Analysis

The best chambers for training 2018-19

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The results from the new Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey are in

What makes for good training at the bar?

The stereotype is that barristers are self-sufficient loners who reject the sort of nurturing beloved of their solicitor cousins, and largely figure out how to become hotshot advocates through osmosis.

And that holds true to a certain extent. Indeed, it can be an approach favoured by baby barristers. Take as an example finance and insurance set 7 King’s Bench Walk, which scored an A* for training in the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2018-19. Training there is “unbelievably tough, but by the end you’ll be able to conquer any commercial problem — per mare, per terram”. Recruit the right type of Royal Marine-style pupils and this method clearly works.

But a select band of moderniser chambers are doing things differently. Do a pupillage at two other sets that scooped A*s for training, Hardwicke and 5 Essex Court, and you can expect a training contract-style experience (albeit condensed into a year) with a rotation through different seats and plentiful formal as well as informal training.

Among the 600+ responses to the survey were hundreds of anonymous comments. One Hardwicke rookie reported:

“… a lot of people make efforts to involve themselves in training pupils, there are frequent sessions delivered to solicitors which pupils and junior members are welcome to come to (and which are incredibly useful), and feedback is solicited from pretty well everybody that’s ever been in the same room as the pupil in question (all of which is then reported back with constructive suggestions).”

Meanwhile, a 5 Essex insider told us about “weekly in house pupil talks on a wide range of topics, great advocacy and proper feedback on all written work”.

The 2019 Chambers Most List – featuring the Legal Cheek Survey results in full

Increasingly that training is continuing into practice. Another set to make the A* grade, Serjeants’ Inn, has been running a pilot programme which allows junior tenants to shadow senior members of chambers in order to gain more experience in particular areas.

The wider culture and atmosphere of a chambers is also important to the training experience. Certainly, it helps when pupils are not competing against each other for a permanent place. Taking on more pupils than there are tenancy places remains common place at the bar, and can sour the mood considerably at the junior end of chambers. Commercial heavy hitter Wilberforce is one set that insists on not doing on this — and has been rewarded in this year’s Legal Cheek Survey with a top mark. “Pupillage is not competitive and so you can focus on improving and impressing your supervisor,” one of its junior members tells us.

Supervisors are of course a big deal when it comes to training. A recently qualified barrister at 2 Temple Gardens, another chambers to bag an A*, remembers: “As a pupil I had three great supervisors, doing hugely varied work, who each gave me the grounding I needed to start up. Since becoming a tenant, senior juniors and silks are constantly helping me get better and improve.”

The other four sets to score an A* for training were Atkin Chambers, Blackstone, Littleton and Kings Chambers — making a total of ten out of over 50 sets whose members were surveyed to get the top grade. While they all had different approaches, common themes included careful thought being put in to the bigger picture surrounding pupillage programmes and less hierarchical cultures than the norm at the bar.

The 2019 Chambers Most List – featuring the Legal Cheek Survey results in full

The firms that scored an A* in this category of the survey are shortlisted for the ‘Best Chambers for Training’ category of the Legal Cheek Awards on 21 March 2019.

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19 Comments

Anonymous

Why do you limit these results to such a small and unrepresentative number of sets?

Would it not be instructive to put a health warning on these sorts of articles to make plain that they don’t refer to the best training (or earnings in pupillage, or whatever it may be) across the Bar, but only within an extremely small and restrictive sample size?

Anonymous

One word. Sponsorship.

Anonymous

Is that true? How does it work?

Anonymous

My information might be out of date, but this was certainly the way they were working six or seven years ago. Then, you were told that your tenancy was at risk if you didn’t maintain minimum billing targets. I heard this from one of their barristers.

Anonymous

Nothing to see here people.

Everyone knows that LC puts these out to rank who has dished out the most dollar to them over the past year, and to give a nudge to those towards the bottom of the list that they need to pay up if they want to see an improvement of their rankings next year.

Anonymous

Oh would you look at that, posts discussing specifics re: one of the mentioned chamber’s style of pupillage got deleted without trace.
Alex, have you considered a career in the North Korean secret services? Seems you have a talent for Orwellian censorship

Anonymous

Well have you Alex? You could love out of your mUmSy’s garage if you did

Anonymous

Utterly meaningless.

Anonymous

Like your life then.

Anonymous

Having Alex review barristers’ chambers training is like asking someone who qualified for their country’s Olympic trials to review the actual Olympics. Cruel and not particularly informative.

Anonymous

Stop flattering him, Alex is more someone who came third in an egg and spoon race once level

Anonymous

This is hilarious. Most of these sets have had pupils drop out during the pupillage year or have poor tenancy figures, some are renowned at the bar for infighting, one has glossy marketing but is often criticised by solicitors for the quality of their Barristers, and are any of them actually doing the BSB’s new pupillage pilot scheme for PTOs? They all pay Legal Cheek, that’s the only relevant metric.

Anonymous

Ditto with the Firms Most lists so many (especially US firms) don’t appear at all!

Leather pants rule

I hear DWF are seething that it’s ‘in-house Chambers’ is not mentioned here.

Cue its approach to merge with a ‘mega set’.

An Instructing Solicitor

Why are they all London?

I’d like to give a shoutout to Cornwall Street Chambers, Birmingham (also to be found in Oxford and Shrewsbury) for the high standards of advocacy that we get from second-six pupils upwards.

Anonymous

I think he knows somebody in Manchester, because Kings Chambers always seem to do well in these sorts of things. They’re a good set, and I won’t hear a word against them, but they’re certainly no Deans Court Chambers, who are consistently ranked as excellent among the directories and amongst instructing solicitors generally, but who never draw a mention on this site, presumably because they refuse to pay any money.

It’s all completely meaningless.

Anonymous

Always good to see the Harwicke preference and absence of Criminal Bar representation.

Anonymous

The article doesn’t mention which of the aforementioned legalcheek sponsoring chambers do have the practice of recruiting more pupils each year than they have tenancies.

Answer: more than one of them.

Fonterius

This seems like total nonsense and a waste of time.

If anyone actually relies on it, it’s likely to be highly misleading.

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