Autumn brings with it the final stage of this year’s silk selection process: the interview. After a substantial amount of work and effort, you were relieved to have completed and submitted your written application six months ago. In the intervening period you may not have given your application or the appointment process much further thought, other than to hope that you are included in the cohort to be called for interview.

If you are one of the fortunate 50% (approximately), you will now be faced with the prospect of an interview, probably lasting only a little over half an hour, to further demonstrate your advocacy excellence and suitability to be appointed to the pinnacle of your profession. How – and to what extent – can or should you prepare for that half-hour slot on which so much may depend?

Your starting point will be to re-familiarise yourself with your written application, as the basis for your prospective interview. Your application has been graded; it has got you to interview; now your interviewing panel – one legal and one lay member – will want to discover more. More about you, your work, examples which demonstrate your compliance with the competency framework. What information can you provide to supplement what you have already communicated in your paper application? What additional evidence can you produce to demonstrate ‘excellence’, the thread which runs throughout the King’s Counsel appointment process. Always remember that to be appointed KC, you must be seen by the Selection Panel as ‘a beacon of excellence for the profession’.

To achieve this, as an excellent advocate, you will provide evidence that, in particularly difficult, complex or sensitive cases in your field, you are up to date with the law and able rapidly to apply the law to the facts of the case; that you demonstrate this understanding through written and oral advocacy; that you behave in an exemplary fashion in relation to your client(s), your opponent(s) and the court; and finally, that you demonstrate a thorough understanding of diversity and inclusion, taking a proactive approach to improving diversity within the legal profession.

As well as going over your original application, you will do well to re-visit the KC Appointments (KCA) website (, in particular the Guidance for Applicants 2023; the Report by the King’s Counsel Selection Panel to The Lord Chancellor on the Process for the Selection and Appointment of King’s Counsel 2022; and the Summary of Process, as revised. Collectively, these documents will serve to remind you of what the Selection Panel is looking for and how you can best satisfy it.

Every year the KCA produces a report on the past year’s competition. There is a decade’s worth of reports currently on the website. Paragraphs 23-27 of last year’s report cover interview aspects of the process, including: pre-interview moderation and filter; scheduling and preparation for applicant interviews; and interview form and content. Last year, just over half of applicants were interviewed. Of those interviewed, two thirds were appointed.

The Panel considers that it is possible for applicants’ scores to improve in each of the competencies at interview. Prior to interview, the Panel will have identified areas of particular focus for the interviews of each applicant. The Panel may also have agreed a framework of sample questions, which pairs of interviewers can draw on – in addition to any other matters which appear to the interview pairs to be appropriate for each individual applicant. The interview provides an opportunity for applicants to provide further evidence of the level at which competencies have been demonstrated in the application. You should prepare to be probed for examples of excellence. Evidence from interview can be used to enhance information drawn from assessments, as well as your own self-assessment. Indeed, ‘evidence’ in relation to the silk selection process – and your application and appointment in particular – is every bit as important as evidence you adduce in every one of your own cases.

At the interview itself, the legal, professional member will take the lead on questions relating to Competency A: ‘Understanding and using the law’ and on Competency B: ‘Written and oral advocacy’. The lay member leads on C: ‘Working with others’ and D: ‘Diversity Action & Understanding’. But the order in which the competencies are dealt with may vary. And always keep in mind that while a question has been asked by one member, you are responding to two people – professional and lay – both of whom will be making their own notes and recommendations. Even the lawyer interviewer may not know much about your own particular area of expertise, so try to avoid legalese wherever possible and don’t assume knowledge which may be absent. Remember that ‘Working with others’ involves establishing ‘productive working relationships with all, including professional and lay clients…’ (italics added). Remember too, under Competency B: ‘Written and oral advocacy’, that this includes: ‘Listens attentively to what is said paying keen attention to others’ understanding and reactions.’

You will inevitably feel more confident about your strengths in some areas of the competency framework – and less confident in others. So, think in advance how you can bolster your case in areas of apparent or relative weakness. You may have acquired knowledge and skills from areas which are not immediately apparent from your courtroom practice alone. Highlighting your activities/contribution to your chambers or voluntary work within and outside the narrow confines of traditional professional practice may assist. Your responsibilities within chambers sometimes provide valuable evidence of team management and leadership.

Remember that the Selection Panel looks for evidence of excellence across the full range of the competency framework. Being a brilliant lawyer is crucial – but on its own, will not suffice. There is likely to be time at the end of your interview for other questions, and for you to make additional comments which may bolster your case.

The Selection Panel is well aware that barristers often have little experience of competency-based interviewing. The KCA advises that the Panel is not looking for a word-perfect performance – but rather, an honest and succinct account of skills acquired and deployed in your professional life. It wants you to demonstrate these same skills, albeit in a different forum. Let who you are, as the person behind the barrister, shine through in the interview room. Aspects of several of the competencies provide suitable opportunities: how you interact with others; your beliefs about diversity – and how these lead to specific behaviours and actions.

In getting to grips again with the content and detail of your application form, think about any cases of silk standard which have progressed since that time. These may have given rise to fresh examples which you can feed into your interview – perhaps at the end when there is likely to be time for you to add comments – or in responding to final questions.

Seek the assistance of colleagues and friends who have recently experienced the process and understand it well – so that you can benefit from insights they have gained. Get someone to ask you competency related questions, based on your own application. Practice of the right kind will almost certainly help to boost your confidence. Try to gain some of that practice in a quasi-interview setting, to listen well; to recall especially relevant case details; to articulate clear answers – and to remain calm and be yourself.