4 New Square

The Legal Cheek View

Legal geeks will be excited by 4 New Square’s latest addition. Sir Rupert Jackson, famous for being the architect of major reforms of the civil justice system, returned to 4 New Square in 2018, following his retirement from the Court of Appeal. The move underlines the calibre of the set whose expertise lies in a range of areas including professional negligence and sport.

On the professional negligence side, 4 New Square was recently involved in the Harlequin Property $60 million (£47 million) claim against accountants in relation to the development of a luxury resort in the Caribbean. It was also instructed to defend an eight-figure claim against a commercial firm of solicitors in a complex property litigation case relating to development of the sites surrounding the London Olympic stadium. 4 New Square barristers specialising in sports law have defended rugby league players in anti-doping claims, prosecuted match-fixing charges against tennis players Nicolas Kicker and Federico Coria, and even acted as arbitrators in the International Tennis Federation case against Maria Sharapova.

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Pupils at 4 New Square commend the quality of work, for which it received an A* grade in Legal Cheek’s 2018–2019 Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey. One insider described the work as “varied and intellectually stimulating”, another gushed about the “incredibly dedicated and structured training”.

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.

Due to the close contact with their supervisors, pupils at 4 New Square report feeling well looked after amid the challenges of the work. There’s also a nice vibe between fellow rookies which contributes to the overall familial atmosphere of the set. 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.

There is an active social scene at 4 New Square. The set currently 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.

What The Junior Barristers Say

4 New Square is based in busy Lincoln’s Inn, housing 80 independent practitioners in two separate buildings that are adjacent to one another. “There’s a real sense of community in chambers and it’s always nice when you bump into someone,” says junior barrister William Harman.

The work at the leading commercial set covers a broad range of areas and Harman’s practice is no different. 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.

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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.

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.

Deadlines

Mini-Pupillage

Taking place week commencing 3 December
Applications close 26/10/2018

Pupillage

Information regarding pupillage commencing in October 2020 will be available in late 2018.

Insider Scorecard

A
Training
A*
Quality of work
A
Colleagues
A*
Facilities
A
Social life

Insider Scorecard Grades range from A* to D and are derived from the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2018-19 of over 600 barristers at the leading chambers in England.

Key Info

Juniors 58
QCs 25
Pupillages 2
Oxbridge-educated new tenants* 4/5

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

Money

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

Hours

Average hours 60-69 hours

Average hours are derived from the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2018-19.

Gender Diversity

Female juniors 22%
Female QCs 8%