Your journey to pupillage
I studied English Language & Literature at Worcester College, Oxford, and obtained a first. I took a year away from studying to work and save some money to support my legal studies. I was awarded a scholarship by my Inn of Court (Inner Temple) to study for the GDL (2017/8) and, then later, a scholarship (including the Francis & Burris Gahan Scholarship) to study the BPTC (2018/9) at City, University of London. I gained a Distinction and Very Competent in my GDL and BPTC respectively.
I was hopeless at Mooting (I could never find the time to prep for it!), so did not achieve much by way of success there. However, I tried to demonstrate my commitment to the oral advocacy element of practice at the Bar by joining the School Exclusion Project (of which I later became a director in 2018/9). This experience allowed me to develop my advocacy and client-handling skills.
I applied for mini-pupillages during both my GDL and BPTC (I had not obtained any mini-pupilages before this point, though I did some marshalling at Cardiff Crown Court). My pupillage applications in 2018 were ultimately unsuccessful, but the application and interview experience I gained during the process was invaluable.
In 2019, I applied to more sets than in the previous year and worked hard to improve the quality of my written responses by attending workshops run by my university on the use of the ‘S-T-A-R Technique’. I also signed up for a Mentor (via Inner Temple) who supported me and was a very helpful sounding board. After applying for a second time, I was fortunate enough to have more than one offer of Pupillage and ultimately chose 3 Hare Court on account of its broad and exciting work, particularly in the Commonwealth Caribbean.
Following the BPTC (and by virtue of 3 Hare Court’s pupillage offer being deferred by a year, as is normal) I worked as a paralegal in the Employment department of Withers LLP for just over a year. This experience was very rewarding and helpful; it gave me an insight into the operation of a top-ranked law firm and, perhaps most importantly, what solicitors (and lay clients) look for in Counsel’s work and presentation.
I started Pupillage at 3 Hare Court in October 2020.
The pupillage experience
My pupillage experience was a little unusual because it took place during the COVID-19 Pandemic, so it was quasi-virtual. I tended to work from Chambers wherever possible, but my co-pupil preferred to work from home. Chambers was quiet due to most practitioners working from home, but the work remained dynamic and varied.
My experience was very positive. I had six different pupillage supervisors with diverse specialisms, meaning that I obtained an insight into Commercial, Insolvency, Employment, Privy Council, Personal Injury, Travel, and Property practices. The quality of work I saw was exceptionally high, and I was able to shadow a range of cases (normally virtually) in different tribunals, including the Privy Council, High Court, Employment Tribunal, and County Court.
During the first six months of Pupillage, I was assessed on the written work I provided for my supervisors, which included pleadings, skeleton arguments and written cases (for the Privy Council), pre-action letters and witness statements. The feedback was thorough and comprehensive, and at the conclusion of each supervisory period I received a feedback form setting out the marks I had obtained assessed against Chambers’ criteria for Pupils. I found this process clear and transparent, and it allowed me to track my development and the standard of my work against that which was expected of a new tenant. In addition to this mode of assessment, Chambers also runs an internal advocacy program, on which we were given constructive feedback, which was most helpful before our second six months.
I felt very well-prepared going into my second six months, during which I balanced written work for my supervisors (and other members of Chambers) with hearings and written work of my own. I received excellent support from my supervisors – and other junior members – throughout this time and felt that I was able to turn for advice or help whenever I needed it.
The transition from pupil to tenant
This is well-managed at 3 Hare Court. I think the fact that we have a practicing six means that the transition is smoother than at other civil/commercial sets who do not allow their pupils to practise (under a provisional practising certificate). In addition to that, the clerks are very conscientious and interested in your practice, so they develop an understanding of your capacity for work (both written and Court-based) during your second six months, which means that by the time you have transitioned into full private practice as a tenant, you can hit the ground running.
What is your practice like now?
My practice remains relatively broad, which is something I really enjoy. The majority of my work is commercial (including commercial property) and insolvency work. However, I also act in professional negligence, landlord & tenant and travel disputes. I would say that on average I am in court two times a week (occasionally three), and I have a very busy paperwork practice. I appear regularly in the County Court and Employment Tribunal and have also appeared unled in the High Court (including the Admiralty Court) and led in the Court of Appeal and Privy Council.
To me, the benefit of a broad common law/commercial practice at this stage of my career is that I continue to obtain trial advocacy experience (including the cross-examination of lay and expert witnesses), whilst also gaining exposure to large-scale and often quite complex high value litigation.
My exposure to interesting work at 3 Hare Court has been fantastic. By way of example, I am currently being led in three very high value High Court claims – one involving a contractual dispute in the pharmaceutical industry, another concerning a contractual dispute in the banking/finance industry, and the third concerning the insolvency of an insurance company based in Gibraltar. In addition to that, I have been led (including by the Head of Chambers) in several Privy Council cases involving a range of legal issues – from human rights to the principles of contractual rectification. Earlier this year, I was led in the Court of Appeal on a case concerning, amongst other things, the extent to which a no oral variation clause affects the operation of a contractual novation.
It is also worth noting that Chambers’ long-standing and well-respected work in the Privy Council means that as a set we have a particularly international outlook, and I was fortunate enough to travel with many colleagues to Goa, India, in March 2023 to attend the Commonwealth Law Conference, where I had the privilege of meeting many other lawyers (including advocates) from dozens of Commonwealth countries.
I have quarterly practice review meetings with selected members of the clerking team and Chambers’ Director of Business Development and Marketing. I feel that this assists me in thinking strategically, insofar as I am able at this early stage of my career, in terms of professional development, and I feel well-supported by Chambers’ staff in striving to meet my personal objectives as a result of this.
Chambers has a mentoring scheme. My mentor is approaching 20 years call, he is very friendly and kind and I feel very able to turn to him when I am in need of advice (both on the law and questions of professional development).
Whilst I am always striving for the perfect work/life balance, it is sometimes illusive. To a certain extent, that is a reality of the junior civil/commercial Bar, especially when you are balancing (as I do) a mixture of my own written and Court work with high-stakes (and therefore often high-intensity) led work. That being said, my clerks are very supportive and when I request time off, they respect that.
At the moment, I am content to continue to enjoy a diverse and busy practice whilst honing my advocacy skills. In future, I would like to specialise – ideally in a way that allows me to continue to pursue my particular interests in commercial/insolvency and employment disputes, whilst also continuing to work on constitutional law cases in the Privy Council. I would also like to collaborate more with international colleagues, especially those from the Commonwealth.
What is the culture of chambers?
3 Hare Court is a very friendly Chambers. I have genuine friends here and look forward to catching up over lunch or after work with my colleagues. The Juniors in Chambers socialise quite regularly, and there are various WhatsApp chats we use for advice or sharing information. Additionally, we have practice teams which allow for the internal sharing of information and news. There is close collaboration between practitioners of different years of call. Our clerking team is also especially friendly, which makes a huge difference – especially as a junior practitioner. There is a lively Chambers’ social scene, with ‘Thursday Lunch Club’ a regular fixture in the diary (whereby we congregate in Middle Temple Lane and go down to have lunch in Hall – usually Inner) plus the occasional impromptu visit to a local karaoke bar if the mood is right!
I am a member of 3 Hare Court’s Management Committee and Equality & Diversity Committee. The members who sit on these separate committees are, in my experience, committed to making a difference to the way Chambers operates and diversifying the Bar.
Top tips for those wanting to become a barrister/secure a pupillage at your chambers
My top three tips would be: (1) demonstrate your commitment to the Bar; (2) thoroughly research each Chambers you apply to, including their website and socials; and (3) proof read your written answers on to Pupillage Gateway as many times as you are able.