Your journey to pupillage
I went to a comprehensive school in Glasgow and studied History, English and French at Advanced Higher (which is the Scottish equivalent of A-Levels!). Following school, I went to Wadham College, Oxford to study law. During my degree, I got involved in the college law society and did lots of mooting but also made sure I did some non-law related things such as playing for the College football and cricket teams. I ended up staying on at Wadham for an extra year to do the BCL before moving to London to do my BPTC at City University.
During my BPTC year, I did a number of mini-pupillages, mainly in different civil and commercial sets. This was really helpful in helping me decide which areas of law I enjoyed, as well as which chambers I could see myself being a part of. For example, seeing the contrast between life at a mixed civil set and a pure chancery set helped me realise that I wanted to be in court frequently but not every day.
I applied for pupillage during the BPTC year and was lucky enough to be offered pupillage at 2TG. I then spent the year between the BPTC and pupillage as a judicial assistant in the Court of Appeal. This was an incredibly rewarding experience (and I sometimes find more senior members of Chambers ringing me up to ask about procedure in the Court of Appeal!).
The pupillage experience
I was drawn to 2TG for a number of a reasons, in particular the breadth of work, the quality of training, the opportunity to do advocacy early on in my career, and the collegiate nature of chambers’ life.
The pupillage year is split into three seats: the first two lasting three months and the final seat comprising the whole of the second six. All three of my supervisors’ practices covered the vast majority of Chambers’ specialisms – from clinical negligence to employment, from product liability to professional negligence and from personal injury to property damage. This allowed me to get involved in a wide range of cases during pupillage, including a multi-day hearing in the Jersey Employment Tribunal and a long running multi-million-pound property damage case (which I later became instructed in). Unlike many chambers, pupils at 2TG are closely involved in their supervisor’s work. Instead of simply undertaking research on legal points or working on papers, I was often tasked with working on pleadings, advices and skeleton arguments alongside my supervisor, which was very satisfying and made me feel like I was actually helping out!
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.
In the second six, pupils at 2TG are regularly instructed in their own name and tend to appear in court around two to three times a week. I really enjoyed cutting my teeth on lower value cases in County Courts up and down the country and have no doubt the skills I learned cross-examining witnesses and making submissions will stand me in good stead later on in my career.
There is no point in pretending pupillage is a stress-free year, however, I genuinely believe 2TG’s supportiveness and collegiality helped make the year as stress-free as possible. In particular, at 2TG we don’t accept more pupils than we genuinely want to take on as new tenants. This makes a huge difference – for me, it meant I could see my co-pupil as a friend, rather than as someone who I was in competition with. Moreover, 2TG is very transparent in terms of feedback so pupils always know where they stand and where they need to improve. For example, my supervisors gave me informal feedback at the end of every week and I received formal feedback from the head of pupillage every six weeks. Again, this helped ease the burden of what is an otherwise difficult year.
How did you find the transition from pupil to tenant
I found the transition from pupil to tenant very smooth. In particular, because I had undergone a practising second six, I did not feel as though I was flung in the deep-end. Further, chambers generally has an ‘open door’ policy such that I didn’t feel nervous asking more senior members of chambers for advice or tips when I needed help. I also found other members of chambers and the clerks to be very helpful in ensuring I had all the practical things, like tax and insurance, sorted.
Please describe what your practice is like now
I still have quite a broad practice, which is exactly what I was looking for when I joined 2TG. I am regularly instructed in cases involving professional negligence, property damage, product liability, construction, private international law and personal injury. I also have a good mix of both led and unled work.
Because of the wide variety of work I do, I’m not sure I have a ‘typical working week’. I aim to be in court about two times a week, with other days kept clear for paperwork and preparation. That said, some weeks I won’t be in court at all (usually if something settles last minute) and some weeks I can be in court more often! When my diary is a bit quieter, I also try to 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.
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, including advocacy experiences, is what shapes you into a well-rounded – and ultimately successful – barrister and I am very lucky 2TG lets me do that.
Please describe the culture of your chambers?
As I mentioned above, there is a great sense of collegiality at 2TG. Even though I did pupillage during the pandemic, I didn’t feel like I missed out too much (with things like virtual chambers drinks and events such as chocolate tasting organised by our Wellbeing Committee). Now things are back to normal, we have a weekly Chambers’ Tea on a Wednesday afternoon and drinks on a Friday evening. Social-life aside, I also feel very comfortable popping into other members’ rooms or picking up the phone to pick their brain.
In terms of facilities, we’re very lucky at 2TG. We’re based in a beautiful Victorian building on Middle Temple Lane with rooms overlooking the Thames and Inner and Middle Temple gardens. We also have five modern conference rooms and a lovely library which looks out onto the river.
Our clerking team is very 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!
Please detail your top tips for those wanting to become a barrister/securing a pupillage at your chambers
First, try to keep an open mind when considering practice areas because you never really know what an area is like until you practice it. Before coming to the bar, I had a keen academic interest in public law however from mini-pupillages and speaking to other people I quickly discovered the day-to-day reality of practising in that area was not for me.
Second, try and improve your advocacy skills (both written and oral) as much as possible. Mooting is not the only way to do this – even discussing the news or contentious topics with friends and family can help you improve at articulating an argument or spotting a flaw in someone else’s.
Third, think about why you would be good at the less obvious bits of the job. Most people applying for pupillage are intelligent and good at public-speaking. So think about how you are going to stand out. Will you be good at building relationships with solicitors, the clerks and other members of chambers? Can you take responsibility for your own development and manging your own practice? Are you good at managing your own time and reacting quickly to changing circumstances? These are the skills that will really help you to succeed.