The strange case of the vanishing pupillages

Avatar photo

By Alex Aldridge on

In the most recent pupillage application round Weir House Chambers advertised for “up to two pupillages to commence in early 2014”. The closing date for applications was Friday 6 December, with interviews to be held tomorrow (11 January).

Then, earlier this week applicants received this message…


We contacted Weir House chief Gerard McDermott QC and he told us:

“I am not sure that I can add anything to the message that you refer to. Though you will appreciate that we are delaying recruitment rather than ‘withdrawing …pupillage’.

“I hope that those that know me and James Bell would acknowledge that we are very aware of the difficulties facing new entrants to the Bar and want to help where we can.”

Weir House Chambers isn’t a legal aid set — it specialises in the comparatively lucrative areas of personal injury and clinical negligence — and so shouldn’t be bracketed with the likes of Charter Chambers, Guildhall Chambers and the now-defunct Tooks, which were all forced to cancel their 2014 pupillages. But it is pretty tiny, comprising just McDermott, fellow barrister James Bell and two “legal assistants”. So perhaps Weir House shouldn’t be held up to the graduate recruitment standards expected of more established outfits.

But this still sucks for students. OK, delay taking on pupils if absolutely necessary. But why make those who have spent valuable time and energy on their applications re-apply?

Update 13:52 — This post originally stated that Charter Chambers, Guildhall Chambers and the now-defunct Tooks Chambers cancelled their 2014 pupillages “for financial reasons”. This phrase has been removed after a complaint from Charter Chambers, which states that “This is too blunt an expression and was not and never has been the reason we gave for our decision.”