4 Pump Court

The Legal Cheek View

“Totally absorbing: every case is like a massive chess match. Cutting edge law, global clients and v high stakes: what’s not to like? It’s why you come to the Bar,” says a respondent to the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey. Silver Circle set 4 Pump Court offers a broad mix of high-end commercial practice from shipping to professional negligence, IT, banking, energy, arbitration, insurance and construction (probably its biggest cash cow). Newly minted barristers at this chambers can expect a variety of commercial work to come their way.

One tenant reports: “Probably the widest range of ‘technical’ commercial work at the bar rather than ‘all one thing’ ― from classic car frauds, to banking, to building power stations, to defending the Post Office’s IT systems: no day is ever the same.” According to another junior tenant at the set, one of the big draws is the chance to get “involved in really big-ticket commercial trials and arbitrations all the time, there’s a valuable balance between being led by QCs and doing proper advocacy on your own”.

Big cases of late include a freezing order against a major Russian oil refinery and a landmark international arbitration arising out of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico ten years ago. Last year, 4 Pump Court’s Edward Garnier QC and Anna Hoffmann acted for Sir John Major in his application against the proroguing of parliament. The set also boasts of its expertise in Islamic finance disputes, for those who can tell their murabaha from their sukuk.

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4 Pump Court is “a truly happy ship”. Colleagues are “friendly, able and supportive”, and “everyone from the newest tenant to the heads of chambers have your back”. This helpful attitude has really come to the fore during lockdown. Despite working from home, one rookie reports: “I have felt that I can call up or email other members of chambers if I want to run a point past them or seek some advice”. Another junior says: “Working from home during COVID-19 has emphasised how friendly an environment chambers is and we’ve tried to replicate that feeling through regular Zoom lunches and a ‘Digital Daly’s’ Skype pub on a Friday.”

Most of your chambers buddies are likely to be blokes: only one in four of the 45 juniors is female, and you can count the female QCs on the fingers of one hand (although in the latter respect they’re no more male-dominated than many commercial sets). Note how many QCs the set has — 26 is a big silk roster and signals quality. Facilities-wise, insiders admit that it’s “typical Temple digs: coffee machines and modern IT superimposed on large 18th century rooms with high ceilings, sash windows and the occasional mouse”. That said, each person has their own room after the first few years, there are “good” conference facilities and chambers “is set for a major refurbishment”.

Pupillage here involves two three-month stints shadowing a supervisor, followed by a full six months on your feet in the County Court, with formal assessments in written and oral advocacy. The pupillage award is Champions League, at £70,000 plus any fees earned in the second six. In general, pupillage is “well-structured” including “sitting with three top senior juniors and working with other juniors and silks”, and “you get a broad commercial grounding”. Even better, “supervisors are really supportive of their pupils, during pupillage and into tenancy”. Note that applications for 2021 pupillage are no longer being accepted, so you may have to wait a while. For those seeking to gain a taste of life here, 4 Pump Court has been offering virtual mini-pupillages during the pandemic and hopes to resume in-person minis from the autumn. You can apply here.

What The Junior Barristers Say

Nestled away in Temple, the heart of legal London, you’ll find commercial set 4 Pump Court. So scenic is the location that you can pretty much guarantee you’ll come across a film crew shooting a movie during your time there. Disney blockbusters Mary Poppins Returns and Christopher Robin are just a few of the films shot a stone’s throw from chambers, which has grown in recent years to include a couple of annexes alongside its main premises.

4 Pump Court covers a broad spectrum of commercial work, yet it was chambers’ strength in technology and telecoms that drew junior barrister Rebecca Keating to the set. Her own background speaks to this: she worked at cloud storage and file sharing company Dropbox for a year after completing her law degree at Trinity College Dublin. She was part of a 35-strong team helping set up the tech company’s new European headquarters in Dublin. The atmosphere there, she says, is different to that in Temple (think bean-bags, standing desks and even a games room).

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Keating was offered a mini-pupillage at 4 Pump Court while she was still living in Dublin. “What struck me was how open and friendly everyone is in chambers,” she explains. “It definitely left a lasting impression on me.” Indeed it did and Keating started pupillage with the set in the autumn of 2016.

4 Pump Court takes on two pupils each year. Each pupil is assigned three supervisors: the first two for two three-month periods and the third for the final six months. The supervisors cover different areas of chambers’ practice, which helps pupils gain broad insights to develop their own practice. Keating’s supervisors specialised in construction, financial services, shipping and of course, technology.

Pupils shadow their supervisors for the first six months before putting what they learn into practice during their second six (unlike similar commercial sets). They’ll be on their feet in court, managing their own caseload. “It makes a change from having to jot things down in your notebook all the time!” says Keating.

Pupils receive regular feedback throughout the year. There are four formal assessments: two written and two advocacy exercises. Following the completion of each piece of work pupils can discuss their progress with their supervisor. There’s a six-month review with the head of pupillage based on this combined feedback, which provides ample time and opportunity to apply this in the next seat. “It’s a structured way of learning,” says Keating.

A similar approach to learning filters through in the way chambers’ rooms are set up. New tenants tend to share with the tenant taken on the year before them; enabling them to form close ties with those with similar levels of experience. The rooms are typically shared for the first two years of tenancy after which you get your own room — when we spoke, Keating, who secured tenancy in 2017, was in the process of moving into hers. A more formal mentoring scheme is also in place for juniors: they’re paired with a senior barrister (and sometimes a silk) whom they can turn to for advice. There’s also a clerk mentoring scheme (often a senior clerk) for any practical questions.

The training continues post-pupillage, and members are invited to short, informative talks held in chambers. These aren’t just work-related; chambers places a strong emphasis on the wellbeing of its barristers. A recent session focused on mental health and was led by a psychologist.

Keating handles cases in all areas of chambers’ practice, with a particular focus on tech and intellectual property. “It begins to occupy a fair chunk of your work,” says Keating on her eventual plan to specialise in tech given her background and extensive publications on the subject. But it helps to keep a broad practice when starting out. “You learn a lot from undertaking a range of commercial cases since these will inform the specialist matters you take on,” adds Keating, who like several other members of chambers, has also undertaken pro bono work.

The work often has an international element, and members have been instructed on cases far and wide. This includes Hong Kong, where the set has a second office (Pump Court International), Singapore and the Middle East. In her first week of tenancy, Keating worked with a silk on an arbitration arising in Paris.

It’s not all work and no play. The juniors regularly catch after-work drinks on Friday down at Daly’s Wine Bar (there’s a weekly pre-pub song quiz to get them in the mood). Every few weeks chambers hosts a lunch which are “great for catch-ups with members you haven’t seen in a while”, and on the topic of lunch, the juniors have a range of options available to them, including nearby Tasker’s or the main hall of Inner Temple.

Bar hopefuls hoping to follow in Keating’s footsteps should take note of this piece of advice:

“You’ll be told to do lots of things: minis, mooting, mock trials, debating and vacation schemes. Do these things not just for your CV but so that you can figure out if you enjoy them and if this is the career for you.”

Deadlines

Mini-Pupillage

Applications received on a rolling basis throughout the year
Applications close 31/12/2020

Pupillage

Applications open 07/01/2021
Applications close 07/02/2021

Insider Scorecard

A*
Training
A*
Quality of work
A
Colleagues
A
Facilities
B
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 45
QCs 26
Pupillages 2
Oxbridge-educated new tenants* 2/5

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

Money

Pupillage award £70,000
BPTC advance drawdown £15,000

Gender Diversity

Female juniors 24%
Female QCs 17%

The Chambers In Its Own Words