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Spotlight on London niche litigation law firm over alleged possible pupillage rule breach

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International boutique practice Kobre & Kim refuses to comment on fate of wannabe barrister applications

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The London office of a global litigation law firm is facing questions over a mysterious advertised pupillage place that it appears not to be arranging interviews to fill.

Rumblings have cropped up over the last few days on internet message board The Student Room alleging that the firm was refusing to deal with queries about the application process.

The firm — which has four offices in the US as well as in the City of London’s Tower 42, Hong Kong, the Cayman and British Virgin islands — advertised a position this spring on the Pupillage Gateway. However, several students have subsequently alleged that the firm has refused to respond to queries about the fate of their applications.

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And one commentator mooted the possibility that the firm had advertised the position solely to comply with the regulator’s rules, while fully intending to fill the role with an existing “analyst”.

Analyst appears to be the glorified name the firm accords to paralegals. If the firm is just going through the advertising motions to comply with regulations, applicants from outside the practice will be aggrieved as they are only allowed a dozen gateway applications. Arguably, while the firm might be complying with the letter of the regulations, an application to Kobre & Kim will have been a wasted opportunity if it is breaching the spirit.

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Another wannabe barrister compared Kobre’s alleged behaviour with the situation around the demise two years ago of Tooks Court Chambers. Then, Michael Mansfield QC’s renowned set was forced to withdraw offers after the chambers went bust.

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While barristers’ chambers offer the bulk of pupillage places in England and Wales, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) occasionally authorises other organisations — such as solicitor’s firms — to provide the training.

The BSB will not comment on individual cases involving approved training organisations. However, it is understood that officials at the regulator are keen to see pupillage recruitment conducted transparently and that the regulator would investigate alleged breaches of that principle.

Kobre & Kim is home to three English silks. James Corbett QC is a cross-border litigation specialist focusing on disputes in the financial services and technology sectors. He joined the firm from Serle Court Chambers in Lincoln’s Inn.

Andrew Stafford QC advises on complex commercial disputes and international arbitrations involving financial products and services as well as joint venture and partnerships disputes. He came from Littleton Chambers in The Temple.

And Jalil Asif QC specialises in high-value commercial and insolvency disputes, having joined Kobre from 4 New Square in Lincoln’s Inn.

Kobre & Kim refused to respond to repeated requests from Legal Cheek for comment on its pupillage position.