The pressure of applying for pupillage is seared in the memory of most young barristers. It is easy for us to remember refreshing our inboxes, and the Pupillage Gateway website, several times each day in the hope of good news.

It was recently reported that some pupillage hopefuls are being offered the services of professionals to sharpen their interview skills, if they pay for it. It should be noted that some of the named websites are no longer offering this service and some have noted that these services have been dormant for some time.

Put simply, no pupillage candidate should feel that paying for interview training is necessary. All candidates should be aware that there are a number of invaluable sources of free advice and training available. No one needs to pay for pupillage interview preparation.

We have taken major strides in recent years towards making the profession more reflective of our society. Despite progress, it is clear that we still have much more to do. An important task within this work is to ensure that prospective barristers are not discouraged from applying for pupillage by any additional barriers, such as a misinformed belief that they are disadvantaged if they do not pay for mock interviews.

The Inns of Court are the most obvious source of assistance for pupillage applicants. Each of the Inns administer schemes to provide pupillage interview advice as well as mentoring opportunities, which can be used to obtain tailored application advice and interview practice. There are a number of Bar associations and groups which offer pupillage advice, often within specific areas of law. Universities and law schools can also provide support to pupillage applicants. 

Applicants are aware that pupillage interviews are trying to assess the aptitude of each individual candidate. It sounds trite, but you have to be yourself, otherwise, even if successful, you will spend a long and miserable time in pupillage masquerading as the creature you created in your interview.

In short, if you do not know anyone in the profession, go to the Inns. Find a mentor. Come to the Bar Council’s Pupillage Fair or to the Annual Bar Conference. Meet barristers at legal events. Use social media to look out for pupillage application advice and for advertised opportunities to gain experience. Ask chambers for feedback if you are unsuccessful in progressing to the next round of interviews.

Whatever the lesson in all of this, we are certain of one thing: no one should feel disadvantaged because they cannot or will not pay for assistance with pupillage interviews. The profession readily provides candidates with guidance on interview presentation and regales applicants with personal memories of interviews (usually until forced to stop).

As a profession, we cannot, and we do not, allow those who cannot afford to pay for interview preparation to be disadvantaged. The positive news is that free resources are already available at the Bar, and if the main consequence of the media coverage of these expensive schemes is to shine a light on all of the free resources available to applicants, then the result is overwhelmingly positive. You only need to observe the number of barristers expressing dismay at the thought of people paying for an otherwise free service on social media to know that free pupillage interview advice is available.

These free schemes helped a number of members of the Young Barristers’ Committee in the past and they are available to help current applicants in the same way. Instead of spending money on interview preparation, candidates are encouraged to buy a great book to read on the way to their interviews or to have a post-interview pastry with another candidate from the waiting room.

The best things in life are free and, happily, pupillage interview advice will always be one of those things.

If you are struggling to access pupillage interview advice in the current pupillage season, please contact the Young Barristers’ Committee via ybc@barcouncil.org.uk.

Katherine Duncan and Joanne Kane, Chair and Vice-Chair of the Bar Council's Young Barristers’ Committee