4 New Square

The Legal Cheek View

Legal geeks will note that Sir Rupert Jackson, famous for being the architect of major reforms of the civil justice system, is a member of 4 New Square — having returned as a door tenant following his retirement from the Court of Appeal. His presence underlines the calibre of the set, which has more than 30 heavyweight QCs on its books. Members’ expertise lies in a range of areas including commercial and Chancery, professional negligence, sport and human rights.

Recent case highlights include a long-awaited decision on proportionality in clinical negligence, a Court of Appeal win on limitation rules in tort and being instructed by Magic Circle firm Allen & Overy in a complex commercial fraud dispute about asset disclosure under worldwide freezing orders. It’s not all commercial either: other cases have involved challenging Turkey’s ban on accessing Wikipedia, defending the right of Hungarian journalists to report from parliament and acting for Amnesty International in a case about export licensing of arms for use in Yemen. Meanwhile, 4 New Square barristers specialising in sports law have defended rugby league players in anti-doping claims, prosecuted match-fixing charges against tennis player Federico Coria, and served on the Premier League’s judicial panel for disciplinary cases.

It’s great work if you can get it. One insider describes the work as “varied and intellectually stimulating”, while another adds: “I usually enjoy going to work, which about sums it up.” A competing summary runs: “great range, big value, challenging material”.

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It helps that the set’s premises — it is spread across two buildings in Lincoln’s Inn — are “very swanky” with barristers each getting their own room. “Can’t think of much to say other than that they are nicely decorated without being OTT and are always clean,” says an insider. 4 New Square barristers also rave about the professional support: the “fantastic clerking team” is “the best there is”, and you can count on “excellent IT support”.

During the first six months of pupillage, pupils work closely with their supervisor, assisting with legal research, the drafting of statements and writing opinions. Pupils also attend training sessions on applications and hearings and take part in advocacy-training workshops. 4 New Square places great emphasis on getting pupils into court during their second six, so rookies can expect to be on their feet about once a week in this phase of their training. Pupils are also required to engage in moots which are assessed by members of chambers and the judiciary, who also provide feedback. Here is a report from someone who has been through the process:

“Pupillage at 4NS is very thorough. You get a lot of feedback on your work product, and have to do some fairly challenging formal assessments. I think you come out of the process with a very good grounding in the fundamentals of legal practice, which is a great platform to build from. I get the feeling we get in court a little bit more than other commercial sets which is another plus because there is no substitute for it when it comes to improving your advocacy.”

Additionally, pupils are assigned a mentor (typically a more senior member of chambers) to support them on a strictly confidential basis, ring-fenced from the pupillage assessment system. The mentoring doesn’t stop here. Junior barristers can choose to receive help from up to two mentors during their first few years of tenancy. You can get all this straight from the horse’s mouth, too: several recent juniors discuss life as a pupil on the set’s Analysis podcast.

There is an active social scene at 4 New Square. The set has lunchtime running clubs and plans to start weekly yoga classes to maintain the health and wellbeing of its members. More traditional lunches and drinks evenings are a regular feature too. One junior describes it like this: “People are generally quite busy so it’s not like we’re the Brady Bunch, but there is a bit of socialising outside of chambers, whether it’s going for drinks, the odd gig or sporty stuff. There is a group of us that goes wall climbing fairly regularly which is good fun.” Another adds that “even during remote working we regularly spoke with one another by Zoom or telephone, just to keep in touch”. Who says it’s lonely at the bar?

As with any leading commercial set, 4 New Square barristers work hard. As one of the set’s barristers tells us: “It’s one of those things that fluctuates between great, as in ‘I’m loving work and I have a life!’, and not so great, as in ‘I have all the work and no life!’. That’s the eternal struggle really and it probably evens out in the middle somewhere.” A different insider insists that ‘it is possible to manage your workflow. Long hours are a feature of our work but self-employment and a great clerking team allow you to work within your limits”.

What The Junior Barristers Say

“There’s a real sense of community in chambers and it’s always nice when you bump into someone,” says junior barrister William Harman. His expertise stretches across commercial dispute resolution, professional liability, sports law and construction. When we speak, he’s working on a case involving Russian oligarchs. Other recent highlights include working for the defence on an anti-doping charge brought against a former Olympic athlete and a claim involving allegations of fraud against solicitors.

Members of 4 New Square have appeared in several international courts and arbitrations. Juniors get in on the action too. One junior worked for an arbitrator in India, while another recently returned from a secondment in the British Virgin Islands. Some of the work Harman takes on also has an international element. He was recently instructed on a case involving asset tracing across different jurisdictions.

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Pupillage is 12-months of training divided into two six-month periods. During the year, pupils are assigned three supervisors (the first two for three months each then the third for six months) as well as a mentor whom they can turn to should they need any pastoral support. “My mentor and I would go for coffees together which was nice”, says Harman.

You’re also given plenty of feedback; more so, Harman notes, than his friends at other similar commercial sets. Each formal piece of work is graded and every six weeks pupils get to review their work with the head of pupillage and senior clerk. “This was invaluable in helping me know whether I was on the right track,” he says. The mentoring continues after pupillage and Harman tells us tenants are allocated a mentor for the first three years of practice.

4 New Square places great emphasis on advocacy experience for its pupils. “I undertook a number of hearings as a pupil, more so than my friends in similar sets,” he says. Once, Harman was against his former pupil supervisor in the same litigation which was “a very strange experience!” When this does happen, chambers has stringent procedures to ensure effective information barriers are in place.

Pupils are offered tenancy if they show during pupillage that they meet an objective standard, not on a quota basis. So, if you show that you are good enough — you get taken on. However, 4 New Square aims to take on two tenants each year (and has taken on all three of its pupils this year). If you secure tenancy, the final three months of pupillage are spent transitioning from pupil to junior barrister. This was “exciting” for 2016-call Harman because he got to take on a lot more of his own work.

There’s plenty of interaction between juniors and senior members in chambers. Juniors will often share a room with a member more senior, something Harman finds useful because there’s always “someone on hand to learn from”. There’s the option to work remotely too, but Harman prefers his room at chambers: “It has a great view and is much nicer than my room at home!”

There are extensive opportunities to network with solicitors. Chambers host numerous events, parties and law firm dinners across the country. At a recent London event, there were over 1,000 solicitors in attendance, says Harman, who is about to complete a sponsored run with some of chambers’ solicitor contacts.

The hours can be unpredictable, but “that’s true of work life at the bar generally”. If Harman receives a skeleton argument from the other side after work hours with a hearing scheduled for the next day, “that will inevitably be a late night”, he says, “but I try to take time off the following week”. Indeed, this set places great importance on members’ welfare and a new committee has just been formed to administer this.

On the social side, a real effort is made in chambers. “One QC invited us to a garden party at his house,” reports Harman. Some days, the juniors will lunch together in the Old Hall at Lincoln’s Inn, or they’ll soak up sun rays and picnic in the surrounding fields. There’s also a strong bond between barristers and their clerks. “The clerks go out of their way to help you,” says Harman, whose clerk once chased down a letter he had mistakenly sent — all the way to the post office.

The University of Cambridge language graduate’s top tip for aspiring junior barristers is to “never be afraid to admit there is a gap in your knowledge”. Indeed, being confident enough to do so is something many interviewers will find more impressive than a simple guess. It’s also worth getting some early advocacy experience and a few mini-pupillages under your belt, advises Harman, who completed six, including one at 4 New Square. “It’s the best way to get a feel for chambers,” he says.

The 4 New Square application process was a welcome surprise for Harman, who applied without a law degree while undertaking the law conversion course. “It had less to do with my knowledge and more to do with discerning potential,” he recalls. This in mind, he recommends plenty of interview practice, rather than overly obsessing with law reports.


Mini Pupillage

w/c 22 November 2021
Applications close 08/10/2021

Mini Pupillage

w/c 5 December 2021
Applications close 22/10/2021

Insider Scorecard

Quality of work
Work/life balance

Insider Scorecard Grades range from A* to D and are derived from the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2020-21 of over 600 barristers at the leading chambers in England.

Key Info

Juniors 53
QCs 31
Pupillages 2
Oxbridge-educated new tenants* 4/5

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


Pupillage award £65,000
BPTC advance drawdown £15,000

Pupillage award includes £10,000 guaranteed earnings in second six.

Gender Diversity

Female juniors 19%
Female QCs 13%