Meet The Scoffers
I was interviewing for pupillage even before Bar School began. I turned up for my first interview at a set of chambers in Stone Buildings on a warm afternoon. It was a swish chancery chambers, one of the very best, and I met a clerk who gave me a case summary to read before my interview. It involved the bare facts of a corporate insolvency and hinted at fraudulent trading. Okay, I got the gist of the legal aspects of the case, so I waited for my interview.
I was called in to see six people sat behind a table and they told me to remain standing while they introduced themselves. The senior clerk announced this was the first day of trial and I was to deliver my opening speech. My initial thought was, I don’t know how to do an opening speech yet. After a brief summary of the facts, I tried to set out the case for fraud against the directors of the company but knew I’d probably addressed the judge incorrectly and the order of my summary wasn’t the greatest off the cuff. The rejection letter made it to my flat almost as quickly as I did.
I had one, two, sometimes three interviews a week and two a day wasn’t out of the ordinary. So I had to wear the compulsory dark suit for interviews to Bar School a lot. I tried hard to land a pupillage. The waiting rooms ranged from modern and corporate to old fashioned and traditional. In one waiting room, there was a framed black and white photograph of an ancient, crusty old judge with a black cap on his head, presumably about to pass a death sentence.
At these interviews, I met polite indifference, dismissiveness and was often mocked. One interview began with the words: “I didn’t even know they taught law at Oxford Polytechnic!” followed by hoots of pompous laughter. In another interview, the panel was spread about the room in an arc from left to right and questions were fired off in a type of staccato. Twenty minutes in and a question came from the rear. I turned around and saw an old man tucked into the corner between a bookshelf and behind the open door. Actually surrounded, I performed as good as I was able, but found the whole arrangement a bit odd. Toward the end of one frosty interview, I asked what they were looking for in a candidate. “Someone with your colour hair,” came the sarcastic reply. They all chortled as I left. I decided the only way I would carve out an opportunity for myself was to force a way through the barriers.