Pupillage interviews 2024: Top tips for fair recruiting

Posted by Chris Kelly, a barrister at Legal Futures Associate Briefed

Kelly: Long-term benefits

As 2024 begins, aspiring legal minds are gearing up for the start of pupillage applications – a defining moment in their pursuit of a career at the Bar.

Simultaneously, chambers prepare for the imminent recruitment process, entailing panel interviews, and consequential decisions shaping both the future of the set and wider Bar.

The imperative to secure the finest talent underscores the recruiting strategy during this crucial phase. As this pivotal time approaches, Briefed has curated a list of essential guidelines aimed at optimising fair recruitment practices.

Cover your regulatory and legal requirements

In line with its commitment to creating a diverse and inclusive environment at the Bar, the Bar Standards Board has made fair recruitment training a regulatory requirement and mandatory for all members and staff who are involved in the recruitment process.

Those involved in the process at various stages include individuals creating the job specification, advertising the role, shortlisting, interviewing and assessing candidates. Therefore, ensuring all members, management and staff have completed fair recruitment training will cover your regulatory requirements and give your chambers greater flexibility in their recruiting abilities.

Stick to the fair recruitment principles

There are four key elements in carrying out fair recruitment: objectivity, consistency, non-discriminatory and transparency:

Objectivity When designing job criteria, they must be objective and valid to the role and continuously applied to all candidates in the same manner.
ConsistencyEach candidate who applies must experience consistency in the process. Those in chambers, particularly the interviewing panel, must use the same uniform process for all candidates, marking and rating the responses afterwards.
Non-discriminatoryIt is unlawful for chambers to discriminate against candidates based on any of the nine protected characteristics, as set out in the Equality Act 2010. Recruitment communications must be inclusive and unbiased.
TransparencyChambers should be clear and open about what the role requires, the selection process and criteria. and what the salary will be – there should be no surprises for the candidate at interview.

Develop your strategy

A strategic approach to fair recruitment will yield undeniable improvements in a set’s operations in the long run. Focusing on creating a diverse, inclusive culture in your chambers will not only guarantee your appeal to the widest pool of legal professionals, but also the best possible choice of prospective candidates.

Use appropriate assessment methods

Consider using work samples as an assessment method. These bespoke exercises offer a hands-on, practical approach to assessing candidate skills and capabilities that are directly relevant to the role they are applying for.

Work samples also provide a level playing field for all candidates – regardless of background or previous experience. The sample exercise should be gauged at the candidate’s level of experience.

Review your shortlisting process

Make sure that your shortlisting process is as fair as possible, using the criteria outlined within the job description.

Having at least two people shortlisting during formal meetings is considered best practice. This allows each of them to actively challenge the assumptions of the other.

Also, methods like blind recruitment can help place focus solely on the skills and experience of candidates. All other details are removed from application forms or CVs, fostering an effective way of removing bias against applicants on the grounds of characteristics like ethnicity and background.

If you don’t use the Pupillage Gateway

If your chambers is not using the Pupillage Gateway for applications, or is recruiting staff, consider using a standardised application form instead of CV submissions.

An application form, unlike a CV, is a formalised document set by chambers that will streamline and create consistency in the recruitment process by laying out criteria guidelines for applicants to follow. This will create a more straightforward and objective comparison of clients.

Beware of unconscious bias

The presence of unconscious bias consistently poses intertwined challenges to fair recruiting principles. Our brains are wired to make instant assessments and judgements of people or situations, without conscious thought.

Unconscious biases become a problem during recruiting when involuntary discrimination occurs against applicants who are deemed to be from a ‘different’ group to the panel interviewers.

Although somewhat inevitable and impossible to remove, theses biases must be met with an equally strong attempt to impose objectivity to the recruitment process through standardised criteria and a diverse, inclusive culture.

The Pupillage Gateway’s application window closes on 7 February. If you have any questions regarding your fair recruitment processes, don’t hesitate to contact us at hello@getbriefed.com or call us on 028 9621 6345.


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