Your journey to pupillage
I went to a comprehensive secondary school in the East Midlands and stayed on to the sixth form. I did quite a mix of A-Levels – english literature, history, physics and chemistry – and got two A*s and two As.
After my A-Levels I went on to Emmanuel College, Cambridge to study law. I am part of the first generation of my family to go to university, so I was incredibly excited when I got a place! During my undergraduate degree I got involved in my college law society and did some mooting, but made sure I had some non-law related things to do as well. I stayed on to do an LLM at Cambridge before moving to London to do my BPTC at BPP.
During my degree years I did a number of mini-pupillages in a wide variety of areas. This was really helpful in deciding what I didn’t want to do, just as much as what I did enjoy. In particular, it was useful to see the different ways of working at different parts of the bar – for example, seeing the contrast between life at a criminal set and a pure chancery set helped me to realise that I did want to be in court frequently, but not every day.
I first applied for pupillage the year before I started the BPTC. This resulted in a reserve offer from a commercial chancery set, but no pupillage. By the time I applied again the following year, I had realised this area of the law wasn’t actually the best fit for me and so applied to sets with a broader civil practice. This was far more successful and I got four offers of pupillage. While I was upset at not getting an offer of pupillage the first time round, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise – the extra year gave me time to reflect and make sure I was playing to my strengths and applying to places where I would be most likely to flourish.
The pupillage experience
I was drawn to 2TG for a number of reasons, chief among them the quality and breadth of training 2TG offers and the collegiate nature of chambers’ life.
Pupillage at 2TG is structured so as to prepare pupils for a thriving and wide-ranging junior practice. The year is split into three seats, the first two lasting three months each and the final seat comprising the whole of the second six. All three of my pupil supervisors were extremely talented teachers as well as barristers, which made learning from them a pleasure. Between them, their practices covered the vast majority of chambers’ specialities, allowing me to get involved in a wide range of cases during pupillage. This included a multi-day clinical negligence trial, an employment claim relating to alleged bullying and harassment at an NHS Trust and a multi-million pound commercial dispute (in which I was later instructed in my own right). Unlike many chambers, pupils at 2TG are closely involved in their supervisors’ work – instead of simply undertaking research or working on old papers, I would be tasked with providing first drafts of pleadings, advices and skeleton arguments for my supervisors’ ongoing cases, which was immensely satisfying.
Alongside day-to-day work with pupil supervisors, 2TG also provides structured training to help pupils hone their skills ready for practice. Our pupillage programme starts with two to three days of intensive induction covering key skills and chambers’ main areas of practice. Throughout the year, pupils also undertake a number of advocacy sessions run by members of chambers to prepare them for taking on their own cases.
The training provided during pupillage undoubtedly equips pupils well for making the transition into independent practice. Building your own practice starts early – pupils at 2TG are regularly instructed in their own name and tend to appear in court around two to three times a week throughout their second six. From the beginning, pupils and new tenants are encouraged to start shaping their practice in line with their own interests. This is supported by our excellent clerking team, who work hard to ensure junior members are kept busy with a varied diet of paperwork and hearings.
While the quality of the training on offer was an important factor in my decision to undertake pupillage at 2TG, it was not the only one. In my view, one of 2TG’s most distinguishing features is its supportiveness and collegiality – something which is evident both during pupillage and beyond. It is futile to suggest pupillage – the fabled ‘year-long interview’ – can ever be entirely stress-free, but 2TG works hard to mitigate the pressure on pupils as far as possible. Crucially, pupillage at 2TG is non-competitive – we don’t accept more pupils than we genuinely want to take on as new tenants. This makes a huge difference and means your co-pupils are your closest allies, rather than potential competition. Each pupil is also assigned a mentor – a junior barrister they can go to for advice or reassurance in complete confidence. Finally, 2TG is scrupulously transparent in terms of feedback and progress, so pupils know where they stand at each step along the way. In my experience, these measures go a long way to ensuring that the pupillage process is enjoyable, as well as effective. This sense of collegiality continues into tenancy – chambers has a strong ‘open door’ culture, so there is always someone willing to act as a sounding board when you are working through a knotty legal problem.
The transition from pupil to tenant
I found the transition from pupil to tenant very smooth. Because pupils at 2TG have a practicing second six there isn’t a sudden gear-change when you get taken on. Once the tenancy decision has been made in early July, you do progressively less with your supervisor and take on increasing numbers of your own cases, so by the time your tenancy formally begins in October you are working at pretty much full capacity. The hardest thing about becoming a tenant is getting all the practicalities, such as insurance and tax in order, but I found my colleagues and the clerks were great sources of guidance.
What is your practice like now?
I have a very broad practice, which is exactly what I was looking for when I joined 2TG. I am regularly instructed in cases involving personal injury and clinical negligence, property damage, product liability and employment, among others. I also make use of 2TG’s strong tradition of giving seminars (and now webinars, with our own YouTube channel) on interesting areas of law. This lets me build my profile in areas I am particularly keen to develop and is a good way of marketing myself to solicitors.
Because of the wide variety of work I do, I’m not sure I have a ‘typical working week’. I try to aim to be in court about three times a week, with the other days kept clear for doing paperwork and preparation. I find this gives me a good balance of work and also makes sure I don’t get so swamped that I completely neglect my personal life – something that can be all too easy to do! That being said, some weeks I won’t be in court at all (usually if something settles last minute) and some weeks my diary is bursting at the seams – the only constant is the lack of constancy!
I am very happy with my practice and hope to keep it as broad as possible for the next few years. In my view, getting as many different experiences as you can early on is what shapes you into a well-rounded – and ultimately successful – barrister and I am very lucky 2TG lets me do that.
What is the culture of chambers?
The culture of 2TG is incredibly supportive from all sides. Even through the pandemic we held together a sense of collegiality – we adapted to virtual chambers tea and Friday drinks, set up a book club who met remotely and have had a number of special events such as chocolate tasting run by our Wellbeing Committee. This culture isn’t confined to the social side of chambers, but infuses work-life too – I am constantly popping into colleagues’ rooms or giving them a call when I run into a problem. We aren’t particularly hierarchical, so I’m just as comfortable picking the brains of a QC as another junior.
In terms of facilities, we are very lucky at 2TG. We’re in a beautiful Victorian building at the end of Middle Temple Lane and many of chambers’ rooms overlook Inner or Middle Temple Gardens. We also have five conference rooms and a lovely library which looks out over the river.
Our clerking team is very skilled and incredibly supportive. We have regular practice reviews with Lee, our Head Clerk, to make sure our practices are developing in the way we want them to. They are also incredibly friendly – the clerks room is always a good place for a chat!
Top tips for those wanting to become a barrister/secure a pupillage at your chambers
Keep an open mind when considering practice areas – you never really know what an area is like until you practice it, so try to avoid being dead-set on doing only one small field of law when you’re starting out.
Mooting is not the only way to improve your advocacy skills! Not all advocacy is formal – even just discussing the news with a friend can help you to get better at articulating an argument and spotting the flaws in someone else’s.
Think about why you would be good at the less obvious bits of the job. Everyone applying for the bar is likely to be bright and good at speaking in public, but those traits only cover part of the job. Can you put people at their ease? Take responsibility for your own development? Manage your time well and react to changing circumstances quickly? These are the skills that will really help you to succeed.