What do our pupils say?

Daniel Soar, Pupil, Commercial & Chancery

How and why did you choose your Chambers?
On paper it’s easy to see why St John’s is a good chambers to aspire to join: it’s been awarded ‘Regional Set of the Year’, is ranked highly in all legal directories and the head of the chancery and commercial practice group has just been named ‘Chancery Silk of the Year’. Yet, taking part in their mooting competition and completing a mini-pupillage in chambers, I was also struck by the welcoming, supportive and down-to-earth culture at St John’s. It’s the combination of excellence and community which makes it a great choice for any applicant.

What did the selection process involve?
The first stage of the process is a written application form (it’s not in the pupillage gateway), followed by a 15–20 minute interview which is split between competency-based questions and discussions of a recent case. The second-round interviews last approximately 30-45 minutes and include a civil advocacy exercise followed by questions based on the applicant’s written application. If you’re (un)lucky, you may even be asked back for a third interview which is solely an advocacy exercise. The interviewers take a positive approach and always try to get the best from you.

How would you describe your experience of Pupillage?
First six is an amazing opportunity to observe your supervisor in a variety of high-level court hearings, conferences, and mediations. It’s also an incredibly steep learning curve when undertaking paperwork for your supervisor and other members of your practice group. The workload is full-on, there’s a lot of travel and the nature of the work means that sometimes you’ll be home late, but I have always been encouraged to keep my paperwork to office hours and there has always been help at hand if ever I had any questions. Second six is the beginning of your own practice which comes with many highs and inevitably some lows, but it’s an exhilarating adventure throughout. This was especially true during the Covid-19 pandemic, but chambers fully supported me in working from home and I have been able to attend plenty of my own hearings remotely. Throughout pupillage I’ve always felt like chambers has backed me and wanted me to succeed.

What advice can you give to aspiring barristers?
Try not to compare yourself to other applicants or recent tenants! Do your best to achieve good academic results but also remember that being a barrister involves many skills than can’t be learnt in a classroom. Most chambers will tell you in their pupillage guides what skills they’re looking for, so make sure you’ve thought about how you can draw on your own life experiences to demonstrate how you’ve practised those skills. I secured pupillage in my third year out of bar school and it’s the experience I gained in those intervening years of work that really set me in good stead for the application process, and for pupillage itself.

View profile: Daniel Soar

Kate Pearson, Pupil, Family

How and why did you choose your Chambers?
When applying for pupillage, it’s important to do your research so you can find the chambers that is right for you. Having grown up in Plymouth, I knew I wanted to be based in the South West. After attending pupillage fairs, reading up online, and completing a few mini-pupillages on the Western Circuit, my heart quickly became set on St John’s! Their reputation on the Western Circuit is unmatched and, more importantly, I found that everyone I met was incredibly friendly and supportive. A pupillage at St John’s focuses on one practice area. This appealed to me as I knew I wanted to practise family law. A specialist pupillage allows you to experience your chosen area in much more detail, which is invaluable once second six comes around and you start taking on your own cases.

What did the selection process involve?
The first stage is a written application, followed by two rounds of interviews. There were three members of chambers on the panel for each of my interviews. The first interview was a mixture of competency-based questions and analysis of a recent case which I had been emailed the week before. Receiving the material in advance meant I was able to prepare well and think quickly, which was good as the questions were relatively fast-paced! The second interview included a civil advocacy exercise. Again, I was sent material a week before. I happened to be familiar with the law as I had studied it on the BPTC, but receiving it in advance allowed me to refresh my memory. It also meant the interview process was fair to all candidates regardless of whether you had studied the BPTC. On the day of the second interview I was given more information about the case and about 30 minutes to plan my submissions before the advocacy exercise. It’s impossible not to feel the pressure to perform in an interview, and nerves are part and parcel of the experience, but I really got the sense that my interviewers were willing me to do well, which helped me feel a lot calmer. The whole process, whilst rigorous, was organised and fair, and I felt that I was able to show the best of myself. St John’s were also exceptionally prompt in sending information about both my interviews and pupillage offer, so the time spent anxiously waiting for news was kept to a minimum!

How would you describe your experience of Pupillage?
During my first six I was in court most days shadowing my supervisors. I also shadowed many junior members of the family team, which helped me prepare for the type of work I would soon be taking on myself. Whilst the learning curve was steep, I feel I have really benefitted from seeing a diverse range of cases from day one. Having commenced second six at the beginning of lockdown, the second half of pupillage is certainly different to what I had anticipated. Being ‘on my feet’ has so far involved a lot of remote hearings. These come with their own unique challenges, although I am enjoying the absence of early morning train journeys! Despite the unexpected changes in the way we are working, I have continued to feel really supported throughout my second six. Other members of chambers have been extremely generous with their time when I have needed help or advice. My supervisors check in regularly to see how I am doing, and we’ve had virtual quiz and drinks evenings so that everyone can keep in touch.

What advice can you give to aspiring barristers?
Read and reread your application and apply a critical eye to everything you have written. Ask a tutor or friend to do so too. Mock interviews are really helpful, whether with your parents, tutors, or just to yourself in the mirror! You need to be able to verbalise your thoughts in an articulate and persuasive way. Speaking practice of any kind will help you improve the advocacy skills which make a promising pupillage candidate. The application process can sometimes be a lonely, competitive, and lengthy road, so it’s important to get as much support as you can. Don’t worry too much about what others are doing. Just focus on you and play to your strengths. You will get there, just keep going!

View profile: Kate Pearson