The Netherlands was great and Saturday 10th June soon rolled round, bringing with it my 4:50 pm interview. I auditioned along with two other candidates at that time slot; a young women with spidery, unshaven legs, who’d just finished the BPTC and drank out of a large pickled onion jar, and an overweight Scottish guy in a tweed suit unfitting for the uncharacteristically hot weather, who disingenuously attempted befriend me and the other rival, whilst sweating profusely into the large Chesterfield ensconced beneath him.
The candidates were called up separately and the interview was in two parts, I was last to be beckoned and thankful for a few minutes of sincere silence before the ordeal fully commenced. For the first part, I was sat alone in a room at a desk and told that I had eight minutes to prepare answers to two, unseen, questions, each of which I was to present on for eight minutes. As I turned over the sheet of paper containing the questions, I saw that there were only two to choose from.
The questions were, to paraphrase: (i) should people accused of historic sex offences be given the right to anonymity; and (ii) what are the key issues affecting Legal Aid and what area would I increase funding to and why? Apart from the odd mini-pupillage, I have not engaged practically with criminal law since working at a paralegal in 2012, as my career after the BPTC has solely been in civil law – sport, corporate and now patents, not areas renown for financial constraints over litigation or witness vulnerability.
Like clockwork, after eight mercurial minutes two people came in and introduced themselves, saying that they will not be asking any questions, but will just listen and take notes. It was horrendous, having two strangers, qualified at cutting through bullshit staring blankly at you in between noting down every crap, unclear sentence you spew from your unprepared, quivering mouth, whilst your eyes desperately meet theirs in a vain attempt to beg for guidance or some glimmer of reassurance. As you can imagine, I didn’t score too highly on this section.
The second part was much better, in fact I would even go so far as to describe it as enjoyable. It was an interactive interview with two different members of chambers, one of which was wearing a batman t-shirt, the other in a standard suit and tie ensemble. The questions were a lot more personable: (i) what achievement am I most proud of; (ii) what makes me angry; and a couple more… which enabled me to build a rapport with Batman and corporate Robin. In my feedback a couple of days later, Batman said that I’d scored third highest overall in this segment and was only three marks away from being taken through to the final round, despite my car crash of a part one.
As the final round was the next day (what would have been my day two of three in Copenhagen), chambers promised to let applicants know by 8:00 pm that night whether or not they had been successful. I think my interview finished around 6:30 pm, so that was not much time for deliberation. To pass the next hour and a half, I walked from Blackfriars to Leicester Square like a briefcase wanker in my black suit, to meet a few friends that had been drinking and enjoying the sunshine since midday. Safe to say, they were pretty merry (and obviously much less anxious, stressed and sleep deprived than me).
It was either going to be a short, sweet night of happiness or a long sad evening of sipping gin to suppress tears of disappointment and frustration. By 7:50 pm, I’d learnt it was the latter. But not only that, about thirty minutes later another chambers, on a Saturday night, also sent me a rejection email. Give me a break.
On Monday, I received an email from the chambers I’d interviewed at saying that I had stood out amongst the sea of rejects and, as a result, they were willing to provide me with some individual feedback by phone. That night, Batman called. It was somewhat reassuring to hear that I am not completely useless and was very close to making the cut, but it still hurts to hear someone (however constructively and kindly) tell you that you just aren’t good enough for them.
My interview the weekend after in Peterborough was pretty much the same as part two of the interview above. Two interviewers, meaningful and meaty questions, good rapport and a chance to demonstrate my skills, experience and passion. But again, no. No, no, no. Sorry Dear Candidate, but no. No, you have not been successful on this occasion – again. You may have spent over £100 on train tickets, wasted every weeknight preparing and fretting, and squandered another rare sunny Saturday to wear a suit and sit indoors in an unfamiliar building with strangers who are analysing your every word, expression and obfuscation- but sorry Dear Candidate, no.