Thursday, 28 May 2015

Advice for BPTC Scholarship Interviews at the Inn's

I know this blog is a little late for this year but this blog has been written to give future LLB/GDL students an insight into an Inn’s BPTC scholarship interview, to aid preparation. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any advice on the structure and contents of BPTC scholarship interviews before attending my first interview in March 2014. Therefore, I hope that this Blog aids future students in preparing for scholarship interviews. However please note that questions may vary depending on the applicant, Inn and the criteria of that academic year. I have attended a BPTC Scholarship interview at Inner Temple in March 2014 and March 2015. Both interviews were structured almost the same. However, I am aware that the Inn’s structure their interviews differently. Therefore, it would also be sensible to ask someone from your chosen Inn about their interview experience if you have contacts. Please also note that any opinions in this blog are my own and have not been affirmed by my Inn.

BPTC Scholarship Interview at Inner Temple 

The interview process began with me checking in half hour before my interview at the Treasurer’s Office. I was then asked to return to the office five minutes before my interview start time. When I returned at the start time, an additional five applicants joined me in the Treasurer’s Office to wait for their interview. You could feel the tension rising in the office.

The six of us were greeted by a member of the Inn who explained the interview process to us as a group. Afterwards, we were all escorted upstairs to the Inns library, where we were provided with writing materials. We were then asked to choose from one of three unreported cases on; family law, criminal law or civil law. I chose the criminal case as I had stated on my application form that I inspire to practice at the criminal bar. I am now wondering whether this was a wise choice considering the current uncertainty of the Criminal Bars future. This has been a hot topic at most dining and networking events recently. Nevertheless, I decide to stick with this choice for consistency. I do not want to look indecisive when I am asking them to invest in me.

We were then allocated 30 minutes to independently read our chosen case and to identify facts in the case. We were expected to know facts about the case including the prosecution and defences arguments, whether the appeal was based on a matter of law or matter of fact, the ratio decidendi and orbita dictum. We were also expected to form an opinion on the case. We were reassured by a member of the Inn that the test was aimed to help us demonstrate that we understood the outline of the facts and the principals involved, rather than our current knowledge of the law. This was also clear during the interview.

Similar to an exam, we were notified when 30 minutes had passed and then we were asked to return the unreported case notes. We were all escorted out of the library and across the courtyard to a chambers within the grounds of the Inn. Upon arrival, a friendly pupil greeted us and conversed with us while we were waiting for our interviewing panels to invite us into our interview rooms.

After waiting for twenty minutes, I was informed by the pupil that the interviewing panel was now prepared for me. When I entered the interview room I was warmly greeted by a friendly panel of interviewers. There were two males and two females present. Each interviewer had their name and chambers written in front of them. Unfortunately, I cannot remember their names or their chambers. This is quite unusual for me as I am good at remembering personal details about people. I must have been very focused on answering my interview questions. At a guess, their ages ranged from 40s-60s.

A member of the interviewing panel began by confirming my personal details, followed by the structure of the interview. She explained that they would each have a different area of questions to ask me to prevent the interview from being too overwhelming.

The first interview panel member began by confirming my academic history. She then inquired about how I was progressing on with my current course. She then went on to discuss work experience that I had included on my application form. She concluded her questioning by asking me about the hobbies that I had included on my application form, and asked me to persuade the panel in one minute why they should participate in my chosen hobby.

The second interviewer asked me some questions on the unreported case I had previously examined in the library. For example, he asked me to explain what the case was concerning and the reasons why an appeal was requested.

The third interviewer asked me to discuss a case of my choice that had been in the media recently. I decided to discuss a case that I had been following with a friend, so that my responses were more natural. I was asked various questions on my view of my chosen case, one of my opinions was challenged. I believe that this was to enable me to demonstrate that I could develop an argument and hold my ground when arguing a point. During my interview in March 2014, I discussed the case of Oscar Pistorius. In March 2015, I discussed the effects of legal aid cuts to family law and the statistics of women unable to prove that they are a victim of domestic violence, in order to qualify for legal aid.

The fourth panel member began his questioning by asking me why I wanted to join the Bar. He also asked me why I had chosen this point of my life to enter the profession (at 29 and as the mother of 3 children). He then inquired about my finances, however he was very polite and explained why these questions were relevant to the application process. He inquired how much it would cost to fund the BPTC course, my travel to university and any other relevant expenses such as childcare.  He then asked how I would fund the BPTC if I was unsuccessful in my application. The interview concluded with me being offered an opportunity to ask the interview panel some questions.

I found the interview friendly and supportive. Seventeen days after my interview I was notified by post that my application had been unsuccessful. Unfortunately, I was not given any feedback on why my application had been unsuccessful except for the fact that Inner Temple had had over 350 applications in November 2013. (I got a similar response in 2015 about the number of applications that they had received in November 2014). It also explained that feedback on the interview for unsuccessful applicants would not be available due to the amount of people interviewed. However, I feel that this would have been very useful, even if it was simply explaining that they believed that the applicant was not in financial hardship or that they believed their grades or experience were not sufficient or that they believed that the applicant was not suitable for the profession. This could aid the applicant in deciding what steps to take next and whether the panel felt that the applicant would have a future at the Bar. I have discovered that both Gray’s Inn and Lincoln’s Inn do provide feedback to unsuccessful applicants who attend interviews. However, neither of these Inn’s interview all applicants, so they have fewer applicants to provide feedback for.



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