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Revealed: The best chambers for training and quality of work 2020

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

A number of chambers have been commended for their training and quality of work in Legal Cheek‘s exclusive survey of over 600 junior barristers.

The findings are based on two questions put to rookies at the leading sets across England and Wales. They were asked to rate the training they received from one to ten, with one described as ‘barely any’, and ten being on par with the no-doubt gruelling training regime of famed survivalist ‘Bear Grylls’; and whether they thought this work was as stimulating as the brusque ‘Lord Sugar’ or Supreme Court supremo ‘Lord Sumption’.

A total of four chambers feature in the shortlist for both categories. They are 4 Pump Court, 5 Essex Court, Hardwicke and Wilberforce Chambers. Below are the results listed alphabetically:

Best chambers for training 2020

2 Temple Gardens
4 New Square
4 Pump Court
5 Essex Court
Devereux Chambers
Hardwicke
Kings Chambers
Landmark Chambers
Monckton Chambers
Wilberforce Chambers

The 2020 Chambers Most List – featuring the Legal Cheek Survey results in full

Best chambers for quality of work 2020

4 Pump Court
5 Essex Court
Blackstone Chambers
Brick Court Chambers
Hailsham Chambers
Hardwicke
Henderson Chambers
Littleton Chambers
Radcliffe Chambers
Serjeants’ Inn Chambers
Serle Court
Wilberforce Chambers

As part of this year’s survey we also received hundreds of anonymous comments from junior barristers about the training they received. Here are a select few from some of the chambers listed above:

How would you describe the training you have received?

“Pupillage training here was quite intense and formative: for instance, we had a week before pupillage formally started where we sat in the Head of Pupillage’s office and he personally gave us a refresher course on drafting. We had advocacy exercises to prepare us for our second six and received excellent training in preparing for our first few trials. Feedback throughout the pupillage process was regular and detailed. My first supervisor had a weekly ‘check-in’ with me. Overall, I would say that as a pupil I felt immensely supported.”

“When I joined chambers my legal skills were like soft clay. Now, they are like the impossible abs of a Greek marble statue: smooth, sculpted and cool to the touch.”

“I had three pupil supervisors all of whom took silk, and one became a High Court judge. All were very conscientious and helpful. I still channel them every time I do a piece of work, and repeat their aphorisms verbatim to my own pupils.”

“We have a roving series of lectures and talks, ongoing advocacy training from an Inner Temple advocacy lead, a significant budget for training (which is to include GDPR compliance training in the coming months) and supportive clerks who accommodate training opportunities into our budget. Our pupillage programme is also first rate: we ensure that pupils receive bespoke training which addresses any issues they are having, as well as assisting them to obtain tenancy.”

“It doesn’t stop once pupillage is over. Just last week one of our silks ran a cross-examination master class using a transcript from one of their cases and some other materials from the trial.”

How stimulating is the work you do?

“A large amount of my work has actually involved appearing before Lord Sumption so yes, it’s a ten. We are very privileged indeed here — the most important and interesting cases regardless of practice area come through the door.”

“For every junior at the bar there’s a balance to be struck between being the 19th junior in charge of paperclips on some multi-billion pound trial and being on your own for the 22nd day in a row on a car smash in a county court that’s a nine-hour train ride away. I think we get a really good balance — juniors are led quite a lot in high-profile cases but chambers is also keen to ensure that juniors are instructed as sole counsel in High Court cases as soon as possible.”

“The work done by chambers is consistently cutting-edge, interesting, and (more often than not) has a fair few zeros involved.”

“I’m never bored. There is always something knotty to get stuck into, and even when the matter is relatively simple or straightforward, the client/solicitors/something else keeps it interesting.”

“Really cracking mix of gruesome, fascinating clinical negligence work and heavy commercial trials. Covering everything from Kenyan history to the Saudi-Qatar diplomatic crisis and acquired brain injury cases.”

“The vast majority of our work is the most stimulating possible: cases about real people and real life. As their lawyers, we make decisions with actual consequences, whilst also dealing with challenging and ever-changing areas of law and sets of facts which are endlessly varied, sometimes harrowing, occasionally hilarious, and always memorable.”

Students punting for pupillage at the above elite sets should know the Pupillage Gateway, the centralised system to submit your application for pupillage, closes this week, on Friday 7 February.

The winning chambers in each category will be announced at the Legal Cheek Awards 2020, held at Sea Containers House, the swish riverside building located on London’s South Bank, on Thursday 26 March.

The 2020 Chambers Most List – featuring the Legal Cheek Survey results in full

33 Comments

Anonymous

Thanks for this, Alex.

Now, given the recent 4 New Square fiasco, where you censored all the comments criticising the claim that said chambers was a leading commercial set – presumably because 4NS was paying you to do so…

…please explain why we should consider this list meaningful and reliable?

citylitigator

To be fair, Legal Cheek saying that 4NS was a leading commercial set is hardly their worst fiasco (or the worst error in their ‘Best Chambers’ ranking). 4NS is a very good set and is probably the leading set for professional negligence work (which is, to be frank, fairly indistinguishable from pure commercial work). I believe they also do a decent amount of what we would call pure commercial work as well. They are frequently instructed by lots of decent City law firms.

Anonymous

You’ve completely missed the point.

The issue isn’t Legal Cheek making an inaccurate assertion.

The issue is Legal Cheek deliberately censoring those who point out the inaccuracy – presumably for financial gain.

Not a good look for a site that wants to market itself as a trusted resource for students.

Anonymous

Professional negligence. Cratering market. Cratering fees. Hungrier and hungrier fishes turning on each other for more and more meagre food.

citylaw

Does anyone know what the position is with commercial insolvency/company sets? I’ve heard on the grapevine that it’s well paid and on the same pay scale as commercial work, but I have no experience myself.

Anon

insolvency hearing work is the dream:

*counsel stands up in court* “The applicant would like to make an order in the usual form”

*Judge blinks* “Granted”

*counsel invoices for £3,500 +VAT*

Alan Robertshaw

Oh gawd yeah. I love Rolls Building listings. “Time estimate: 45 seconds”

Anonymous

Company is great work but a small number do it. It is also generally quite transactional focused over court work, which appeals to some and does not appeal to others. 95% of insolvency is grubby pay to deal with grubby people.

Anon

4 New Square is not a commercial set, let alone a leading one. It is a common law/professional negligence chambers.

Anon

Kind of irrelevant given most of these chambers are totally off-limits to 95% of law students.

Anon

95% of law students aren’t good enough for the Bar.

Anonymous

Sadly, only 85% of them know that.

DimWit

Get your head out of your arse, tubby.

Tub E.

You are just jealous I am flexible enough to get my head there. Imagine what else I can do.

Anonymous

It’s my understanding that literally any chamber that will train you is a good one

the impossible abs of a Greek marble statue

The results of these surveys always look a little specious since most junior barristers will train at only one set. The unlucky ones will do a second-six, perhaps some will jump after a few years call. But I’d still bet that your average junior is in no position to compare their training with someone else’s.

Anonymous

We can compare them to our fathers’ sets.

TruthTalker

I was a tenant at one of the chambers in the top 10 for training category and their training was awful. Pupils were not even in the same room as their supervisors but stuck in the library and often did not see their supervisors for many many days at a time.

These lists can only possibly be based on a very small sample size, and so some chambers have got a few people to write in crap to try and win. It doesn’t really say anything.

Plus 90% of training depends on the supervisor you have, and one person’s experience of pupillage in the same year can be completely different to anothers.

These lists are just daft.

Anon

Name and shame?

Former Bazza

What on earth does this list actually mean. Firstly it is missing any number of “leading” sets, in any number of disciplines, why ?
I personally know of two of the sets where pupils are stuck working in the library or basement and only see their supervisor when they have completed a piece of work . Truth talker I wonder if we are talking about the same set ?
@ impossible Greek , do you have the slightest clue as to what you are on about. “ the unlucky ones do a second six”. No everyone does a second six .

What I hope is the last time I have to mention this 4 New Square is not a leading commercial set on any construction. It undoubtedly does some commercial work , but it is an excellent top civil common law set, with an outstanding reputation in professional negligence work, which is its mainstay.
Defending a claim on behalf of an insurer/insured in respect of proceedings commenced by John Smith for under settling his personal injury claim is not commercial work. Nor is acting on behalf of a developer who is being sued for the negligent design and build of an office block.
Can we know who has or hasn’t paid to be included in this list , or is that fantasy on my part ?

Former Bazza

Oh and working for insurers is grim, even for the higher end stuff. Every 2 years or so you spend hours pitching in the hope of securing a place on their panel , which is run by procurement and bean counters. If successful yes you will have plenty of work , but it will be on fixed fees or derisory hourly rates which are capped. Insurers every tender squeeze the fees more and more , it is a race to the bottom . Why do you think so many firms and chambers refuse to do panel work for insurers ? The trick is to do off panel work for insurers .

Anon

100%! I’m at a City firm on a couple panels and we are constantly required to do free “value added” work in order to get decent claims, and even then they nickel and dime – no billing for reading in, no billing for document admin, no billing for travel, no billing for (a) – (z). The rates they do pay are insulting when compared to the court recommended rates for City firms (and even that’s out of date).

Absolute garbage clients. They are actually contributing to wage stagnation at a bunch of firms thanks to the race to the bottom mentality plus demand for more complex free services. I’m considering leaving private practice because of it – in house in my sector pays more.

Former Bazza

Oh and being on a panel for insurers is grim . Year on year declining rates, most of which are capped or fixed . Hundreds of hours spent on tendering processes run by bean counters and procurement bods. You will be very busy to the point of exhaustion, but you will need to be because of the “poor” rates . The trick is to work for insurers off panel, getting paid proper rates .

Anon

I’m confused, isn’t 4NS listed as a leading set for commercial dispute resolution on both the chambers guide and the legal500 guide? I’m a law student looking at sets and both of those guides have been my main method of distinguishing between chambers practice areas. Also doesn’t 4NS do a fair amount of construction work?

Bob the Builder/Counsel

Not real construction work. It’s all architect/engineer/surveyor professional negligence claims. “Did some sole practitioner consultant exercise reasonable skill and care (to be expected of a similar consultant) in designing this terrible house extension that is leaking?”

90% of “proper” construction disputes arises out of payment issues under the various contracts (JCT, NEC, FIDIC being the ones I normally see). This usually involves careful analysis of the contractual positions and (often) implied but agreed amendments to already modified payment procedures, and complex valuations of the works. Atkin and Keating have cornered that market. They literally write the books on it.

Seneca

You are right that 4NS is ranked for commercial disputes in both directories. No doubt some of the above commenters would counter that Legal500/Chambers are also mere shills that list whichever chambers pays them the most.

Even a lot of 4NS’s professional negligence/insurance work takes place in the Commercial Court. It really comes down to how broad your definition of “commercial set” is. On the basis of some comments, there would probably only be about 7 such sets in the whole country. The 25 or so ranked in the directories is probably a better guide.

anonymous

“The 25 or so ranked in the directories is probably a better guide”. No, not probably. It is inaccurate.

The Commercial sets are:

Essex Court
One Essex Court
Brick Court
Fountain Court
20 Essex
Quadrant Chambers
7 King’s Bench Walk
Blackstone

Anon

3VB? Wilberforce?

Anonymous

3VB.

Wilberforce is commercial/chancery

Anonym

A lot depends on your definition of “Commercial” but really this list minus Blackstone (which is more public/media) plus 3VB and 4 Pump Court

Former Bazza

I would describe the following as being proper commercial sets, with some cross over in to the commercial chancery space

Littleton
4 Pump Court
3 VB
Wlberforce
Serle Court
South Square

Anon

Littleton: employment set, with some people who do commercial work
4 Pump Court: civil common law set with some people who do commercial work
3 VB: commercial set
Wlberforce: commercial-chancery set
Serle Court: commercial-chancery set
South Square: insolvency set

litigationinthecity121

There is some crossover between Commercial and Commercial chancery but the leading sets for each are generally the following:

Leading Commercial sets:
One Essex Court
Brick Court
Fountain Court
Essex Court
Blackstone
3VB
20 Essex

Leading Commercial Chancery sets:
Maitland
South Square
Serle Court
Erskine
Wilberforce

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