2 Temple Gardens

The Legal Cheek View

Meet 2 Temple Gardens at the Legal Cheek Virtual Pupillage Fair on Saturday 4 December 2021

If you wander down Middle Temple Lane from the Strand, you will reach a big arch over which sits a grand, Victorian building. Inside, with some of the best views in legal London both up Middle Temple Lane, over the Thames and onto the neighbouring Inner Temple Gardens, is civil and commercial set 2 Temple Gardens (2TG).

“In my room, I can see the sunrise over the Thames and set over the Houses of Commons!”, one early rising member tells the 2021-22 Legal Cheek Junior Barristers Survey. The well-appointed arbitration room is a particular favourite. Another insider describes the building as fostering “a lovely Dickensian chic atmosphere”, although beware that the Grade 2 listed building suffers some expected issues which comes with a beautiful old building including “a knack of being cold in winter and hot in summer”. Technology provision, we are told, is “much improved thanks to hard work by the board and external IT support”.

Founded over 70 years ago in number two, the set has since spread across number one and number three Temple Gardens. It is home to 51 barristers, 12 of them QCs, with 41% of juniors being female, and offers two to three pupillages each year. 2TG works across two main areas: civil law and commercial law. The civil side includes personal injury, clinical negligence and employment. The commercial work centres around company disputes, fraud and banking & finance. 2TG also does a fair bit of insurance work, a growing product liability practise as well as sports law, boosted by the newly recruited junior Steven Flynn. Recent 2TG cases have included work on Grenfell, art fraud and the Mau Mau litigation which is based on 40,000 claimants alleging abuse arising out of the 1950s Kenyan uprising.

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Insiders describe the work available as “incredibly varied”. One member tells of the joys of 2TG being a truly mixed set: “My brain energy is spent doing a variety of different things: property damage issues, professional negligence, insurance and then the odd bits of sport law with government work. It’s a great, enjoyable mix to have!”. On the commercial side, another tenant says: “Great mix of ultra-high profile international work, combined with smaller commercial disputes run with smaller teams, which allow more advocacy and ‘driving-seat’ opportunities”. Members are frequently involved in landmark matters that make new law, including in appellate courts up to the Supreme Court, which one member says means they “have a great opportunity to push my practice into areas I enjoy”. The range in size of cases that come through the clerks’ room means juniors have the opportunity to be led in the higher courts by a silk, but also get to handle their own cases in the county courts, doing things such as taking on fraudsters.

If work gets tricky, support is on hand at 2TG where “you can approach anyone, no matter how senior, and they will always have (or make!) time for you”, says one insider. During the pandemic, the silks wrote to all juniors reminding them to pick up the phone with any questions, an act which left one member “very impressed with how proactive they were in maintaining chambers’ collaborative and supportive atmosphere in a challenging time”.

One insider praises the “open door policy” at the set, adding that “the main reason I accepted 2TG’s offer of pupillage over offers from other sets was its down to earth and friendly atmosphere. I definitely made the right decision”. Workloads are also helped by the fact that “you can do what you like here, which is a freedom I don’t think other places have”, explains one member who booked out the entire month of August “without any issue being raised by the clerks”. As expected, life at the bar will however feature “some late nights and weekends at times”.

Pupillage training is described by one former pupil as: “Structured, relevant and collaborative”. Pupils are “well-supported” through training under three “friendly and accessible” supervisors, which helps the set score excellent marks for training in our survey.  Pupils’ preferences are taken into account during pupillage so ‘mini seats’ are available to help shape practices. The set adapted during the pandemic with weekly advocacy training sessions over Zoom was particularly appreciated by newbies, frequently led by Inns of Court advocacy trainers. When into the second six, pupils are given their own cases, with one former pupil telling us: “I have undertaken a broad range of work during my pupillage, ranging from small claims under the Highways Act to working on international arbitration disputes”.

Here’s an account from another ex-pupil on their experience: “Pupillage training here was quite intense and formative: for instance, we had a week before the start of pupillage formally started where we sat in the head of pupillage’s office and he personally gave us a refresher course on drafting. We had advocacy exercises to prepare us for our second six and received excellent training in preparing for our first few trials. Feedback throughout the pupillage process was regular and detailed. My first supervisor had a weekly ‘check-in’ with me. Overall I would say that as a pupil I felt immensely supported.”

Morale is doubtlessly helped by 2TG’s substantial pupillage award, which at £70,000 is amongst the highest at the bar. Once fully qualified, tenants can expect to make well into six figures. Women make up almost half of 2TG’s juniors and one third of its QCs with an insider telling us that it has never “lost” a woman after maternity leave. That’s backed by chambers’ mothers, one of whom says: “I have three young children and 2TG has been very supportive whilst I was off on maternity leave and when I returned each time”. A pro-flexible working mindset, and reasonable hours (for the bar), helps in this respect.

2TG have a strong commitment to social responsibility through being a partner with Inner Temple’s Pegasus Access Scheme and the Pathways to Law initiative, both aiming to promote wider access to the bar. It also participates in the Bar Placement Week which “allows talented young people from non-traditional backgrounds to gain an insight into the profession”. 2TG also has an ongoing partnership with an academy school in inner London and provides work experience opportunities and advice to students interested in a career at the bar.

Bonds are fostered through an active social scene. There are drinks every Friday, an “excellent” book club, chambers tea every Wednesday afternoon (all which went virtual during the pandemic), and a chambers-wide party roughly every quarter. “It means you can socialise with work colleagues regularly (but not too regularly!)”, one 2TG rookie tells us.

The set offers pupillages to those it thinks “have real potential to become 2TG tenants” with selection criteria including “high intellectual ability”, an ability to “think on your feet”, “motivation”, “impact”, “temperament” and a “commitment to 2TG”. It also runs its own mooting competition with a hefty prize of £4,000.

What The Junior Barristers Say

Paige Mason-Thom

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.

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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 have held together a sense of collegiality – we adapted to virtual chambers tea and Friday drinks, set up a book club who meet 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.

Deadlines

Pupillage

To commence October 2023
Applications open 05/01/2022
Applications close 09/02/2022

Mini-Pupillage 2022

14 - 17 March 2022
Applications close 28/01/2022

Mini-Pupillage 2022

11 - 15 July 2022
Applications close 03/06/2022

Open Evening 2021

30 November 2021
Applications close 29/11/2021

Insider Scorecard

A*
Training
A
Quality of work
A
Colleagues
A*
Facilities
A
Work/life balance
A
Social life
B
Legal Tech

Insider Scorecard Grades range from A* to D and are derived from the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2021-22 of over 600 barristers at the leading chambers in England.

Key Info

Juniors 49
QCs 12
Pupillages 2 - 3
Oxbridge-educated new tenants* 3/5

*Figure is for the five most junior members of chambers; does not include postgraduate studies.

Money

Pupillage award £70,000
BPTC advance drawdown £20,000

Diversity

Female juniors 41%
Female QCs 25%
BME juniors 8%
BME QCs 0%