Situated in quiet, tree-lined Bedford Row, close to Gray’s Inn, 2 Bedford Row is one of the leading criminal sets in the country. Its 53 juniors and 18 silks prosecute and defend in the most high-profile, headline-hitting cases. William (Bill) Clegg QC — who until recently headed-up the set and is due to retire this year — has been in practice almost half a century and defended in more than 100 murders. His caseload has included: Colin Stagg, acquitted of murdering Wimbledon Common mum Rachel Nickell; Barry George, wrongly convicted for the murder of TV presenter Jill Dando; defending Britain’s first Nazi war criminal and representing a man whose murder charge was based solely on an ear print. Other chambers’ heavyweights are Richard Whittam QC, recently appointed as a deputy High Court judge and go-to prosecutor Brian Altman QC, who is counsel to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. Altman, along with Jim Sturman QC, recently took over as joint heads of chambers.
Training is rated A in the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2019-20. The set takes on four pupils a year, who complete the regular 12-month pupillage plus a third six if they want to be considered for tenancy. Pupils receive a grant of £15,000 in their first six and guaranteed earnings of £15,000 in their second, but most bill “far in excess” of the minimum, according to the website.
You will have one supervisor for each six-month period who, according to one junior, will be “enthusiastic, encouraging, and always happy to chat through a query on the phone, even after their pupil has become a tenant”. Pupils have weekly advocacy training sessions with silks and juniors who, says one pupil, are “friendly and inspiring”, as well as training from the Inns of Court.
2 Bedford Row covers all aspects of criminal and regulatory work and represents clients in a wide variety of proceedings and investigations, from fraud and murder to health & safety and professional proceedings. Juniors, says one, undertake a mix of work including “complex cases” that might range from “technical driving offences to robberies and frauds”.
As you would expect at such a pukka set, you are expected to graft and pupils put in an above-average 60-69 hours a week. The environment is supportive and, as one junior put it, “it’s not the Ritz, but we have all the facilities we need to carry out our everyday practice very comfortably”.
The set scores an A for colleagues. Praising the members, one pupil says: “I could ring anyone in chambers and ask for their advice on an issue that I am encountering”. Another says: “Chambers is full of approachable people who are willing to talk through thorny issues or just have a catch up down the pub” and the proximity of the Old Nick on nearby Sandland Street ensures the latter happens often with “many a spontaneous pint on the way home”.
Pupillage applications are made through the Pupillage Gateway and the set looks to recruit those with a commitment to criminal law, sound academic background and a passion and flair for advocacy.