post assumes that the chambers will tell you who is interviewing you; in my experience they are not in a hurry to give you this information.
    That said, a quick peek at who is on their pupillage panel can give you some indication.

  5. FS - July 10, 2007

    Wise words as always.

  6. Wayne - July 10, 2007

    What’s wrong with being called Wayne?

  7. Shane - July 10, 2007

    …and don’t forget Shane, Wayne!

  8. Alex - July 11, 2007

    Will give it a try BabyB

  9. Peter - July 11, 2007

    I’ve got a pupillage for October, and my name is Peter.

  10. Dom - July 13, 2007

    typically digusting behaviour at the bar

  11. Anonymous - March 6, 2008

    All those “tips” sound like c**p to me. work hard and be yourself and that should do it. If it doesn’t you’re probably not good enough. harsh but true…