Application Process

Our assessment of candidates takes into account written applications and, for those applicants who progress to the next stages, performance in interview.

Throughout the process, we test the following skills and competencies: analytical ability; expression and persuasion; practical professional skills; and motivation to have and develop a common law practice. We also check to ensure that a candidate does not demonstrate a lack of integrity or a significant lack of judgement.

Candidates are required to have a minimum of a second class degree (the minimum qualification level in the Bar Qualification Manual) and be in a position to have been called to the Bar by the commencement date of pupillage. Otherwise, there are no formal academic requirements to apply or be selected for pupillage with us. Analytical ability, which we do test in each applicant, may have some overlap with academic achievement but they are not the same thing.

Throughout the process, we take a realistic view of what we can expect of a candidate. We are not expecting that you will be able to conduct a High Court trial alone on the first day of pupillage. We are looking for candidates who have the skills and potential to become good common law barristers, who are realistic about the challenges such a career involves, and who want to work hard to make the most of it.

Submitting Your Application

We invite applications for pupillage on our own application form through our own online system. We do not accept applications through the Pupillage Gateway, although we adhere to the Pupillage Gateway timetable. During each application window, links to the application form and the online system will be available on the main pupillage information page.

The application system stores personal details (name and contact information), educational information and referee details in a separate section to your application form, so that the relevant material can be considered anonymously. There is also an equality and diversity monitoring form which is not mandatory but which we invite you to complete. Please refer to the page about equality, diversity, inclusion and reasonable adjustments for more information about these aspects of the process.

When completing the application form, please ensure that you answer each question as asked. Some sections of the form have word limits: please observe them strictly. Anything over the word limit will not be considered. At the same time, do not think that you must use the full number of words: if you can fully answer the question more concisely, please do so. The questions have tables or boxes into which you should type your answers. On some computers the boxes may not automatically expand as you type, so please manually expand the size of the boxes if required. We are interested in the content of your answers. How you present them is a matter for you. We are not averse to bullet points if that is the most appropriate method for the information.

We ask that you nominate two referees whom we may contact for references in support of your application. Please submit the name and e-mail address of each of your referees on the online application form. We ask that at least one of your referees be an academic referee if possible. Whilst we hope that it goes without saying, please inform your referees before submitting their names to us. Your referees will be contacted only after the second round interviews in the event that we are considering making you an offer of pupillage. We will tell you before we contact them.

The Application Form and Paper Sift

Every applicant is invited to complete an application form. The questions on the form are designed to allow the candidate to demonstrate competence in the skills we have identified as being important for pupils to possess. The forms are marked on paper against the criteria above.

At the paper sift stage, all applications are marked on an anonymous basis. Our dedicated online application system holds your name, academic details and contact details separately from the forms themselves. We ask that you do not include any identifying features or details of your protected characteristics on the form (unless it is absolutely necessary to disclose them for the purpose of demonstrating relevant competence, though in our experience that is rarely required).

Interviews Generally

Our years of experience of interviewing prospective pupils has taught us that interviews in person are usually more useful, and give candidates a better opportunity to demonstrate their skills, than remote video interviews. That said, we have a willingness to be flexible and we will usually permit a candidate to be interviewed by video if that is the preference.

At all stages of the interview process, we strive to be courteous and welcoming whilst still rigorously testing each candidate. We try hard to ensure mixes of practice area, seniority and sex on each interviewing panel.

Each candidate has an opportunity to ask questions at the end of each interview. We are happy to answer questions (within reason), but there is no expectation on a candidate to ask anything.

First Round Interviews

Candidates who score well are invited to a first round interview. This stage of the process involves a relatively short interview, during which we test analytical ability, expression and persuasion, and motivation.

The interview lasts around 15-20 minutes, and involves specific questions about motivation and a short (unseen) advocacy exercise in which the candidate is invited to argue for or against a proposition provided during the interview. Arguments are tested and challenged by the interviewing panel.

We recognise that different skills are demonstrated on paper and orally in interview. Accordingly, we do not use exactly the same criteria when considering applications at the paper sift stage and in the first round interviews. Instead, we combine the (weighted) marks from each candidate’s form and interview. The resulting totals dictate who is to be invited to the second (and final) round interviews. This process also means that we consider the application form separately from the first round interview: they are testing different skills (or different aspects of skills); and the interviewers do not refer to the application form during the interview (although the candidate is permitted to do so if it assists in answering any of the questions).

Second Round Interviews

Candidates who are successful after the paper and first round stages are invited to the second round interviews. Achievement of that stage of the process is a demonstration of the significant strength of an application. Offers of pupillage and places on our reserve list are decided by performance at the second round stage, which includes the oral interview as well as consideration of the application form.

The second round interview, which lasts for around 40-45 minutes, has two parts. First, there is an advocacy exercise. It is provided in writing to the candidate 40 minutes before the start of the interview and the candidate is permitted to prepare it privately. The exercise then takes place for the first 15 minutes of the interview. (There is a period during which the candidate may make and develop arguments uninterrupted, before the panel challenges them.) After the advocacy exercise, the remainder of the interview comprises questions which explore the candidate’s fulfilment of the selection criteria (analytical ability, expression and persuasion, practical professional skills and motivation). Question topics include a candidate’s experience and the contents of the application form. We also test the candidate’s appreciation of, and likely ability to deal with, the realities of a career at the Bar.


We receive so many application forms each year that, regrettably, we cannot offer feedback at the paper sift stage.

We do give feedback to candidates after the first and second round interviews. Owing to the amount of work involved, and the fact that memories fade and data are not retained for long periods, we ask that each request for feedback is made promptly after notification of an unsuccessful outcome. We cannot guarantee a response to a request made weeks (or months) afterwards.

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Deka Chambers: 5 Norwich Street, London EC4A 1DR

© Deka Chambers 2024


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