08 May, 2009

New OLPAS form read as thoroughly?

I was chatting with the barrister I was clerking, yesterday, and it turns out that she is on the pupillage committee for her chambers.

In terms of the number of interviews in the provinces v London, she said that in her set they get about 400 applications for 3 pupillages. They interview about 20 people. I'd be interested to hear more on how many interviews other London sets offer relative to the number of applicants.

The other discussion we had was on the new OLPAS form. I complained that as it was longer, surely pupillage committees could not afford to spend as much time on each form and so it would be read less thoroughly. She completely disagreed saying that she reads each form, in full and just does 1 hour worth of form read each night. She observed that actually, the OLPAS timetable means that chambers do have plenty of time to review forms thoroughly and that given how important the forms are to the applicant, she said she found it important to read each one thoroughly.

Comforting to know on one level, if only my form wasn't so rubbish!


Pupilpedia said...

I saw the list of interviewees for one London set I was interviewed at and there must have been at least 40. You can probably discount half the applicants as no hopers though surely. And then 1 in 10 isn't so bad for the set you were talking about. I know at a Manchester set they had nearly 400 applications, invited 60 to interview and took 16 to second interview. I'm glad they read the forms thoroughly, although they can't read them that thoroughly because in one of mine I once spelt the name of the set wrong in one place and they still gave me an interview.

simply wondered said...

400 apps for 2-3 pups sounds about right. i wouldn't be quite as confident as pupilpedia that half those selected for interview are no-hopers. i would think they are all realistic candidates. there are a lot more than 40 people who have a good shot at pupillage in any one area of law.
some of the sets i have interviewed at have said they interview 20, some about 50 and this may depend on whether they do 1 or 2 (or exceptionally 3) interviews. seems it's usually about 10-20 for a last round which makes odds pretty good by then - of course those are the favoured applicants so the odds may not be quite so improved as the raw numbers suggest.
but of course the point is that we desperate scrabblers for pupillage over-analyse the process (naturally) and in any selection there is plenty of randomness and luck.

i chatted to somebody new to a pupillage comittee and she went a bit pale when i told her there were 8 boxes on olpas each with max350 words. do the maths: 2500 words, 400 app forms ... 100,000 words for some poor barrister to read. i'm gratified that the person you met said she reads them all and gives sufficient time to the task, but it is a hell of a lot of work and you must wonder whether it is feasible for them to invest that much time when they could most likely step outside chambers, shout pupillage, lob a stone and knock down 10 perfectly suitable candidates.
i have no idea whether it was a good move or a bad one, but i couldn't bring myself to write more than 150 words in any box on this year's olpas. i just pictured myself wading through all that pointless verbiage.

re the typo - i have a degree in words and am a total word pedant but i wouldn't chuck out a decent candidate because they failed to check one typo on a form. i hope others might select candidates on similarly substantive grounds. maybe things like: would they be god at the job? could i stand seeing them in chambers most days? silly things like that.

Pupilpedia said...

That is sailing close to the wind wrt no more than 150 words per answer. My average for the first 7 questions was 306. Most was 347 for what type of law, and least was 249 for how I hope to contribute to the chambers. I think that's a happy medium.

Miss Middle of Manchester said...

Yeah, the 1 in 5 figure would be so much easier if you knew 3 in 5 were idiots!

SW, I agree that I wouldn't blame any PC member for not reading forms as thoroughly - but it's nice to know that in at least some instances, that isn't the case!

I spent more time on some questions than others, I have to say. Having spent a few hundred words on 'which areas of law', I was decidedly less verbose when it came to type of practice - my response basically read 'paper and court based, wide yet narrow focus' which in non OLPASese can be translated as 'how the hell would I know?!'

simply wondered said...

well it was 150 words per box last year and people like what they are used to... i got 6 interviews last year with a cv that wasn't half as strong, and applying to rather more fashionable sets than this year. so if i get a decidedly poorer response this time i'll have something to blame it on.
i really can't believe that they will chuck out a perfectly good cv because he didn't fill the boxes.

Law Minx said...

I managed to stay beneath the word limits for each question at first draft, thank goodness, but I must admit I was not under by much; I fear I may be binned for excessive verbiage , froth and flannel!( but then, you lot all know me - why say it in one word when a THOUSAND will do?!)

sim won said...

juniorish tenant from a chancery set came to speak to us this week - said he waded through one app form where the guy went on about a page on one attribute he claimed to possess. you just know that attributue is gonna be brevity.
it was.

Pupilpedia said...

I doubt that the new form will have been decided upon without at least some consultation with various chambers. If they wanted 150 words, then that is the limit they would no doubt have imposed. Increasing it rather implies that they want more. Why would they take a good CV when the person in possession of it doesn't go to the same trouble as another to give a full and thorough answer? Otherwise they may as well just ask for CVs.

I could have left my answers at 150words like last year, but I've spent time carefully thinking about how I can explain myself further. It is an opportunity to show passion for the Bar. Leaving the answer at less than half the recommended amount would not, for me at least, convey that passion.

Excessive verbiage concerns the quality and not the quantity. If you write 350 very good words then that is not excessive. If you write 250 good words and 100 bad words, that is excessive. However, 150 words good words is never going to be as useful as 250 good words, nor 250 as useful as 350 good words.

simply wondered said...

'I doubt that the new form will have been decided upon without at least some consultation with various chambers.'

ya think?????

you might also doubt that the system would have been imposed without adequate testing or working out that it could take the inevitable last day rush. it would have been reasonable to doubt that.
but wrong.

to be honest, i think chambers will be as swayed (or unswayed) by 150 good words as 350 good words. but that too may be 'reasonable'. but wrong. i shan't waste too much effort second guessing.

Law Minx said...

I am soooooooooooo DEAD this year..........!

LegallyGinge said...

I kept my answers pretty brief, except for the second last 'skills' question (the one which included mooting oranisation etc )- did the whole allowance of words on that (and might i add to the SHEEITTTE software testers cowering safely in Bangalore that 350 words is NOT 347)

I do wonder how much of it was a test - I mean I am an IT consultant but do the PCs REALLY want to know about my skills in TomCat or in JAVA????? So for IT I just added the Microsoft office skills!!


simply wondered said...


finally we sum up olpas - and it only took 1 word.