Life at the Bar · No Pupillage · The Future

Strike?


The Legal Aid consultation has been extended. Grayling is again shifting his ground. The MoJ – incompetent and untrustworthy as it is – is casting around in what may be an attempt to row back but is probably an attempt to find a way to make the cuts it need not make (because the spending on which it has based the cuts is well above the actual money being spent), because it does not like barristers and solicitors.

At the Young Barristers’ Conference today, Alistair MacDonald QC spoke. He asked if there were too many people applying to the Bar. That was, I presume, a direct response to the AG saying (at the Tory party conference) that there were too many barristers. As Alistair MacDonald (who I know, like and trust) is the new VC of the Bar Council, that is a pretty sensible and relevant question to ask. The answer is important to us all. Perhaps the Bar (which has almost doubled in size since I was called) is too big. Perhaps it cannot support all those who have now joined it. Perhaps we need to look for new types of work, especially as so much advocacy is now being done by solicitors. It would be a foolish VC of the Bar Council who dodged those questions. It would, for example, be opportunistic and reckless to use the occasion to deliver a tub-thumping speech which promised young members of the profession things that could not be delivered. That was not the place, and this is not the time.

Yet strike talk is everywhere. I think that is because some people need to feel better about what they cannot control and imagine that threatening a strike permits them a degree of control they do not have. They are wrong.

I have not yet made up my mind about a strike. Nor am I going to until I have to. I always tell my clients that we don’t make decisions until we have to: that way we have the maximum amount of time to think and the maximum amount of information to factor into our decision. I have seen barristers make a huge song and dance about what they will do in weeks or months time. Almost invariably I have then seen them lose.

I also believe that for senior figures to urge strike action is wrong. To support it may not be – that will be a judgment in due course. But senior members of the profession are often personally insulated from the effects of a strike. They have resources, financial and personal, that more junior members may not have. And , if they do not, they may be so anxious about their own position that they are not thinking as clearly as they would wish. Lawyers who act for themselves have a fool for a client. That applies as much to advice as it does to court representation.

That is why I believe that any call for direct action should emerge after discussion and should represent a consensus. Without consensus there are only 2 alternatives. First, people do not support the direct action. The result will be the end of any credibility for organisations and individuals perceived as pushing the direct option route. Those who took part will be demoralised and defeated. They will be resentful of those who did not support them. Those who did not support direct action will curse the idiots who decided that glory lay in a failed last stand. Any prospect of united action will be almost ended. The MoJ will laugh itself silly.

The alternative is that people are supportive but feel coerced. As direct action grinds on they will suffer. Some will go bankrupt. Some will become ill and depressed. There will be an inevitable lessening of support and the desperate will creep back to work (assuming the big solicitors’ firms represented by Des Hudson have left any for them to do). The implicit assumption I am making – of course – is that direct action will not immediately work. That assumption is the one I apply to every strategic decision I make in a case. I am (fortunately) often wrong about it, but only a fool has an idea and then assumes it will be ok if he does it.

At the moment, I favour a work to rule. This would take the form of actually doing the work I am paid to do – a court day and 2 hours. Thereafter, any work that had to be done would have to be done during the next day. The result, of course, would be that Courts ground to a halt. I would also get paid less for any case that tapered or had a fixed fee. But I would carry on earning. There are, however, significant other advantages. First, it would be interesting to see how the MoJ and its newspaper supporters (and how proud Grayling musty be to have the odious Quentin Letts and the equally odious Daily Mail in his corner) dealt with barristers actually doing what they were paid for. Secondly, it would permit the public to understand how much work I have done for nothing over the years. Thirdly, it would wake up the less empathetic members of the Judiciary to the fact that our goodwill is necessary for them to be able to hold their noses about this debate and pretend it does not involve the system they are supposed to ensure works smoothly. Fourthly, I might still have a practice at the end of it. Fifthly, it may (only may) preserve the ability to work with the MoJ at then end of it all, when we are still doing advocacy and they are still running the Courts. And finally, it may preserve a profession for those who come after me.

The difficulty is that those who say not a penny more are not talking about justice. Justice is not a commodity that has a minimum price. If a cohort of dedicated people were prepared to live on what Grayling had to offer, justice would not suffer. The unfairness comes because what is now on offer is not what was on offer when we decided on this career, bought our houses, had our children, made the decisions to which we would be committed for 20 years and got on with being barristers. That is why what Grayling is doing is so bizarre from a Tory perspective. We are the perfect Tory definition (I am not a Tory and never have been) of a small business – wholly self-reliant and self-supporting, living on our wits. That is why this appears to most of us to be personal: it just doesn’t make sense from any other perspective. But when we say not a penny more, we are talking about ourselves. That doesn’t make it any less awful, or any less unfair, or any less wrong. But it does mean that the argument about pay based on justice is risky – as all badly founded arguments are. And it also means that they question of what we are prepared to do about it may have a different answer.

I do not want to decide this now. I want to have a debate within the profession and to hear the views of people I respect. I want to actually be able to talk through every option, with people who will listen and think. What I absolutely do not want is for the Bar to fall prey to the instinct to characterise views with which individuals disagree as treachery. Or to demand ‘straight’ or ‘simple’ answers to ‘straight’ or ‘simple’ questions. Such questions are neither straight nor simple. When I am asked will I accept work at new rates that is not simple – see what I have said above. Nor is it straight, because the sub-text is whether I am one of ‘us’ or of ‘them’ – and the answer is that I abhor such cheap divisions. Why it is in anyone’s interests to begin a confrontation within a profession that has thus far stood admirably together is just beyond me. Demanding ersatz loyalty will only achieve dissent.

I am saying this because a gentle reminder along those lines produced just such a question today, and because I have heard a barrister say that people will listen to him not to Alistair MacDonald. That seems to me to be a step too far and such behaviour needs to be countered immediately. I am not going to name the people involved at this stage, because I do not want to contribute to the stupidity and because I want us to win this fight. If I am convinced that a strike is necessary I will strike, and part of my own thinking will be the need for the Bar to be perceived as united. But that is a decision for everyone to make freely and after a debate. I invite other members of my profession to set lines for themselves and to rigidly adhere to those lines.

Humour · No Pupillage · Qualities Required

Disasters Wot I Have Wrote


I know that this may not be timely for OLPAS but I thought you might like to think about what not to write on an application form or covering letter. This was prompted by a random sampling of this year’s offerings (I have nothing to do with pupillage at my Chambers so merely browsed through some forms), but includes some of the things I remember over the years. It is up to you how you take it: if you want to cheer yourself up by realising quite how idiotic some of your putative colleagues would be, that’s fine. However, please remember that most people – like you – take a good deal of time over these things. These are best viewed as examples of how the pressure can get to you so that your judgement goes down the Swanee.

No names and no dates. Quotes are added for dramatic effect, rather than representing word-for-word accuracy. However, all these things have genuinely been said. If you recognise yourself then please note that someone else might have been just as daft. If, however, you think that any of these extracts are sensible, please rethink your career plans.

I want to come to Chambers because my aim in life is to lead the fight against the crime that is abortion.

I have wanted to practice on the Northern Circuit since I first conceived of coming to the Bar [in an application to a set in Leeds]

Academic Achievements: 4 grade A* and 5 grade As at GCSE, 3 grade As at A-Level and a Very Competent on the BVC [and I don’t think you are bright enough to ask for my degree result].

I think I would be an excellent barrister because my mother has always said I am very argumentative.

After having difficulties in my 3rd year, I scaled back my expectations and am thus applying to your Chambers.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? [Trans: who will guard the guardians? Pretentious? Moi?]

Take out that covering letter and check it again.

No Pupillage · This Blog

How Was It For You?


The discussion on the Guardian’s Careers Forum can be viewed here. I enjoyed myself and I was impressed with the other panelists – national newspapers have a certain pull.

There were a number of individual questions about particular cases. I think that, in order to answer those questions it is necessary to see a CV and to know which Chambers you have applied to. There were also quite a lot of questions about how to improve CVs, particularly advocacy experience. I am not sure how important that is felt to be – I will ask around.

There were not many questions – although some – on the Bar’s attitude to particular groups of people. Nor was there much discussion on how we approach interviews, scoring and feedback. I thought this was a shame personally, but I can understand that those who were online wanted answers to their own pressing issues rather than a wider discussion.

Derek Wood QC very kindly took the trouble to participate. Given that he is the author (or at least the coordinator) of the most recent official thinking on pupillage, the forum is worth a read for that reason alone.

Meanwhile, normal service will now continue on this site…

P.S. The picture should not be taken as an endorsement of smoking (note that the cigarette is unlit), which is bad for you and which you should give up – now.

No Pupillage · Routes to the Bar · The BVC

Outside Help


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.

Background

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.

Price

Pupillage interview training is discounted by 33% for pupillage applicants.  The cost is:

–          £150       – 60 minute session

–          £225       – 90 minute session

Times

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.

Location

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.

Afterwards

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.

Conclusion

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.

Life at the Bar · No Pupillage · Routes to the Bar · The Future

Bit of a Kicking Part 2


Onward:

For the sake of fullness, I will briefly address the relentless argument on BVC graduates struggling to find pupillage.

It is correct to say that before commencing the BVC I knew the odds of attaining pupillage. I also was aware of the costs associated with the course, and the potential earnings I could receive thereafter. But I refused to be deterred – as are, regrettably, several passionate and talented individuals. Why? Not through ignorance or delusional, but because this is – as you say – a vocation, and I simply was not willing to accept anything less until I knew I had explored all avenues. My acceptance onto the BVC course gave me the opportunity to pursue my passion and I was not about to turn my back on it. I set out to beat the odds.

Since graduating, I have sought to express neither bitterness nor self-pity (I agree with that). I simply take issue with this radical undermining of the problem.

It was at this stage, still trying to pursue my passion, that I sought employment which would enable me to save sufficient funds to finance a twelve month pupillage. Let me lay out the hurdle I was trying to overcome in no uncertain terms. I was looking to save enough to meet the differential between my predicted monthly outgoings during pupillage and my potential monthly earnings. Whilst I was paying closer to £620 per month in rent at the time – to live somewhere I felt secure, and with friends rather than strangers – I would happily have reduced my outgoings if it were to have made a difference, so I will use the figure for minimum outgoings as I have estimated above – including, of course, my obligatory loan repayment. This, of course, pre-supposes that alternative sources of income – a loan for example – are not available.

As for earnings, since nothing above the pupillage award is guaranteed and since, in any event, cash must be available on a monthly basis for bills and no additional income is available in the first six months, I was forced to calculate on the basis only of that income which is guaranteed.
So the yearly differential would be the estimated outgoings of £15,624, less the potential £10,000 guaranteed income. Thus, it would be necessary to accumulate £462 monthly in savings over the course of one year’s alternative employment. I would be interested to know if the only applications made were to sets which gave only the minimum award.

During that year, my minimal outgoings would continue to amount to £1384 per month, including the added wage-dependant £100 SLC repayment. So my total minimal monthly outgoings, plus my saving for pupillage, would need to amount to a monthly net income of £1846 – or a yearly gross income of £28,077. And please bear in mind that’s the absolute minimum required income.

Well, you certainly can’t earn that sort of income in an entry-level paralegal role. Or, for that matter, any attainable role which would enable the candidate to remain in the field of law.
For my own part, I looked outside of the discipline to attempt to increase my temporary earning potential. Graduate roles would have required a false commitment and were not, of course, immediately available. As for commercial and financial roles, it would seem that BVC graduates face an uphill battle in the struggle to convince employers that they are worthy of an opportunity and have a wealth of valuable, transferrable skills – to the extent that it had been suggested I remove the qualification from my CV altogether.

I was lucky in that, following a temporary assignment, I was offered £27,500 per annum to undertake a non-legal office role. I struggled with the decision, but ultimately accepted the offer, hoping that by the time the twelve month contract expired I would have made some progress in saving towards pupillage.

I struggled to save for months. But – and here’s the extent of my knowledge of economics – if outgoings equal earnings, there’s nothing left to save.

I have a good interview record, and I think my experience speaks to my abilities – but I don’t have delusions of grandeur. I’ll be the first to admit that I may never even have progressed past the interview stage of pupillage rounds.

That does not alter the wider issue, though – that, if I was capable of attaining pupillage, and capable of being an outstanding criminal advocate, the profession would not have benefitted from my talent because I simply do not have the means to undertake a career at the criminal bar. I promise you I am not the only person in this position.

Following a wasted year gaining little valuable legal experience, I finally accepted that I am unable to pursue this avenue and decided, rather, to seek pupillage in a more lucrative discipline or perhaps a solicitor’s training contract. I intend to submit my applications this summer.

You have stated that you “have not heard anyone seriously suggest an alternative way to success than simply being good at it”. No, there is no alternative to success. But without providing the means for young people to support themselves, there are no guarantees that those who are good will be successful. I have sympathy with this, but the reality is that being self-employed is a risk. This exercise was approached on the basis that you needed to be rock solid certain that you would not have to spend more than you earned. Is there not something to be said for taking the risk (always assuming that someone would lend you the money) on the basis that the second year would, at least be better than the first?

The lack of funding at the junior criminal bar is choking the profession’s access to the brightest and most talented pupils. Do I have the answer? No. But I have to say it sickens me to read articles such as this:
http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/law/student/article6740749.ece
And that, supposedly, is to attract candidates who would otherwise not even consider the bar.
You say that pupil-masters give their time “happily” to pupils. Yet, despite criticising the very notion of seeking to acquire riches at the criminal bar as despicable (I think that is a bit overstated), you seem to be seeking some sort of accolade on behalf of your peers in asserting that a pupil’s measly award “comes from the earnings of the barristers in chambers”. Surely it is a privilege to invest in the future of the profession, to support such a “worthwhile and deeply satisfying” vocation, which serves to assist those who would otherwise “be outrageously disadvantaged”? Certainly it is – which is why so many barristers gives their time for free. This is not an idle point. I don’t earn unless I am working. Spending 2 hours going through my pupil’s pleadings isn’t working. But we happily do it. Not to mention those who lecture, supervise, advise, teach on courses, administer the profession, go to schools. All of this is done for free – which means the barrister in question is paying to do it. That is the balance here.

If you truly believe in the worth of the criminal bar, as you plead so passionately in your article, prevent its erosion through not only the increasing numbers of solicitor advocates and CPS advocates, but also the abundantly obviously draining of the best talent into other areas of practice. Campaign for better funding for pupils and junior criminal barristers.

I hope now you can appreciate why these sweeping statements you have made have ignited such condemnation. I don’t think that is accurate although I accept that some people didn’t like it. But I agree the statements were sweeping – it was a 600 word (as I recollect it) article and nuance is tricky.

I have, with my correspondent’s permission, sent this article to the Chairman of the Bar with a request that the Bar Council consider it when setting minimum pupillage awards. In my view the awards may need to be increased, differentiated between London and the provinces,  supported by a Chambers’/Inn loan scheme, tailored to individual need and otherwise reviewed.

I have received an assurance that the Bar Council is enquiring whether the review of pupillage by Derek Wood QC includes funding arrangements. If it does then I will ensure that it considers the points raised in my correspondent’s posts and the comments they attract. If not then I will try and find out when and how funding is going to be addressed and I will tell you.

In fairness the Bar Council told me that they had, the same week, received a complaint that compulsorily funded pupillage reduced opportunity. If that became an excuse for inaction it would be inexcusable. If it serves to show how there are no perfect options and to encourage debate about the least worst option then that would be helpful.

Interviews · No Pupillage · Qualities Required

Just Missing Out


dilbertFirstly, a hello to new readers. Thanks to WordPress’s monitoring tools (not quite CCTV in everyone else’s computer, but close) I can tell that some of the older posts are getting a lot of attention. Presumably, therefore, a new generation is gearing up for a shot at the grand prize. I wish you all luck and I hope you all have a plan B – obtaining pupillage is not getting any easier.

To make this clear, and to try and address the particular issue, I quote below from a comment sent by ‘Bedroom Barrister’, who I can be reasonably sure is a bloke.

I completed the BVC in 08, and since then have had 7 interviews. I missed out on my 1st choice chambers (provincial) on a vote of 2-1, and was placed on the reserve list for another chambers in London.

I do, I believe, tick all the ‘barrister candidates must have’ boxes: I have 2x scholarships, a masters, ran my own company, undertook several minis, taught Westlaw for Sweet & Maxwell for 2 years, and had a career as a rugby player before coming to law earlier than originally planned through injury (I am 28)

My first choice chambers have re-interviewed me and turned me down for a second time. what I would like to know is, what the chuff can I do to go one step further and obtain an offer?

The one thing I have lacked to date is real advocacy experience, so I put myself through FRU as an employment rep and took up a position as a county court advocate (solicitor’s agent) to gain experience (although this is relatively recent).

I am, I believe, a friendly chap, I get on well with most, and I have a genuine, not rehearsed, interest in law and current affairs.

Friends tell me ‘if you’re good enough to get interviews you’re good enough to get pupillage’ but I am truly concerned that this isn’t the case. My entire life has gone on hold while I send out applications, my poor girlfriend has to put up with my cloudy moods, and I find myself for the first time not knowing what to do!

Any thoughts would be gratefully received!

You are right – you tick the boxes. What seems apparent from this is that so, too, do a great many people. Ticking the boxes is no longer sufficient in itself.

Tempting though it is to suggest that it is the name that is causing the problem (try Courtroom Barrister), it seems to me that what you actually lack is feedback. Because you don’t say much about your interviews I am assuming they went reasonably well. If your panel was divided 2-1 then it was clearly close. The question is what swung it the other way. This could be nothing, it could be a question of whether the other person was more likeable or more ‘deserving’ or cleverer than you. It could be that the potential pupil master saw more in them (I have taken part in discussions which included all the above). The problem is that I don’t know and nor do you.

So, the advice is to get on the phone and ask. It may be that you are simply unlucky – that is certainly a possibility. But it may be that there is something about your interview performance which is counting against you and which you could deal with if only you knew about it. That is what feedback is all about. Even if your chosen Set doesn’t promise feedback I would ask. They can only say no but having been interviewed twice they must have seen something they liked and they should be willing to help.

The comments on the posts below dealing with Chambers’ approaches to pupillage show that lack of feedback is a bugbear. I don’t think we are very good at it as a profession: too many people are told something like, ‘You were very good but not quite as good as the person we took on’. That is roughly equivalent to the fortune teller saying, ‘You will travel widely and meet a stranger’ – well durr.

Because we are not very good at it, you must be. Ask specific questions: ‘What was the difference between my CV and the person who got pupillage?’. ‘What was it in the interview that made the difference?’  ‘Could you please tell me the 3 criteria on which I scored lowest?’ ‘Did I score the lowest/highest of anyone interviewed in any criterion? If so, please could you tell me which one?’ ‘Did you identify anything lacking in my CV of interview which, had I displayed it, would have made the difference?’ In other words – push.

The only other advice about the process I can give is, if you try again, to identify a banker set. You are clearly good enough to get a pupillage. Almost everyone interviewed is good enough and those who get to the last 2 or 3 certainly are. There is no doubt that there is an element of luck involved. So chose a set a level below where you really want to go. It’s easier to move once you’re a few years call and, who knows, you may like it there.

Ok – the agony uncle bit is done. Next up is an issue about how to survive the start of tenancy (also a fairly frequently asked question). That will tie in nicely to the remaining posts in ‘Tenancy and How to Get It’ which I am aware I left unfinished. It should also help non-pupils gain some understanding of what barristers actually look for which may help in mini-pupillages. All of which will come in the next couple of months.

Interviews · No Pupillage · Which Chambers?

Wall of Shame Update


wallA source sings to me that Lamb Chambers (on neither the wall nor the buttress and so previously in a neutral position) has gone straight to the top of the buttress of acclaim charts by sending out the following rejection letter (so far as I can tell to all unsuccessful candidates).

Lamb Chambers regrets to inform you that your application for pupillage at these chambers has not been successful. There were well over 200 applicants for just 2 places and with such stiff competition it was inevitable that we would have to reject many very strong candidates such as yourself.

We must apologise for the tardy manner in which your application has been considered. We encountered insuperable problems with the OLPAS system this year and in the end were obliged to print off and sort all applicants by hand. The automated method for notifying applicants of the progress of their applications was unworkable and as a result we are obliged to transmit all email rejections individually.

Lamb Chambers is unlikely to subscribe to OLPAS next year and if you too have been inconvenienced by this system then we would like to extend our apologies on behalf of the entire Bar to you for submitting aspiring pupils to such an appalling ordeal.

And so say all of us – but in this case someone actually has said it. Good.

In an ideal world the authorities would establish what happened with the Portal and publish it. This is not a call to identify anyone responsible, but rather to demonstrate that what went wrong has been understood and sorted. I have always supported OLPAS as a system (see my very first post of all) but I think Lamb Chambers (who make the position clear for all to see here) have got this one right. Better go it alone than another year of a collective effort going so disastrously wrong.

What is needed now is urgent reassurance that next year will not just be better, but that it will be perfect. Otherwise OLPAS is in trouble. And I still think that would be a shame. There is plenty to be said for making the system a level playing field. However, at the moment the field may be level but it’s also muddy, treacherous to negotiate and full of clods.