Those of you who read this blog regularly might remember the little local difficulty we had with Oxbridge Training Contracts last year. I was recently contacted by a reader who wishes to remain anonymous. That reader wanted to take advantage of a commercial service offered by an organisation called Judicial Appointments Training. This is not cheating. It is preparation for interviews, offered on a one to one basis, with the aim of making you a more persuasive candidate. I said that I saw no reason why, if it was affordable to the reader, they ought not to avail themselves of it. The reader, in gratitude, offered to provide a report. Here it is. My thoughts are below.
I completed the BVC a year ago and have since had 8 interviews, none of which progressed to second rounds. I felt my interview technique was letting me down and the little feedback I received from chambers was not helpful in pin-pointing where I was going wrong. I saw pupillage interview training being advertised by Judicial Appointments Training (JAT) and decided to give it a go.
Arranging a training session
Most of the information about pupillage interview training is available on the JAT website;
I called the company for further information and was put through to Martin Soorjoo, one of the two trainers. He was really friendly and willing to answer the questions I had about the service he provides.
I arranged a training session over the phone and received an email a few hours later confirming the appointment and requesting that I send a copy of my Pupillage Portal application and the names of chambers I had upcoming interviews with. This is so that the training session could be tailored to the type of sets I had applied to.
The service offered
The service offered for pupillage interview training is a one-on-one session, including a mock interview which is recorded, and feedback. The sessions are either 60 minutes or 90 minutes long.
Pupillage interview training is discounted by 33% for pupillage applicants. The cost is:
– £150 – 60 minute session
– £225 - 90 minute session
The training is available on weekdays up until 9pm, subject to availability.
Martin was very accommodating in arranging a convenient time, considering I work full time and was travelling.
JAT is located in Clerkenwell, London. The office is literally a three minute walk from Farringdon Tube Station, so it is easily accessible.
The training session
I was met by Martin on arrival and taken to a conference room. The setting for the training session is similar to rooms used by chambers for interviews, so it felt real.
The session started with a discussion about me, my background and the interview experiences I have had so far. The discussion then moved onto the strengths and weaknesses of my application and the types of things I could say about myself at interview to stand out.
I then had a mock interview that was videoed. I had to leave the room and re-enter to make it as realistic as possible. The interview itself was very tough and felt like the real thing. It lasted about 30 minutes and covered different types of typical (and non-typical) interview questions, which were tailored to my application and preferred areas of law/practice.
After it was over, Martin gave a thorough de-brief on the whole interview, in terms of both technique and content of my answers. Martin went through each question and rated each answer I gave. Be prepared; the feedback given is frank! However, it is also constructive and helped me realise where and how I was making mistakes.
After the session I had to dash to catch my train (my fault for not booking a later one!). Martin sent me the DVD of my interview in the post a few days later, along with helpful documents about interview preparation techniques.
The continued support offered after the session is really good; I would not hesitate to email Martin with questions I have in future. I think this says a lot about the level of service JAT provides its customers.
I found the experience incredibly useful. The service provided is friendly and professional. Martin was so helpful and puts you at ease. He really works with you to make the most of the session. In this respect, the training is very good value for money given that somebody with such experience of the Bar and pupillage interviews (he was on the pupillage committee at his chambers) is giving you one-on-one advice.
The advice given is practical and constructive. It helped me realise the mistakes I have been making and how I can try to improve my performance for future interviews. I also really liked that the mock-interview was tailored to sets I had interviews with; it is another example of how JAT work with you to improve your performance.
It’s not a quick-fix solution that is guaranteed to get you pupillage and those considering whether to try it should be realistic about what they want to achieve from the experience. However, I noticed a considerable difference in the interview I had after the training and it has definitely helped me.
The price may seem steep, but if you can afford it and you’re serious about pupillage then it’s worth the money in my opinion. If you’re like me then you’ve already thrown £10000 or more into BVC fees (and the rest) so £225 isn’t that much more in comparison. Also, I don’t think that the service is overpriced at the rates charged; those running it are professional people with years of experience. Also, it really is worth paying extra for the 90minute session as the time goes so quickly.
I know that my law school had a Careers Advisor who offered to do mock interviews, but I (foolishly) never took this up this opportunity. Therefore, I can’t compare the service offered by JAT to any other providers of interview training.
Overall, I really can’t think of anything negative about JAT and would recommend the training to those struggling with pupillage interviews.
JAT (and I have agonised about putting up a link to their site because it is advertising them. But I reckoned most of you would look anyway) are not a sham outfit. The people running it are real barristers and there is no reason to doubt their experience or expertise. They are offering a service which is clearly wanted by sufficient people to make it a paying proposition. The prices are not, in this particular marketplace, unreasonable: it currently costs over £300 to get the same assistance with a Silk Application Form and that is without any help with the interview. They are not over-promising on what they can deliver. I have absolutely no reason to doubt my informant’s judgement and I believe in my informant’s bona fides. The review is a real one. It might help.
I have two comments. Firstly, any barrister reading this whose Chambers does not publish, on its website, what it looks for in terms of qualities required, should now understand and be worried by the fact that people are paying to find out what they should be being told for free. It is time that the profession did something about this. Quite a lot of the know-how (by no means all) being provided by this organisation is stuff which Chambers could tell any applicant. Nor is it a big secret. Those who apply for Judicial appointment or Silk are told what qualities are required and how to demonstrate them. If it’s ok for the profession then it’s ok for applicants as well.
Secondly, I have no objection to people making a living by selling this sort of knowledge. However the BPTC providers should be paying for it. If they cannot provide it themselves then they ought to buy it in. To charge people £12,ooo and upwards and not to provide this sort of service is nothing sort of scandalous. I suggest that any applicant to any BPTC course, or any participant on a course, makes a formal request to their provider for such a service, as part of their fee. I repeat my suggestion that applicants ask for success figures in terms of pupillages achieved and that pressure is put on the providers to keep proper accurate figures. Pupillage is extremely difficult to obtain and quite a lot of you – if I may gently say so – are more optimistic than may be sensible. But you are entitled to have your prospects maximised for the money you are paying.
Now, of course, my informant had not taken advantage of their BPTC’s provider’s careers advice and it may be that, had they done so, they would not have needed to seek external help. But I have not been deluged with emails praising this aspect of the course. I would be interested in your views and your experiences. Are the providers sending you into interviews (and indeed into the Portal) full of confidence? Are they doing anything? Let me know.
Update: JAT are now linking to this post. They are not overdoing what was said about them, merely saying that there is a review. The rather restrained way they have dealt with what is a pretty favourable piece seems to me to suggest that they are a responsible and sensible outfit.