Members of 11KBW acted in proceedings related to the Liverpool Hillsborough tragedy and subsequent cover up. They represented the government in the Supreme Court’s Article 50 case (on whether parliamentary approval was required before the government could set the formal Brexit process into motion). And they recently acted in a legal challenge against the Parole Board, which decides whether prisoners should be released, on the basis it lacks “objective independence” from the government. All in all, they’re involved in some of the most interesting cases around.
The London-based set is best known for its work in the employment and public law fields, but is expanding into other areas such as commercial, media, human rights, EU and Brexit, sanctions and public international law. It also generates an unusually high proportion of senior judges. It was launched in 1981 by the then future Lord Chancellor Lord Irvine of Lairg and one of its founding members is former Prime Minister Tony Blair — must be something in the chambers tea that is served every Thursday.
The quality of work is “generally very high during pupillage. It is varied in terms of practice areas (public, employment, commercial, information/data protection, procurement) and wide-ranging in terms of the nature of tasks (advice, research notes, pleadings and skeleton arguments mainly, and other miscellaneous tasks like draft orders and application notices)”. Former pupils describe it as “exciting stuff” and “very stimulating”. They highlight the “variety on offer” and the “great balance between knotty legal analysis and advice, and court time with witness-handling”.
“Supportive and very friendly” 11KBW has 43 juniors and 19 QCs, including some bar heavyweights. It offers four 12-month pupillages with a solid £65,000 award for the year. In the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2018-19, it scores an A* for work, As for training, colleagues and social life, and a B for its “pretty good” facilities (one rookie praises its “good” conference rooms and library but urges “a slightly wider Westlaw/Lexis subscription for pupils, and modernisation of some of the bathrooms”).
This set has a “happy” social side, with “various evening events (including formal dinners, pub quizzes and ping pong tournaments)”, and “people are generally chatty”.
Pupils rotate between two three-month seats and one six-month seat. They receive advocacy training, with three formal assessments to keep them on their toes. In the words of one rookie, “the training is rigorous with a real emphasis on learning through feedback sessions. These happen from the start of pupillage with your assigned supervisor. Subsequently, in the second and third three-month blocs, most feedback sessions are with the person setting the task and a second marker. Markers tend to be senior juniors and silks, so the input is very helpful. The only downside of this approach is that it can be hard to cope with the volume of feedback (including differences of style and judgement) and the time lag between work completion and these sessions”.
According to another former pupil: “Pupillage is intensive but supportive. You get lots of feedback. Every piece of work you do is double marked and you get advice from a whole range of members on how to improve. I found it tough, but my work improved remarkably over the period so I don’t regret it”. While 11KBW certainly puts its pupils through their paces, the intensity of the year is eased by the “collegiate atmosphere” and “real focus on wellbeing initiatives”, making this chambers an excellent place to launch a career at the bar.