Following two interviews at a leading medical negligence chambers, the candidates were narrowed down to two, including me. We did the third interview and a speech on a set topic with limited time to prepare. It was about surgical techniques and professional medical standards. After this, we were taken to separate rooms and awaited the result. The senior clerk, a man in his mid-fifties with brown to greying hair, told me in a measured tone I’d performed extraordinarily well given that I had no medical experience. But the other candidate had been offered the pupillage because he was a medically-qualified doctor. That was probably the right result. I was gutted. And I still didn’t have an offer after nearly twenty interviews.
The next interview of note was for a leading commercial set of chambers in London; a committed and extremely serious bunch. I passed the first two interviews with QCs and submitted a piece of drafting. In the final interview, a QC analysed my written work and I backed it up by quoting a judgment verbatim, even giving the page number of the law report. This caused quite a stir around the room of watching barristers. For once, I was met with smiles and invited to meet members of chambers.
A week later, I received a letter saying I was not being offered a pupillage. And that was for the top-paying pupillage in the country. I missed out, narrowly. Again. I was really disappointed after that one. The next day I walked around the gardens of the Inn of Court, alone. Flowers were in full bloom and I saw what was presumably a barrister and his pupil wearing expensive suits and strolling in the gardens. It reminded me of a Punch cartoon I had seen in the Oxford Brookes University library in which some street urchins stared through the iron railings at privileged barristers inside. Then I thought about my situation. I had been through about thirty interviews and I’d got close. But not close enough.
At first, I took the rejections to heart and eventually a kind of immunity set in. I needed both stamina and a thick skin to get through those times. I’d applied for around seventy pupillages and, only a matter of weeks later, had attended over forty interviews. I was still without an offer. It was difficult to stay positive in the face of all that rejection. There was a barrier of privilege and I was on the outside.
Preparing for the remaining bar exams, I had been interviewing for almost a year. I saw a last minute pupillage advertisement pinned on the Inn of Court noticeboard. This was for Two Oak Court, the prestigious commercial chancery chambers in London. I never applied there before because I didn’t think I was good enough get a pupillage in a top chambers like that. With no other options available, I posted an application and received a letter giving a time and date for an interview. It was one last interview and my only chance left at landing a pupillage. With my back against the wall, I was going to come out fighting. I had the interview letter in my pocket and finished my final exam at Bar School.