Interviews · Routes to the Bar · Which Chambers?

It’s That Time of Year Again

Last year I invited comments about the way in which Chambers dealt with applicants.  The results proved interesting and I published those too, together with a follow up celebrating good practice.

I would like to repeat the exercise this year, both because it provided people with an opportunity to say what they think, and because it measures what has changed (if anything). I am interested in acknowledgements, arrangements for interviews, interviews, application forms, rejection letters and general behaviour (last year a lot of people were upset by failures to respond which are simply rude).

Can I suggest a minimum expectation below and then – below that – a more than minimum expectation which should, in my view, be the minimum.

  • An Application Form which allows you to differentiate yourself from the crowd insofar as you are able to do so.
  • If applicable, a reasonably prompt acknowledgement, which arrives within the time stated.
  • Arrangements for interview which are flexible enough to accommodate one alteration.
  • A process which sets you at your ease and gives clear clues as to what is demanded from you by way of manners, dress (formal unless specified otherwise) and timing.
  • An interview in which you feel you are given an adequate opportunity to convey your personality and ability to the panel (even if you didn’t actually do it).
  • A rejection/acceptance/invitation to second interview which arrives when they said it would.
  • A rejection/invitation to second interview which explains why you didn’t make it in terms which allow you – on a good day – to feel that it was not the same one sent to everyone and which avoids unhelpful platitudes such as, ‘The field was very strong this year and we took someone else. Bad luck.” As a rough test, if the letter could be written today, it’s unacceptable.
  • If feedback is offered, a personal conversation of no more than 10 minutes – or 2 emails – which actually address why you didn’t get it and leaves you with good ideas for future changes. I do not think feedback ought to be offered as of right: it is incredibly time consuming and no one pays the Chambers to give it to you. But if it is offered, it ought to be real.
  • Courtesy.

You will note that eccentricity (the interview with the Smarties on the table is a classic), brusque questioning, strict time limits, brief letters and failure to acknowledge your application are all ok on their face – even the last. The yardstick I have adopted is that expectations are properly generated and managed. If a set isn’t going to acknowledge the applications of those not called for interview that’s fine: but it must say so and must give a date by which, if you haven’t heard, the answer is no.

Now to the things I would like to see. If anyone experiences any of these, please tell me:

  • Information about what qualities are required. I don’t mean the usual ‘bright applicants’. I mean a specified class of degree (not as a ‘normal’ thing), specific subjects, particular extra-curricular experience (such as a mini-pupillage at the Set) and anything else which prevents you wasting an application.
  • Information about what the set are looking to see demonstrated in the application form and in interview. When I apply to be a Recorder or a QC I am told what it takes to get the appointment. I must display ‘competence’ in particular areas and I am encouraged to give specific examples to demonstrate it. There is no reason why pupillage interviews shouldn’t be the same.
  • Information about the subjects that will be covered. Insofar as possible, the interview should test what the job tests. Therefore, the questions should not ordinarily be given away because responding to questions is part of the job. However, most barristers don’t go into Court to deal with a professional negligence case and then get asked about parents who refuse blood transfusions. The interview doesn’t much replicate the Court experience if that’s what happens.
  • A tour of Chambers which can be very brief provided it takes in how to find someone if you are lost, and the location of the lavatory.
  • Feedback which tells me what I lacked, as a result of which I didn’t meet the competencies, and/or why I wasn’t taken on because of what successful candidates demonstrated which I did not.

Let me know and feel free to quote me. I am bound to say that I don’t think Chambers will necessarily take the slightest notice, but you should feel entitled to back up your request for minimally decent treatment. Anyone brave enough, when asked if they have any questions for the Chambers, to ask why they are not adopting best practice as set out above, will win a gold star for courage and should report back immediately. Do NOT do so unless you believe you are not irrevocably compromising your chances. This is not a crusade, it is an attempt to make things better. It does not require martyrs but if you are given the opportunity and can take advantage of it, then go ahead.

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98 thoughts on “It’s That Time of Year Again

  1. St John’s Chambers (Bristol) – Rejection email which can’t spell either ‘pupillage’ or ‘application’: Check.

    1. I am horrified to hear that we made such messy mistakes in our responses to candidates – please do not take this as an indication of any disregard for our applicants.

      I can assure you having been through the awful process of hunting for pupillage myself that we really do try to do our utmost to make it as painless as possible.

      I was pleased to see that we were commended last year for being nice to interviewees, but that clearly does not excuse this mistake made to those to whom we didn’t offer interviews. Please accept my apologies on behalf of chambers!

  2. I think a bigger worry than shoddy practices in recruitment (lets face it its not much different than your average high street recruitment consultant behaves) , is those chambers who seem to bypass proper process entirely. I would really like to know how come some sets get away with not advertsing pupillage (eg 6kbw Khadri, 2kbw this year, breams buildings last year to name but a few) when they don’t seem to have a proper exemption. I would also be interested to know how Furnival (apparently) have a pupil starting this year when they withdrew themselves from OLPAS last year. As soon as my 5 years pass i will report it to the BSB/BC. Yes i am too cowardly to do it and stich myself up before that deadline passes.

    1. I don’t think it’s helpful to turn this post into a repository for vague suspicions. If you have a well-founded concern then email anonymously me with the evidence. We can discuss your identity if it becomes necessary. We can discuss revealing your identity after that.

      1. There are documented cases where chambers have not conformed to the proper process. Indeed, I was rather surprised how many have gone through the BSB in the last 18 months:
        i) 3 Temple Gardens. joint Heads of Chambers were reprimanded for not downloading any of the applications made to them through OLPAS but offering pupillage to three candidates through a .private arrangement. (BSB DT, 30/1/2009, Appeal Pending);
        ii) 7 Bell Yard.s Head of Chambers was advised as to future conduct as he .signed a declaration in connection with pupillage granted by his chambers […] when the confirmation was inaccurate in that the pupillage had not been advertised as stated or at all. (BSB SH, 14/9/2009); and
        iii) Foregate Chambers. Head of Chambers was also advised as to future conduct after his chambers selected a pupil .for reasons other than those set out in its advertised and written selection criteria. and .failed to ensure that the selection procedure for pupils was through fair and open competition and on the basis of merit. (BSB DT, 19/3/2010)
        Whether these three are the only examples or not, is, of course, impossible to tell. The Wood Report (at [398]) stated that the BSB investigates 6-7 complaints of this nature a year. A limiting factor on the effectiveness of the BSB to investigate such problems is that the only people with enough evidence to make a complaint would be those on the inside (unless there was a .smoking gun. such as not downloading the OLPAS applications and then offering a pupillage). Of course this sort of thing must go on in other professions; what would be interesting is whether it is more or less common with Pupillage than elsewhere.

      2. BSB proceedings are public once a decision is arrived at. The estimate in the Wood report is correct (I know because I sit on the relevant committee, and have been involved in some of the investigations).

        Your view about limiting factors is not correct. We inspect Chambers on a regular basis at random. Of course, if nothing is problematic there is no public report.

        This does not detract from my main point which is that anonymous accusations on websites are not the way to achieve anything. It is arguably defamatory, it causes people worries which they should not be faced with in the absence of evidence, it undermines confidence in a profession without anyone being prepared to stand behind what they say, it is therefore unprofessional and it should stop.

        The Chambers named in the initial post are NOT the Chambers in Ginge’s original comment. There is a world of difference in the public pronouncement of the results of an investigation and gossip.

      3. Yes, I completely agree re. Ginge’s post and that unfounded accusations should not be made. However, I was surprised (and disappointed) about the number of upheld complaints which is why I thought it would be worth posting them. Perhaps nievely, I had thought that the only sets which did breach the rules in such a shameless way were ones like the Luton chambers which was formed up in order to award pupillages to certain people.

        In terms of limiting factors, I was relying on the Wood Report which states that “The weakness in the present system is that the BSB’s role is entirely reactive. It can only intervene when it learns that something has gone wrong. It is therefore very likely that other breaches of the rules are occurring which are undetected.” I assume from your comment that the pilot scheme of chambers inspections which Wood then discusses has been rolled out more generally. If so then that is certainly a good thing.

        PS. Apologies for the problems with the quotation marks and apostophes ending up as full stops; I’m not quite sure how that happened.

  3. This from Doughty Street:

    “Dear ,

    Thank you for your application for pupillage at . We regret to inform you that you have been unsuccessful and we shall therefore not be calling you for interview….”

    etc.

  4. Thank you for setting up and maintaining such a brilliant resource for those of us going through this demoralising process. I wish the chambers that have interviewed and will be interviewing me, would adopt your list of minimum standards.

    I am never clear what is expected of me and rarely clear as to why I haven’t been offered pupillage. I heard on the pupil grapevine that one of the companies that provides judicial appointments training is now offering pupillage interview training. Think I am going to give that a shot as I don’t fancy being permanent staff in the local supermarket!

    Cheers!
    Michael

  5. i have an oxbridge 2.1 in history. i contacted several chambers at the upper end of the chancery league before applying to ask whether it was a waste of time doing so if i didn’t have a 1st. they all said no. two have now rejected me. i called up and asked why. to their credit they did tell me the reasons given. in both cases it was that i was unable to show insufficient academic excellence. i understand that they may not have a specific policy, and say 2.1s are ok so they don’t put off someone who may be a truly excellent candidate in other ways, and i just wasn’t, but when i asked specifically, it sucks. any thoughts?

    1. They don’t say anything because they are looking for exceptional candidates across the board. It’s not exactly unheard of that Chancery sets like top academics though, so maybe you needed to do some reasearch. What I find very strange though is the fact that they’ll take 1sts from pretty average universities over 2.1s from excellent ones.

      1. Can you define how an excellent university is judged? And an average one? And why the collective excellence of an institution essentially adds a grade to the achievement of an individual student?

    2. Excellent university in this context would be Oxford, Cambridge, LSE, Imperial, possibly also UCL, King’s London, Bristol, etc. I can see I am going to be attacked for snobbery but I think it’s fairly obvious that a 1st class degree from one of these places indicates that a lot of work coupled with a good mind is in operation. From an average university – Newcastle and below on rankings? – the standard required for a 1st is uncontroversially lower. I haven’t discussed what might be classified as less respected universities for the simple reason that I didn’t refer to them in my first post. I’m not saying that a 1st from Oxford is evidence of a better brain than one from Newcastle. But then neither is it conclusive proof of a better brain than a 2.1 from Oxford or from Newcastle. In so far as they show anything however the university, examiners, examination questions, standard of other students, scop of syllabus, etc are useful. And that is without importing the subtext here: X is easier to get into than Y, etc.

      1. I don’t agree that the standard required for a 1st from a non-Oxbridge or non-excellent university is uncontroversially lower. It’s controversial as of now, if not earlier. Nor was that my main point: which was to deal with your contention that a 2:1 from such a University was as good as a 1st from elsewhere. I have no evidence for that myself and I regard it as otherwise being a lazy assumption which panders to prejudice. As such it should have no place in recruitment decisions.

        However, evidence is another matter. Do you have any?

      2. Hopeful Pupil you are not going to be attached for snobbery you are going to be attacked for stupidity and perpetuating this myth that Oxford, Cambridge, LSE, Imperial, possibly also UCL, King’s London, Bristol, are the only excellent Universities. It is excellent students that are needed and one should not care about the University. For far to long the Bar has and continues to, offer pupillage to a university not a student, it is wrong discriminatory and should stop. I have seen this in Chambers for a very long time and it sickens me.

      3. The Judge: I am sadly not in a position to perpetuate or debunk anything.
        SM: I think you know you are erecting straw men here.

  6. Ginge, I sincerely doubt anything untoward has gone on with Furnival. It just wouldn’t be allowed at a reputable set. Sets may allow pupils to defer their pupillage if e.g the pupil gets an amazing (law-related) opportunity/suffers a family tragedy/gets pregnant. I know of at least one case of each of the above. The Bar really isn’t as full of crooks as you seem to think!!

  7. Simon,

    I’m slightly confused by an apparent contradiction here – on the one hand you say feedback is time-consuming and should not be given as of right, but on the other you seem to suggest “personalised” rejection letters, which surely amount to feedback of sorts? Personally I take no issue with being told that the field was strong and I didn’t quite make it – because frankly, that is usually the reason. Unless there is something that stands out about someone’s application (eg rubbish academics/no advocacy experience at all/violent stammer at interview/body odour) then rejection is usually because, viewed on the whole, someone else was better.

    1. You’re right. What I meant to say is that the letter should say something about the successful candidate and why they were offered pupillage (I don’t mean by giving you their cv). Something like, ‘the candidate to whom we eventually offered pupillage combined exceptional academic results with an impressive amount of pro bono work, a commitment to her community and convinced Chambers that she would fit into the ethos we have developed over the years. Your application, whilst impressive, was not quite so rounded and your interview performance not so confident.”

      That conveys information which Chambers must already have – because they have selected the pupil – without committing them to a detailed assessment of the position of a failed candidate.

      You are also right about why people fail – normally because someone is better, rather than because their application is inherently defective. But there are different grades here: at the bottom is the person who would not have been offered pupillage even if there were no better candidates (I have been in interviews where the decision was not to take a pupil). Then there are people who are good enough – just – but are always likely to be going up against someone better. Then there are people who are much of a muchness and it is down to individual panel member’s preferences and performance on the day. Then there are people who are always going to get an offer even if not today. Then there are stand out stars. I would like feedback to indicate which category you are in. I would like rejection letters to indicate which category the successful candidate was in.

      I don’t think these categories are not fixed. Although I think stars are always stars and not good enough are never good enough, someone’s position within the rest of the bracket depends on the Chambers they are applying to, the law they want to do and the strength of the rest of the- field. What do you reckon?

      1. won’t all chambers simply be able to say “the candidate we chose coupled excellent academics[1] with wide experience of the law[2] and real enthusiasm for our area of practice[3]. He was able to present arguments excellently in interview[4]. He was the strongest in a strong field[5].”

        Footnotes
        1 With a nod to our discussion above, this can mean whatever the Chambers wants it to mean, most likely defined as a 1st or 2.1 as they do on their website.
        2 In one case this might be pro bono; in another a large number of minis, though not necessarily more pro bono or more minis than every other candidate.
        3 As per 2 above.
        4 Clearly he performed best: this doesn’t really add much. See 5.
        5 See 4.

        My point is that we know the best candidate in the eyes of the chambers will have all those attributes. All that’s any use would be to know how we could better perform next time.

      2. HP – yes. I would like to see your footnoted points acknowledged in the letter. I also agree that feedback must include how to do better next time. But most sets simply do not have the resources to offer that to candidates they have not interviewed.

  8. 18 Red Lion Court: Gave an indication on how the first round interviews would be conducted and approximate length of the interview. I would however say that there is a difference between advising “turn up early”, and “turn up early because there will be questions to prepare”. At interview an indication of when you could hear further was given.

    9 Bedford Row: Slap on the wrist for not even bothering to send me a rejection email.

    187 Fleet Street should be given credit for unusually offering feedback on the application even for those who did not receive first round interview. I was told that 3 barristers marked my application and the score given by each (out of 10), the score to obtain interview, and both the number of applicants and the number obtaining interview. So far, so good, and it gave me a clue as to how close I was to making the grade (sadly, I didn’t). However, what was not explained was whether this score is based on any objective criteria. Further, the feedback I was given offered no actual criticism of my application and instead basically said “good, just not good enough”. No explanation of where I was lacking was given other than not yet having my BVC result.

    Given this last point, I consider this indicates a flaw in the current application deadlines. On the whole, pupillages are being applied for circa 18 months in advance with applications being due some time before final results have been released to candidates. Indeed, my provider had released very few of my results at that point and even offering an average grade to date would have seemed a little premature. Could the whole application process not be pushed back until after all current BVC students have received their results? I accept that something was obviously lacking in my particular application, however the point still stands. Would it not be of benefit to push the deadlines back so that all applicants would be able to say either their BVC or LLB/GDL grades? If the deadline was pushed back until early July, this would still give time for applications to be processed even for pupillages starting this year (assuming a start in September or October).

    1. “good just not good enough” is exactly the point i’ve been trying to make. it’s what every rejection i’ve had says. now some people may be bad no-hopers, but the majority of us who have spent the £££ and persevered through the hell of this process are likely to be “good” … but statistically “not good enough”. That’s why feedback unless it’s real feedback is all a waste of time.

  9. Wall of Shame for 1 Paper Buildings – message appeared on their website in May 2010 saying:

    May 2010 Update
    We are not accepting pupillage applications for 2011. We will consider Chambers position with regard pupillage for 2012 next year. Please see this page for details in due course.

    This after I had put in my application to them via OLPAS. What a waste. To make matters worse, when I contacted the OLPAS support people, they didn’t know anything about it and it was impossible to re-apply to another set as many had started the sift, if not the actual interview process. The 1 PB rejection email only came out on Monday.

    Re: Furnival Chambers: I know the person starting there in October 2010 and know for a fact that the pupillage was not advertised via the correct methods (the OLPAS website, even off-season displays non-OLPAS Chambers advertising). The person in question found out in April this year, so wasn’t a case of a deferred pupillage. I don’t begrudge them the oppertunity for pupillage, but wish that it was a level playing field and we had all had a chance.

  10. Also, despite 7 Bell Yard’s rap on the knuckles last year, thumbs up for them this year! I didn’t make the cut for the 2nd round interviews, but recieved 20mins of over the phone feedback which broke down each question, how I scored on it and what I could have done to score higher. Has really helped out at subsequent interviews.

  11. Anya

    Do you really think i would have posted my comment re: furnival if i wasn’t sure in the knowledge that something was amis.

    I do not remember saying, thinking or implying the bar was full of “crooks”. I think it is full of nepotism and too saturated with applicants to sometimes do a proper job, and i wont change my opinion on this

    1. I invited you to email me privately and you haven’t. So I don’t know if you’re sure or not and I don’t know the basis of you being sure (‘sure’ doesn’t equal ‘right’ – which raises interesting questions about criminal law which we can discuss another time).

      I don’t think that it is a good thing to refuse to change your opinion about something. What do you suggest we do when the evidence says we are wrong? I can assure you that the Bar is not full of nepotism (there may be some but it is minimal these days). Barristers are struggling and every Chambers recognises that they need the best people. I agree the Bar is saturated with applicants and that things can get missed because of that.

      But, without evidence of specific cases, this is just so much speculation. I remain happy to look at any specific case on a private basis.

      1. I am afraid as i have said I am too much of a coward to completely blot my copy book with the Bar and report it/email you until me time is up.

        I accept you are correct and the bar is not “full” of nepotism but it is alive and well. My” opinion” is on the 2 points i made (you seem to be only taking it on the first). I would change my opinion if
        a) there wasn’t evidence nepotism is alive – Furnival, Keating (barristers programme) the post (may even have been by Anya) about a pupil being given tenancy due to family connections.
        b) the Bar wasn’t saturated with applicants (many of whom are so useless they worsen the situation), a point you seem to agree.

        I therefore am a bit lost as to why you want me to change my opinion anyway.

        If I know the information is true surely I am entitled to have that opinion?

        I also have the greatest respect for those barristers who do read through every application form while on pupillage committes, and step back from candidates they know to avoid accusations of nepotisim, of which you really seem to be one. This is how the bar, and by extention my opinion, will change. As paddy says we just want an even playing field – then we can know for sure if we don’t make it we truly did, and were able to do, everything we could.

  12. There is abundant evidence that barristers and chambers are managing the whole process very poorly.
    Nepotism and non-transparency is rife.
    I think that we need more governmental regulation of the process.

    1. The Wood report was last year. He specifically asked for feedback from students and prospective pupils and I am sure that you provided your abundant evidence to him. If you will email it to me I will publish it.

      Otherwise this is simply moaning with the added twist of government regulation. The problem with that is twofold. Firstly, what on earth makes you think it would be better? Secondly, it will have to be paid for by the profession. It thus becomes another overhead and is normally provided for by not giving a pupillage. That is the reality of all this: the process of which you complain is provided for free.

      1. SM- remember the Wood report that says all is well at the Bar, was put together saying on 28% of students were from Oxbridge and this from a Chamber who has only two members from outside Oxbridge. Do you really put any credence in the report?

  13. @Anya “The Bar really isn’t as full of crooks as you seem to think!!”

    Nice to see that someone has a sense of humour.

    1. Sorry Helen but that’s a yellow card. I do not spend my time on this for people to make cheap cracks about my profession, without providing any evidence to back it up. That is unacceptable behaviour – if you want to be a barrister then please take it from me that this is unprofessional. If you don’t want to be a barrister then don’t waste people’s time here.

      This is a serious issue. I offer complete confidentiality. If you have something you wish to tell me then feel free to do so. If not then you must not use this forum to make blanket comments which bring the profession into disrepute.

      I don’t like to discourage anyone and I certainly don’t want to stifle debate. But this crosses the line. I will mark future such comments as spam.

      1. Not really. I’m the one doing the work here and I’m doing it to help out a group of people to join a profession I love. I’m not doing it for people to take cheap swipes at the Bar or the barristers who contribute in the comments section, who are also trying to help when they don’t have to.

        In pursuit of that aim I am entitled to make some rules. I would have thought that the appropriate reaction to a comment which may have seemed a good idea at the time, but which on reflection was probably perceived as the massive overstatement it actually was, was an apology. People here want to join a profession and to be taken seriously – in which case they ought to behave like it. Shouting ‘Yeah – you’re all crooks’ may satisfy the 10 year old boy inside us all. Adulthood and being a barrister is about restraining the little boy because we are not children any more.

        Quick test: would your client be prepared to hear you talk like that? If the answer is no, then take the comment to a children’s site.

  14. Hi all

    I received the same Doughty Street email: Dear [Candforename] etc etc
    A clear indication that the mail merge wasn’t calibrated properly.

    In fairness to them, the email must be sent by some third party since it also omitted the name of the chambers.

    I noticed my application to 36 Bedford Row had changed to rejected on PP without any notification from the set itself.

    I understand from friends that Landmark chambers is well into its selection process yet some of those friends’ applications remain at ‘under consideration’ on PP itself.

  15. Would be nice if chambers bothered to update PP, instead of just emailing.

    I appreciate the prompt emails and phone calls ( and an occasional letter on thick handmade paper, from chancery chambers ) when I have been successful.

    However it would be nice to know when I have been rejected. For several of the chambers, I have had to deduce my rejection from posts on TSR from other applicants indicating that the next phase has commenced.

    While I do not expect hand written epistles of rejection, surely an email saying ” Helen, you suck. You have not made it to the next round. Do not pass GO. Do not collect 200″ would be easy.

  16. Let’s clear up the Furnival point. Yes, they did not take part in last year’s OLPAS and yes, they have three pupils starting this year. How is this? They ran their own non-OLPAS applications round. I know one of the pupils due to start this year so can assure you this is reliable information.

    I do not know how or where the non-OLPAS vacancies were advertised etc, but it seems that they did have a full competitive applications process before choosing their three pupils to begin in 2010. Nothing necessarilly wrong with non-OLPAS applications is there?

    1. And I do know they were not advertised as per Annex F of the code of contact

      “4. All vacancies for pupillages must be advertised on a website designated by the Bar Council”. (aka pupillages.com)

      I know this because I look twice a week. This is fact. Going back to my original post there are others such as 2kbw who also didn’t advertise on there. It doesn’t need emails it doesn’t need any futher explanation, it is a fact.

      Last post on the issue.

      1. I have checked. Furnival advertised this year, on OLPAS. If you missed it, you missed it. OLPAS say it and there are print outs.

  17. I think 1 Garden Court deserve a slap on the wrist. I received 2 rejection emails from them in the same day (albeit and few hours apart) only to then receive a lovely rejection letter from them a few days letter. Yes, I think I get the point!! No need to rub it in.

  18. Simon,

    Do you think it’s acceptable for a chambers (in olpas) to ask at interview for examples of where else a candidate applied? And insist on names when given a general answer? Is this genuine curiosity or a test of whether someone withstands pressure?

    Thanks!

    1. No. You are entitled to apply privately. The right to such privacy does not change because you get an interview. They may be trying to see if you are a reach set for them, or a safety set, or if they have judged you right. But none of that means you are obliged to answer.

      1. I agree with this. I was asked a year ago at Ely Place how many other interviews I had had, and where. It completely took me by surprise, and I made it clear I thought it was none of their business, but they did not like that!!

  19. So a chambers not realising they need to submit something to the Bar Council website, but still advertising pupillage and taking the best candidates, confirms that “nepotism is rife” at the Bar?

    I give up. I also hope Ginge is not thinking of entering either criminal law (Defendant forgets to file form with court=Defendant guilty of murder) or defamation law.

    There are very, very few cases of actual deliberate nepotism at the pupillage stage and they are a serious disciplinary matter. They represent less than 1% of all pupillages. I want to see every last case where this is a factor stamped out. But applicants talk about this rare occurrence (and frankly, there are very few professions where there is no potential for nepotism at all) as if but for nepotism, all 1,500 unsuccessful applicants would be safely engaged in the pupillage to which they are completely entitled as of right, while those who have unfairly been chosen ahead of them are put out in the cold.

    As a barrister the number one rule is no excuses (struck down with TB – Defence is still due tomorrow); the second rule is it is always your responsibility (massively negligent solicitors/misbehaving client – profuse apology to judge, allow self to be shouted at). I think the level of vitriol directed towards the Bar by some frustrated applicants is often indicative of unsuitability for the job.

    Sorry about my tone but I’m reaching the end of my long tether. It really is frustrating when people talk in such a generalised way and without any real evidence. Frankly, if I resented a group of people so much, I certainly wouldn’t want to join them.

    *prepares for 234908 thumbs down*

    1. As I have posted above, Ginge is wrong.

      I agree with your comment and I value your input. So, too, does any aspiring barrister with any sense.

      Regrettably, some people here mistake sympathy for the predicament of bar students as an invitation to gossip. It isn’t, and when the gossip starts to malign the profession – or members of it, who are entitled not to be tried and condemned by anonymous sources on the internet – I shall stop it.

      I have not banned anyone from this site. Indeed, my normal practice is to invite critics to supply me with chapter and verse, which I am then happy to publish in full. But what I have seen on this thread is disturbing and upsetting.

      Disturbing because it suggests that there are people who seriously think they have what it takes but who lack the qualities that barristers identify as necessary for success. Those qualities have, I hope helpfully, been listed for them in a post – which they unfortunately seem incapable of assimilating – which, in turn, says little for their prospects.

      Upsetting because in order for this labour of love to continue it must be fun for me. Otherwise I won’t do it. And there is no fun at all in cheap comments being made on the basis of no information in the apparent belief that anonymity relieves the person involved of the obligation to behave responsibly or indeed politely.

      You are – and here I address those of you who aspire to do this job – supposed to be capable of bearing the burden of other people’s difficulties. Anyone who thinks that this sort of nonsense demonstrates that ability is invited to email me as to why. I’ll post it. But if you can’t do that, then don’t post rubbish. This isn’t about having a laugh or taking on The Man. This site is here to help you and, if you trash it, it will vanish.

      1. Simon,

        It would be a phenomenal shame if you stopped updating this site. You deserve none of the disrespect which is latent in some of the posts which have been made on it. You deserve nothing but congratulation and encouragement to keep going.

        As someone who managed to get a pupillage at a top set not so long ago I continue to take an interest in the plight of those who follow. Your site is their main port of solace. If aspirants show anything short of total integrity (which would embrace an acknowledgment of and deep respect for your concern and efforts on their behalf) they are heading towards the wrong profession.

        Good luck and many thanks.

      2. Simon

        I may not have the qualities to get to the bar. Fair enough. But i never said Furnval didn’t advertise THIS year i said they withdrew their advertisment from OLPAS LAST year, from when there pupillages this year would have been generated. (and if they later advertised non-olpas didn’t do this through pupillagaes.co,. I am banging an old drum, being unproductive and upsetting people so this really is my last post. But i am correct and that is fact whether you chose to believe me or not.

      3. Ginge, I don’t think I have ever said anything about your ability. I take your point about last year. Please email me privately with the details.

        Whether you go is a decision for you. I would rather you emailed me.

  20. ARGH! I find discussions like this most annoying.

    I went to a rough state school and having never met a barrister prior to mini-pupillages. I had to work quite hard to find out what a barrister’s career path was, and take great financial risks in order to achieve it.

    I fully accept that I got a pupillage through a mixture of hard work and luck – but it was just that, definitely no nepotism. No nudge nudge. No old boy’s network. Just a bit of luck.

    Now I am on the other side of it (but only just – I’ve been a tenant for 6 months). I do a lot of work with my Inn to promote the Bar to people from all walks of life. I am a mentor for the SMF and take part in the schools programme where possible.

    I do it because I know the Bar will benefit from attracting talented students from all walks of life. I do it because the Bar that I know is desperate to shake off it’s traditional cliquey image.

    I always bristle at the type of allegations levelled above. Firstly, because they contain a simple assertion that a piece of information is “true” without citing a single piece of supporting evidence – something barristers tend to value rather highly.

    But aside from that, they also completely disregard the efforts being made by the Bar to address the concerns of students. What worries me is that views such as these will be circulated around universities and will prevent otherwise strong candidates from considering the Bar.

    Yes we work very hard, we expect the best and are fiercely independent individuals. It’s true that there are a lot of strange folk at the Bar – but the eccentricity is what makes us so unique.

    We are trying to do recruitment properly. It’s hard – we’re all self-employed. We’re not Human Resources officers. And maybe sometimes, shock horror, we get it wrong.

    We know it doesn’t work every time, but I happen to think that we get it right most of the time. At the end of the day, THE BAR IS TRYING!!! And those who cannot acknowledge that either aren’t looking hard enough or just don’t want to see.

    Ok, rant over 🙂

    1. Hats off to you. You will know you are by no means the first person from a very modest background to gain pupillage and a tenancy but it is still an achievement of which you should be proud, all the more so these days when so many are vying for so few places (although it is only the first step).

      Being from such a background myself and having spent approaching thirty years as a barrister sifting applications and interviewing applicants, one thing shines from the page of an application letter like a newly polished turd, namely, a sense of entitlement.

      I have never encountered an outstanding applicant with a sense of entitlement because a sense of entitlement automatically means you are not an outstanding applicant.

      Top First of their year, achievements in sport or the arts or other extra-legal activities, references saying “this is an outstanding person” given by someone known to be an outstanding person … that will almost certainly get you an interview. At interview we are looking for other things – if we weren’t, there would be no need for interviews.

      We look primarily at character and personality, and we do so for good reason. We do it to see whether the young person who has achieved so much to date will be content to start at the bottom of a very difficult ladder. We do it so see whether their achievements to date make them think they are a finished article. We do it to see whether they will be able to deal effectively with real people. Dealing with real people is not easy.

      Sadly I have come across many applicants with a decent, but not outstanding, academic record who fail to appreciate that they are not entitled to pupillage. That might sound harsh but it is the unvarnished truth. They are applying for a “job”. They have to persuade the “employer” that they are the right person for that job. The decision will always be taken by the “employer”, who will consider numerous factors of which academic skill is one but character and personality are two of the most important.

      They are important because the work of a barrister requires you to deal with real people – lay clients, solicitors and judges. Those three categories of people need to be handled in different ways and when interviewing for pupillage we try to gain an insight into how the applicant will fare with all three. Only so much can be assessed from an interview, but we have to do what we can to select only those people whose character and personality appears suited to the work we do.

      Displaying a sense of entitlement is almost guaranteed to produce a rejection because it exemplifies an attitude that is the opposite of what is needed from a practising barrister.

      1. These last two posts are the best I have read on here. Most non lawyers that I know do seem to assume that the Bar operates by means of a system of nepotism, and indeed I probably did until some time after I began my road toward it.

        I went to a public school, and for the sake of clarity as unwelcome Americanisms seem to have perpetuated this country in recent years public = a fee-paying selective institution, and private = state school; it’s a historical categorisation. I also have three good degrees all from, while not Oxbridge, high ranking universities. I am a decade or so older than the average BVC graduate and I have a wide selection of other activities on my cv prior to entering law; Lord knows, I certainly wouldn’t want to admit to some of them in a pupillage interview! Furthermore, I am a freemason and have been for some years. I have made 40 pupillage applications in the last 18 months and had just two interviews, both of which didn’t get past the first round.

        The point of that account is that if there is the traditionally perceived nepotism at the Bar it is very well hidden! I agree that there is probably ‘some’, but it is my belief that it has moved away from the old boys’ network, as the poster above alludes, to those kinds of sets that exist to serve certain communities.

        Considering that that latest stats from the BC indicate that around 7% of the Bar is black or asain, for there to be chambers where the whole, or almost the whole of the membership is black or asain cannot, to my view, have happened by chance. That is where I see nepotism. Of course, I could be wrong.

        I will continue to try to get pupillage by my own merits, but I am soberly having to accept that I am a 2:1 individual. I have a 2:1 degree, my masters degrees are merit level and I got a VC on the bar course. While there are an abundance of first class applicants I must accept that pupillage will be even harder to get, and while a century ago I would likely have had that sense of expectation because of my background, today I must fight only on my achievements, or lack thereof.

        Personally speaking, of course I wish there was the nepotism of yesteryear – it would make life much easier. Objectively though, the open competition rules, if kept to, are in the Bar’s best interests.

  21. Honey, you took those words out of my mouth. That is the precise context in which I wrote my last post. Really, it’s like you went into my mind and pressed “print”.

  22. Completely agree with the above points made by all of those who are opposed to ginge’s sentiments. Put your dummy back in. Ultimately, the only person in control of whether you obtain pupillage is YOU.

  23. I work at a pro bono organisation popular with bar students and this thread is causing lots of chat. Big big respect to the blog please don’t stop it. But it seems ironic to some of us that this thread happily asks for subjective opinions on people’s experience of interview, not viewing that as “invitation to gossip” yet someone posting factually correct, and therefore objective, information (I am afraid ginge is correct re Furnival withdrawing their entry last year and not later advertising non-olpas) as something to be castigated for.

    @Anya with regards to the code on advertising pupillage surely it is made quite clear to pupillage providers what they must and must not do. If it is not however your own post is contradictory. You mention “chambers not realising they need to submit something to the Bar Council website” as if it is no biggie. Surely this smacks in the face of “As a barrister the number one rule is no excuses”

    1. Thanks Anya, ditto your post 🙂

      @Graeme – Surely the kind of feedback SM was looking in this thread for was more along the lines of “set A did not show me where the toiets were and didn’t bother sending me a rejection email.”

      What is being alleged against Furnival is far more serious. SM has invited anyone with any information to email him privately – that is the correct course for allegations of misconduct.

    2. Graeme,

      Of course, if Furnival did not correctly follow the procedural rules, then they have not conducted things properly. I have not attempted to excuse this error, if error it was – they should have acted in accordance with the rules.

      However, the magnitude of the error involved is surely relevant. There is an enormous difference to my mind between (probably accidentally) failing to adhere to a procedural requirement but nonetheless choosing the best candidates that apply (and it is also not in chambers’ own interests to have many candidates, who may have been better than those chosen, not apply), and giving pupillages to nieces/nephews/children/children of friends of members of chambers, i.e. nepotism.

    3. I think there is a difference between experiences of interview (necessarily subjective) and anonymous allegations of professional misconduct. You all hope to become barristers. How would you feel if you were the subject of the anonymous accusation rather than the accuser?

  24. Ginge has been ceremonially expelled.
    SM has had a little tantrum and threatened to “stop updating this blog”
    ( Oh, the bleak horror of an online world without SM QC.)
    Objective truth has been declared too harsh for our subjective exercise.

    The self-indulgent navel gazing may now go on.

    On a happier note, I am now juggling 3 second round interviews with my work commitments and family responsibilities.

    1. If you don’t like the way SM runs his extremely useful blog a. don’t read it and b. don’t post on it.

      Do try to make sure that your bitterness doesn’t come across at interview.

    2. Ginge has not been expelled and there is simply no basis for saying so. That is why I am politely asking you not to.

      How you behave towards other people in public is really a matter for you.

  25. Simon, I understand your frustration, but there are many, many people who read your blog who never comment (myself included until this point), who are grateful that you share your knowledge and advice, and many of us would be disappointed if you were to shut up shop simply because a few people have felt comfortable enough to air their grievances here.

    The bottom line is that if they air them here, and they are incorrect, someone with knowledge, experience and standing can respond accurately and dispel such myths as they arise. The alternative is that those myths will be shared amongst students as gospel – and believe me, I have heard much that needs to be dispelled!

    I am grateful to those of you who take time out to write blogs, and post on forums, giving information and advice as the need arises, and would hope that those of you that do so will continue to do so.

    My advice to those who have seen or heard something which they feel is unacceptable behaviour, is to do as Simon says (ooh a pun!), and let him know. It is perfectly possible to set up an anonymous email address, so long as you provide all the facts as you believe them to be, so that he can conduct an investigation (or whatever is necessary to find out if the allegation is true)…having the courage of your convictions is something that should extend beyond an internet forum.

    Thank you, Simon, for an interesting, and useful, blog.

  26. I wish you the very best of luck in your interviews Helen. With a bit of luck you will soon be joining the people of whom you evidently think so little. I hope that if you do make it you will come to see the real efforts being made by the Bar and will come to regret the tone of your comments here.

  27. I have read the comments above and confess to being a little confused and saddened; this was a post about the way in which chambers respond to applicants throughout the season – why then has it become so vitriolic, so skewed from the point?
    As applicants we may all feel a little bitter, a little hard done by and generally a little done down by the entire process at times, but the fact remains that if we want to enter the profession these are sentiments which we long to air as a result of pound for pound frustration ( WHY cant chambers see that I have done everything asked of me, WHY cant they understand?!)but the fact remains these are issues that we must rise above if we are to get to where we want to be. Trading insults and unfounded frustrations hardly smacks of professional behaviour; we just have to keep plugging away in the sincere hope that the BSB will look to and expect chambers to treat applicants with courtesy and understanding; this, I believe is a situation which is generally improving, but as with any standard setting exercise there is always room for yet more.

  28. I love this blog and love SM’s writing. I’ve even met him on occasion and like him too. I am a fellow barrister of some years’ call.
    It needs to be said however, in response to the murmurings of youth on here, that a private email to a particular QC, even one who has a blog and a reputation among students, is resolutely not the way to deal – as has been suggested – with a serious complaint about a Chambers.
    SM himself is merely being helpful and offering to serve as a grown-up by suggesting you email him but that doesn’t make it the right course of action.
    If you have allegations, make them in confidence to the correct authorities. Not to a blogger, however distinguished, and not by leaving them anonymously on his blog.
    Both those routes are just gossip in the end.

    1. Fair point. It is certainly preferable to refer straight to the BSB but some people need an interim stage, even if it’s just to be told that they do have some evidence and that they are right to be worried.

      Nice of you to drop by as well.

      1. I spent a peculiar amount of time drafting my last comment so as not to appear to be criticising your excellent resource for students. Oh, the perils of the web!

      2. The problem today is students seem unwilling to stand up and say what the problem is to the BSB et al as they think this will harm their futures at the Bar. If a Chambers has acted in an improper way students should be able to call the BSB and chat to someone about it. Taking anonymous cheap shots without evidence does not accomplish much save for a release of frustration. In fairness I have seen the way students are treated and understand the frustration. I think Chambers across London have to answer why so many of their pupillage places are given to Oxbridge students or friends of the family? However for a Chambers not to reply to a rejection or to make a mistake in addressing someone as Ms. instead of Mrs. or Mr. is hardly a BSB matter and frankly just goes to show why interviews were not granted to such petty people. I can assure you there are far worse things you will be called at the Bar, get over yourselves!

      3. The point about Miss/Ms is really about acceptance of mature applicants. By using the term “Miss” they are making assumptions about my age/life experience that are incorrect and symptomatic of other unrealistic expectations that mature applicants cannot always meet due to other commitments. (Positions of responsibility? I pay my taxes and mortgage and hold down a full time job. But I haven’t been an office holder in a student society since the 20th century.)

        I agree that it’s not something I would necessarily bring up with the BSB, but I think it is symptomatic of other problems with the system.

        Feel free to consider it petty whinging, though.

      4. Beth- do not sweat the small things. I have been called Ms. Mrs. and Mr. and quite honestly it took nothing away from the content of the letter, brief or email. As for “I pay my taxes and mortgage and hold down a full time job” so what? may I remind you that if you have a mortgage you are supposed to pay it. If you have earnings in excess of the allowances you are supposed to pay your taxes and if you are a responsible, Mr. Mrs. Master or Ms. and able you will have a job. So tell me why you are looking for brownie points for doing what you are supposed to do?

      5. The Judge claims to be a barrister of some experience. Given his rather odd stance I have – on a different thread – invited him to prove that point to me by disclosing, privately, his name and Chambers. He has declined (he also denied making the comment about nepotism which you can see above).

        I point this out so that those of you seeking to assess the value of his anonymous contributions can determine whether he has anything of use to say. My own view is that such advice as he gives can safely be disregarded. You must make up your own minds however.

  29. Going back to the original aim of this thread:

    Shame to Tanfield and Five Paper (civil, non-olpas) for no response whatsoever. I have seen elsewhere on the internet that they have already had their interviews, but unsuccessful candidates have not been contacted.
    Shame to Blackstone and Selborne for addressing me as “Miss” in correspondence (the former on multiple occasions). I am, in fact, married. But this is none of their business, which is why I asked/would prefer to be addressed as Ms.

    Acclaim to Cloisters for being fairly accommodating to an applicant balancing a full time job with pupillage interviewing. They were a little chaotic (forgot I was there at first interview and I only realised this when I heard them saying “we’re just waiting for Beth” when I had already been in the waiting area for 20 minutes) but otherwise seemed fairly organised.

    1. I had the same experience at Cloisters. They confirmed one time in writing, but told me when I arrived that I was half an hour early (good thing I didn’t have any interviews later that day). They also left me in a waiting room for 15 minutes before coming back in to enquire again: Who are you?

      1. To be fair, in my case I was the one who was early and my interview was held at the stated time. But they forgot about me. I wound up having less than the stated 30 minutes to prepare for the exercise. But I got through to the second round, so no lasting complaints, really.

  30. Good to see this back on topic.

    Acclaim must go to 25 Bedford Row. I was bitterly disappointed to get a rejection after second round, so I requested feedback and got a very helpful response. I am pre-BVC and knew that my advocacy exercise had let me down in a big way, but they explained the selection criteria and confirmed that my advocacy was weaker in comparison to others and that they think it will improve with experience.

    They have also always been pleasant at interviews and give candidates a sheet on arrival which explains what will happen and what they are looking for etc. Good form.

  31. tanfield same here.
    also i know someone with an offer from one brick court which interviewed a fortnight or so ago and has broken olpas timetabling rules. they’re non olpas but still…

  32. Credit to 5 Essex- friendly, informative and had a party for all second round candidates.

    Wrist slap to 2 – 3 Gray’s Inn Square: totally bizarre series of three emails thanking candidates for “attending our Assessment centre”, clarifying that that simply meant sending the application, and then repeating that the assement centre had nevertheless rejected me.

    Wrist slaps to 1 COR, and 36 Bedford Row for rejecting without sending any email, letter, phone calls, smoke signals etc (other than a ‘rejected’) on PP.

  33. “The Judge” – I take issue with you lumping chambers giving pupillages to Oxbridge students with chambers giving pupillages to friends of the family. First, as has been rehearsed here at length, the latter is extremely rare and you are presenting it as if it is normal practice at the Bar. Secondly, I don’t see why a chambers should have to explain itself for accepting a pupil from Oxbridge. Attending Oxbridge is not an accident of birth, and I don’t see why those who attend it should be excluded from consideration for pupillage as you appear to imply.

    I fully expect to get “thumbed down” for this post but what the hey.

    1. I agree. The Judge’s comment about people being willing to complain was sensible. The grumble about Oxbridge and nepotism was not. And they aren’t a real Judge either, so you don’t have to worry about disagreeing.

  34. The BVC/BPTC and cross qualifying
    Important information for bar students wishing to cross qualify as solicitors

    There has been some concern amongst bar students and applicants about new regulations (in force this September) which affect BVC/BPTC students wishing to cross qualify as solicitors.

    Under the current regulations, any bar graduate can cross qualify by obtaining a certificate of eligibility, sitting a small number of assessments and completing a period of time working for a solicitor.

    From September, new regulations would require bar graduates to complete the “full domestic route” to become a solicitor. In other words, graduates would be required to complete either pupillage or the full LPC, making it much harder to cross qualify.

    However, the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority (SRA) now suggest that bar graduates would not be required to take the full LPC. Instead BVC/BPTC graduates would only be required to take the LPC assessments, and not the full course. This would provide a more accessible route for bar graduates to become solicitors.

    It is currently unclear as to whether bar students would be exempt from any LPC assessments (for example civil and criminal litigation, advocacy, ETC) but the SRA is currently developing its policy towards this.

    For further information from the SRA, click here.

    1. Red Hand,

      One of the good things about being the owner is that I can edit comments. Not only have I posted about this, but you tried to include a link to a commercial organisation without telling me or asking for permission. I have edited it away.

      I don’t accept advertising and I don’t regard that as polite. If you would like me to link to your organisation then please email me and explain why. If the cause is good (Sweet and Maxwell’s student offer being a good example) then I am happy to do it. But please don’t abuse the hospitality offered here to sell services. Otherwise I might be tempted to post about it…

      1. Apologies.
        It was a quick cut and paste job before I went out the door of something I found on the net that I thought the readers might want to know about. No offence and certainly no advertisment intended.

  35. UTTERLY SUBJECTIVE VOTING:

    Acclaim to:
    -9 Gough Square for being so flexible to a candidate with a fulltime job – they had truly excellent administrators who did everything they could to help arrange interview times.
    -39 Essex, also for being flexible; they even arranged for a panel to see me at 8am so that I could fit in my interview before work. A minor deduction for calling candidates to second round at 3 days notice, but compensated by subsequent flexibility and friendliness during actual interview.

    Shame to:
    -Ely Place for less than impressive administration (I asked for the earliest interview possible for first round, to be told that I had the earliest slot. When I arrived, two other candidates had just finished before me. Poor form.).
    Also, not happy that when I went back for 2nd round, the panel member who came to collect me told me that he “knew I had been blogging about the first round interview” (not true – I made a remark about my own performance at Ely Place on the student room forum). He told me this just before I went into the interview – what a nice way to relax a nervous candidate!
    – Also, shame to 7 Bedford Row for having a nine-member panel at 2nd round, and declaring that they didn’t have enough time to introduce themselves. I had taken the time to make an application, write a legal question for them, prepare an ethics presentation and travel a considerable distance for both first and second rounds. I felt it was rude, and even more so given how aggressively they then argued the moral/ethics problem with me. If they insisted on a nameless panel, they could have used a more friendly approach.
    – Shame to Lamb Chambers for finally sending a rejection letter after their first and second rounds had finished. Chambers do not seem to understand that candidates talk, and it is far worse to hear of someone attending a first or second round at a set that still hasn’t contacted you at all.

    1. I imagine that what happened at Ely Place is that either a) you were giving the first proper slot and the others were squeezed in before the official start time in an effort to be flexible or b) you were given the first available slot, which was third. Neither seems particularly shameful to me.

  36. bargall – i have to disagree with you re 7 bedford row. i wasn’t introduced to all the 9 person panel by name either. (i wouldn’t have remembered those names – remembering my own was hard enough) and the 2 minutes they saved was 2 more minutes used to assess whether i was any good. i was impressed that so many members of chambers invested their saturday in interviewing candidates. i took it as a compliment that they argued so aggressively with me on the point – some were aggressive but, in my interview at least, not personal or unpleasant. some of them were clearly checking whether i could be intimidated, but certainly not in the way you hear of some chambers which i just find crass, immature and unpleasant. i got the impression of a set who wanted to see what you were about at interview and had taken plenty of time to try and select the best. not attempting to dispute your experience, but mine was very positive.

  37. simplywondered:
    Fair enough. But I have to disagree on the impression it makes. I’ve been to other interviews with more than seven barristers, and they introduced themselves nonetheless. At final round, when sets are coming down to the last 15-10 candidates, it seems to me to be particularly appropriate to introduce the panel – it’s the last time you see them before pupillage decisions are made.

    Anon:
    My experience trying to arrange a 2nd round interview leaves me to doubt your suggestions. Also, when some sets can be so efficient and helpful, and organise interviews so well, it begs the question, why can’t everyone?

  38. Kudos to:

    Trinity Chambers in Newcastle for being uber-organised in every aspect of their application process. Friendly when arranging interview timeslots, prompt when informing of progress from both first and final interview rounds. Proof that the process doesn’t have to be difficult.

    Broadway House Chambers in Bradford/Leeds for being warm, friendly and flexible with interview dates. All in all took a very realistic and practical approach to the whole pupillage affair.

    Shame to:

    Atlantic Chambers (Liverpool) and 15 Winckley Square (Preston) absolutely zero word on the progress of your application, took the best part of 3 months to reject and then no courtesy e-mail of any kind. Bad form.

  39. Big thumbs up to 187 Fleet Street, they are by far the best set of Chambers I have come across for Criminal law in terms of feedback.

    I had unsuccessful interviews with 6KBW and 5 St. Andrew’s Hill in London. 24 St John’s Buildings in Manchester and an informal chat with India Buildings in Liverpool. Of all these 187 shone out.

    In 2008 I was on their reserve list and received highly detailed feedback for both my 1st and 2nd round interviews. In 2009 I was not invited back for second interview but again, faultless feedback.

    As background, I am a poor academic candidate (2:2 Exeter University) but I passed the BVC (as it then was) at ICSL (as it then was) in 2007 and am finally due to start a first six in October (although not at 187).
    If only more sets were like 187 Fleet Street I think the lottery aspect of applications would be significantly reduced. The system is changing and, broadly, it works. It’s rather like Churchill’s comment on democracy. We who wish to be the future of the profession are the ones with the power to alter it.

  40. Okay – this was my FOURTH year of applying through OLPAS/PP and I finally got an offer for an excellent civil set. Not mentioning that set, but others I would like to comment on are:
    Bad sets:
    * Tanfield Chambers – they basically contact 8-10 candidates for interview (yes, that’s all they interview in their first round) directly via their personal email addresses and ignore the PP system. When I was interviewed a couple of years ago by them they sent a generic email to all the candidates so I could see the email addresses of the others being interviewed. If you are not on this select email list then you will NEVER hear anything on the PP system or receive any communication
    * Outer Temple Chambers – they phone you up and say they will give you feedback if you are rejected. So far I have chased this up three times by email but to no avail.
    * College Chambers/Louise Harvey – rudest woman in Britain! I have had over 30 pupillage interviews in trying for pupillage, many at very good sets, but have never before 1) cried on my way home 2) made a complaint about the way I was treated. Louise Harvey (Head of Pupillage) was nothing other than exceptionally rude throughout my interview. Her behaviour included pulling a disgusted look when reading out the name of my current employer and asking me about my salary (I worked as an advocate) and then getting extremely angry and informing me I was destroying the Bar. When I complained about her aggressive and rude behaviour I received a ridiculous letter from the Deputy Head of Chambers saying he had asked Louise Harvey for her side of the story, and considered my version of events very unlikely because she would not have know the name of my current employers and practised in a different area to that where I had been working. I was also received a hand written apology from Louise Harvey! Still, it is the only Chambers which (if I had not recently been successful) I would never consider applying to in any event.

    Good sets:
    * 36 Bedford Row – got rejected without interview; sent them a pleasant email asking for feedback and in less than 45 minutes a member of the pupillage committee phoned me back, having already discussed why with a fellow member of the committee, and provided me with real and pleasant feedback and encouragement. Full praise to Nadia Silver of 36 Bedford Row!!
    * 1 Temple Gardens – again, rejected without interview, but very grateful for the feedback on this from Richard Wilkinson.

  41. 9 Gough Square, London.

    Rejection after first round interview that didn’t arrive for over two weeks and then only after I had sent an email enquiry to the lead interviewer. When it did arrive it had half of some other poor bugger’s address above my own on the letter. I thought about complaining but thought ‘what use would it do other than alienate me from applying to those chambers next year?’.

    Those interviewing, who someone in my BVC class rather overly-charitably said ‘they are doing it in their spare time’, need to remember what trying to pupillage is like and sharpen up a bit in their levels of courtesy.

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