Top tips for pupillage interviews from a current pupil

April 6, 2022

Zarreen Alam-Cheetham

Well done – you’ve been invited to a pupillage interview! Now for the next step, securing a second-round interview and subsequently receiving an offer of pupillage.

In this article I aim to dish out all the advice I have to offer to those preparing for pupillage interviews.

Recently, in a series of tweets on the @ExcPupillage account some of my top tips for pupillage interview preparation were shared. They are as follows:

  1. Treat it like an exam and make time to revise for your interview.
  2. Make sure you are up to date with current affairs. Find an area of law or a case within the last year which is problematic and formulate reasons as to why it should be changed and how you would change it.
  3. Familiarise yourself with controversial laws/cases.
  4. If it has been a while since you did the Bar course/Law degree/GDL, revise the basic principles of the area of law you are applying for pupillage in.
  5. Create a legal twitter to help you keep up to date with current affairs.
  6. Don’t forget about competency questions.
  7. There is nothing wrong with pre-preparing answers. You need to have an idea beforehand as to what you would say if a particular question were asked. For the anticipated questions such as “why do you want to be a barrister” and “why do you want pupillage at our chambers” it is a good idea to form a list of bullet points and try and memorise them.
  8. Be prepared for curveball questions.
  9. Try and relax the evening/hour before. Make sure you allow yourself time to switch off and recharge so that you can bring the best version of yourself to the interview. You won’t be able to perform your best if you have burnt out before the interview.
  10. Do your research and learn as much as you can about the Chambers.
  11. Revise professional ethics. You may be presented with a scenario and asked how you would react and what you would do. When answering these questions don’t forget to think practically.
  12. When the interview is over, take a moment to pause and reflect. Think of what you could have done better, try and learn from it and apply it in your next interview. After you’ve done this, forget the interview ever happened.
  13. Write down the questions you were asked as soon as your interview is over.
  14. If you are unsuccessful, ask for feedback so you can improve for next time.

In my view, preparation is key. By preparation I mean; research the chambers, prepare answers to anticipated interview questions, research the area of law that the pupillage is in and remain up to date with relevant law and cases.

To assist with my preparation, I went onto the pupillage gateway, and I looked at all of the questions contained within each pupillage advert. I paid particular attention to the questions which were slightly different and those which required greater thought or research. I thought about how I would answer those questions and carried out the necessary research I needed to in order to answer them.

Whilst pre-preparing answers is a controversial topic, in my view, if you are able to deliver your answers naturally, and not appear rehearsed, it can be useful. It prevents repetition and babbling, and you know where you are taking the panel with your answer, which may lead to a more confident delivery.

If it has been a while since you studied professional ethics on the Bar course, or you have not yet undertaken the examination, it may be useful to have a look at The BSB Handbook, particularly Part 2 which contains the Code of Conduct. You may be presented with a scenario and asked how you would respond. A strong command of the core duties and conduct rules is therefore vital to assist you with this type of question.

It is also common to be tasked with an advocacy exercise. This could be anything from a plea in mitigation to a presentation on any topic. I would therefore recommend familiarising yourself with the structure of plea in mitigation or developing an understanding of what they entail if you have had no experience of them. You may also wish to have a look at the sentencing guidelines (which are available on the Sentencing Council website) so that you will at least be familiar with how to navigate through the guidelines.

If you don’t have a ‘legal Twitter’ it may assist you to create an account dedicated solely to legal matters to ensure that you are always in the legal loop.

The benefit of a legal Twitter is that you have access to experts in the industry who, (if your background is anything akin to mine) you simply wouldn’t have access to. You are able to gain an insight into their thoughts and opinions on recent and relevant cases which may form part of the discussion in your interview. You simply don’t know what will or will not come up in an interview. It is for that reason you must be as prepared as you possibly can be to maximise your chances of success.

I retweeted anything of use so that it would remain on my page and enable me to revisit it during my revision. This piece of advice does come with a word of caution – too much time spent on social media can be taxing on our mental health. If you feel it is damaging your mental health, take a break from it. Social media is also addictive by its nature so I would be alive to how much time you are spending on it and just how helpful it is to your preparation.

During my preparation I watched debating shows such as The Pledge and Victoria Derbyshire. I listened to Radio 4 and LBC on my commute to and from work (I can confirm that this was exclusively during pupillage season – I am a loyal Capital FM listener at heart). This was helpful for aiding my knowledge in relation to current affairs which often came up in interviews. I went back as far as one year with my current affairs/ legal knowledge.

I also read articles on the website of the Chambers I was interviewing with. This can demonstrate awareness of the type of work which is being carried out in Chambers coupled with who is carrying out that work.

As a general point, when answering questions make sure you can back them up with evidence. Demonstrate why you will make a good barrister with real life experiences. Don’t forget to include “non-law” examples within your experience. This may help you to be a memorable candidate. It is therefore important to think about what makes you different from all of the other candidates that will be interviewed.

If you are one to get nervous before interviews, you are not alone. I remember all too well those pupillage interview waiting room nerves. I will point out that fortunately those nerves diminished as soon as the interview was underway due to the nature of the interview panels. During my preparation I saw on my legal Twitter that a Pupil who suffered from anxiety before appearing in court would carry out a simple exercise whenever they were feeling nervous. This entailed focusing on five things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. When you are feeling nervous in your pupillage interview waiting room give it a go and see if it helps!

Practical Advice:

  • Look up the location of your interview in advance and allow sufficient time to get lost if you have never been before.
  • Take a notepad and pen. Different coloured pens and highlighters may assist (especially where you are provided with a task beforehand).
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the panel to repeat the question if you did not fully understand it or even seek clarification as to what you are being asked before you dive into an answer.
  • If your interview is remote, make sure you download the relevant platform well in advance and conduct a test-run. If you have multiple devices make sure they are charged and be prepared to use them as back-ups.


As soon as I came out of any pupillage interview the first thing I did was write down all of the questions I was asked.

If the interview didn’t go as planned, try your best to learn from it and put it out of your mind.

I wish you the very best of luck!