Anthony Horsfall is a future pupil barrister at Lincoln House Chambers and a compliance analyst at Linklaters, Anthony kindly shared his path to the Bar, how he achieved pupillage, and his top tips for aspiring legal professionals.
Choosing a career at the Bar
The prospect of a career at the Bar first came to my attention whilst I was still at sixth form. One of my teachers noticed that I regularly spoke up in class and volunteered to present in assemblies. She suggested that I visit the Crown Court public galleries and watch the criminal advocates ply their trade. I did and I was hooked.
As time went on, I had the opportunity to undertake mini-pupillages and pro bono work in the Witness Service. Through these experiences, I came to the firm view that a career at the Bar would allow me to combine several of the things that I most enjoy, such as solving difficult problems, speaking publicly and genuinely helping people. In other words, it looked exciting and worthwhile, and appeared to be something I was capable of doing.
Furthermore, whilst my experiences working collaboratively in teams at law firms were hugely enjoyable, I most enjoyed the opportunities that arose to manage projects by myself. The independence of the self-employed Bar, therefore, became quite attractive also.
Path to achieving pupillage
Born in Greater Manchester, I attended a state comprehensive before going on to study at King’s College London. I graduated with a 2:i in history in 2016 and was by this point already firmly set on a career at the Criminal Bar.
My first job out of university was in mental health, an experience which undoubtedly bolstered my client care and communication skills, particularly in relation to vulnerable people.
I made the transition to law via the GDL. Studying part-time (my recommendation) was necessary from a financial perspective, but it also allowed me to join Freshfields’ Manchester office as a temp compliance paralegal midway through my studies.
At Freshfields, I progressed from basic doc review to permanent business acceptance roles, specialising in conflicts, financial crime and sanctions. What began as a 2-week temporary contract ultimately led to 3 years of progressive experience.
During my time at Freshfields, I also volunteered on the monitoring board of a category B prison. Amongst other duties, my work there involved advocating for offenders, many of whom suffered from mental health issues.
I learnt about the impact of crime and what motivates it. I also developed greater mental health awareness and a hardened belief that liberty must be robustly defended.
Keen to complete the Bar course in London, I joined Linklaters in summer 2020 and started my studies (again part-time) as a Middle Temple major scholar. Since then, I have been heavily involved in mooting, at both a national and international level.
The skills that I developed through this experience were crucial to my ability to handle challenging pupillage interviews and ultimately secure an offer.
There were, of course, many setbacks along the way. However, these were largely overcome by simply having a clear plan of what I wanted to achieve, how I was going to achieve it and the timeline for doing so.
Lincoln House Chambers
Lincoln House is the leading set for crime in Manchester, which is my hometown and where I want to practise. It is a friendly, inclusive and collegiate chambers. Everyone I have met from there, whether it was at pupillage events or in interviews, made me feel very welcome.
Combining that with what I had gathered from my research, I knew that the set’s culture, its location, the high standard of training on offer and the clerks’ expertise made it a fantastic place for me to build my dream practice.
The interview and application process
The application process at Lincoln House followed roughly the same structure as that of most other criminal chambers that I interviewed at.
Firstly, there is the written application stage and dreaded paper sift. This stage examines your motivations, experience and written advocacy. I would recommend starting work on these early, around November, to ensure that you can send out 10+ good quality applications.
Pupillage interviews are unique. It took me a few attempts to get into the swing of things, so maximising the number of potential interviews can only be a good thing.
It will vary, but around a quarter of applicants get a first round interview. These are short, around 10-15 minutes, and test competency as well as your understanding of topical legal and non-legal issues. You should expect to present an argument with little to no preparation.
Applicants that reach the second round at criminal sets are usually presented with another advocacy exercise. This will likely be a bail application or a plea in mitigation that you will have had around an hour to prepare beforehand.
The panel may ask questions about your submissions, but a fair amount of time will be spent discussing your application more broadly. Second rounds tend to last 20-30 minutes.
My overall experience was a positive one. Panels put you at ease reasonably well and are keen to get the best from you. I did not have any total train wrecks, but I certainly came away from some interviews well aware of my impending rejection.
My top tips would be to sit as many mock interviews as possible, be resilient, ask for feedback and make a good note of previous interview questions, particularly those that you struggled with.
Top tips for securing pupillage
I personally think it is helpful to evaluate your profile and approach application questions by breaking down what a barrister is, i.e. (i) a lawyer, (ii) that specialises in courtroom advocacy, (iii) on behalf of a broad range of clients, (iv) usually on a self-employed basis.
- Show why you want to be a lawyer, as opposed to any other type of advocate (politician, rights activist etc.), and use as much evidence as possible to show that you have the potential to become a good one. Alongside grades and scholarships, a paralegal or compliance job can go a long way to demonstrate aptitude for legal practice.
- Get involved in as much public speaking and oral advocacy as possible. Successful mooters and debaters tend to do quite well when it comes to securing pupillage. It is not just something to talk about in interviews, the experience will give you confidence and structure in the way that you present in front of the panel.
- Make the most of your CV, particularly when it comes showing client care, hard work and determination. It would be wrong to assume that jobs in retail or hospitality are irrelevant and not worth mentioning. For example, time spent pulling pints at a pub most likely provides numerous opportunities to negotiate with difficult customers and deescalate hostile situations, both of which are vital skills for any barrister.
Showing that you can make it self-employed is perhaps the most challenging part. Use mini-pupillages to learn about the profession and try to stay on top of new developments within your chosen area of practice.
Whilst demonstrating your interest and enthusiasm, it also shows that you are aware of the market and what you are getting yourself into. It is worth noting that the paper sift tends to favour those who are more unique and memorable.
Using your network to secure unusual work experience can demonstrate good business acumen and relationship development skills. What makes you different, however, can be something completely outside of the law.
An incoming pupil I know at another chambers has a second job running exclusive city break tours for wealthy elderly couples, whilst another moonlights as a jazz bar musician.
One final point – do not rush! Take your time to build an attractive profile, even if that takes a few years.
Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash
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