Linda Turnbull smiling in black and white.


Linda Turnbull has a busy family and immigration practice. She is a registered pupil supervisor and mentor on Lincoln’s Inn Pupillage Foundation Scheme.

Sadly, rejection is part of life and it is certainly very much a part of a barrister’s daily life. A barrister may not always have the strongest argument. A judge may reject some or all the arguments submitted. The cab rank rule means that a barrister cannot pick and choose their cases. Therefore, a barrister must represent each client to the best of their ability, regardless of the strengths and weaknesses of the case.

Securing pupillage has always been difficult due to the sheer number of applicants each year for a small number of pupillages. Not many barristers obtain pupillage first time round. So do not despair. Most chambers will receive hundreds of applications for perhaps only one or two pupillages. Therefore, it is always important to acknowledge your successes to date, both undergraduate and postgraduate.

Once the application has been sent, there is the inevitable anxious wait for an invitation to interview. There will be a “sifting process” carried out by members of chambers to select a small number of candidates for an interview.

If no invitations are received

It is most likely that your application form needs to be improved. Due to the sheer number of applications received, chambers will be unable to give feedback on why you were not invited to interview. Most Inns, the Circuits and the Bar Council run excellent application form workshops. Watch the Bar Council’s recording of the ‘Making the most of your Pupillage Gateway application: Q&A’ session. Scrutinise your application form to determine how it can be improved. Ensure that it informs the reader of experience gained and does not read like a job advertisement. It must not be generic but rather unique to you. Use your best endeavours to improve your experience and skills. Your application form is the key to securing an interview. Without an interview, there is no opportunity to be awarded pupillage.

If you do receive some invitations to interview

Congratulations and well done! On paper, it is clear you have what it takes to become a barrister. You have the necessary academic qualifications. Carry this confidence with you to the interview.

If rejected after a first round interview

It will be disappointing not to be invited to a second interview. You may have a good idea why you were not successful. Everyone has a bad day sometimes. However, you may feel that the interview went well. Following an interview, most chambers will be happy to give feedback on application. Quite often, it is simply that you did not do anything wrong, but rather that another candidate had better interview skills. Most of the Inns hold advocacy and/or interview workshops. Practice advocacy with friends or in front of a mirror.

If rejected after a second-round interview

Very understandably, it will be extremely disappointing not to be offered pupillage. However, you should congratulate yourself on your successes so far. Chambers will have selected only the very best candidates to attend the second-round interview. Then they will have had the unenviable and most difficult task of deciding which of the excellent interviewees should be offered pupillage. Sometimes, it simply is not your lucky day but don’t give up. Just because you did not succeed in securing pupillage this time, does not mean you should not apply again — even to the same chambers.

The road to becoming a barrister is very challenging to say the least. It is not for the faint hearted. It requires hard work, dedication and above all — resilience.