It was the quality of work at 2 Temple Gardens (2TG) that drew junior barrister Ruth Kennedy to the set. “Members of chambers have appeared in decisions all the way up to the Supreme Court in our areas of work,” she says.
2TG covers a broad range of practice across the civil and commercial spectrum. This breadth was also important to Kennedy, who was called to the bar in 2015, as she was keen to gain experience in a variety of areas.
Housed in a distinctive white Victorian listed building overlooking the Thames, 2TG is home to 59 practising barristers. They work together in spacious shared rooms; Kennedy has two other junior barrister roommates. “Our room has an amazing view overlooking the wide lawns of Inner Temple Garden,” she says.
During pupillage, Kennedy completed her first seat in clinical negligence and personal injury, and her second in professional negligence and insurance. In her third seat, part of her role included working for the government on the Mau Mau litigation, a high-profile case involving over 40,000 claimants alleging abuse arising out of the 1950s Kenyan uprising, a case which she is still working on.
Chambers tries its best to ensure that the three pupils it takes on each year feel as supported as possible. Upon starting, pupils are assigned a mentor. “My mentor and I would go for regular coffees or lunch together and it was great to have someone I was able to run things past,” recalls Kennedy, who will be mentoring a pupil herself from this year’s intake.
There’s a big emphasis on advocacy experience for pupils, who do a series of training workshops throughout the year. Pupils receive feedback on every piece of work they complete and at the end of each seat there’s a review session with the head of pupillage. “These help identify any areas for improvement so that when it comes to the decision for tenancy there are no surprises,” says Kennedy.
By her second six, Kennedy was taking on her own caseload. So when she secured tenancy, the transition from pupil to junior barrister wasn’t overwhelming. Juniors do, however, have to take control of their practice and manage their diary. But the clerks are helpful in this regard. “The clerks are great at directing the work you want your way and can help steer your practice,” explains Kennedy, whose practice now focuses on commercial litigation and employment law. The clerks also “react” to juniors’ workload and ensure they aren’t laden with too much paperwork.
Kennedy has had a “fantastic” year so far, having appeared as sole counsel in the High Court, Employment Tribunal and County Court; and being led in the Supreme Court. In a typical week, Kennedy will appear in court two or three times. But given the nature of her practice, that can often vary. She finds it’s an even split between court appearances and paperwork and when we speak she is having a “paper day”, which involves prep work for a trial later on in the week and writing an advice on a conflict of laws jurisdictional issue.
There are opportunities at 2TG for international placements at the junior level – some of Kennedy’s colleagues are currently seconded to firms in Dubai and the British Virgin Islands. There are also opportunities at the junior end for working on international cases – Kennedy is currently part of a team working on a joint venture dispute which is the subject of an international arbitration.
Juniors are actively encouraged to give talks to promote their practices and Kennedy has recently given a few alongside senior members.
There’s plenty of interaction among juniors and silks. “I have absolutely no hesitation wandering in and asking a senior member of chambers a question. Everyone is super friendly and supportive and that’s been really invaluable. It makes life great at the junior end,” says Kennedy, who has co-written a number of legal articles and practical guides with leading QCs. “Senior members of chambers really care about us getting our name out there,” she adds. Members of chambers also get to mingle with solicitors. 2TG recently hosted a fancy gin and sushi networking event in the archway of Middle Temple Lane for several solicitor clients.
So what do junior barristers at this set do for fun? Quite a lot, says Kennedy. Beside Friday drinks down the local pub, juniors have got together lately for fancy dress parties, bowling, crazy golf and even outdoor swimming.
For aspiring barristers looking to join this set, the Oxford University law grad recommends thoroughly researching chambers’ areas of speciality. Then it’s important to ensure you have some experience in those areas to demonstrate your interest. Kennedy completed a mini-pupillage at 2TG which helped her get a feel for chambers.
Although the interview process can be “nerve-wracking”, chambers makes sure all interviewees are on a level playing field. Kennedy’s top tip is to relax and be yourself so that your true self can shine through. She continues: “You’ve got to see chambers as a place for life and so it’s important they accept you for you.”