4 Pump Court

The Legal Cheek View

Meet 4 Pump Court at the Legal Cheek Virtual Pupillage Fair on Saturday 9 October 2021

“Totally absorbing: every case is like a massive chess match. Cutting edge law, global clients and very high stakes: what’s not to like? It’s why you come to the bar,” sums up the working lives of barristers at 4 Pump Court one junior tell us. The silver circle set is the home of ex-Solicitor General Lord Garnier QC and offers a diverse mix of high-end commercial practice including shipping, professional negligence, IT, banking, energy, arbitration, insurance and construction (probably its biggest cash cow).

4 Pump Court offers “probably the widest range of ‘technical’ commercial work at the bar,” one tenant reports, “from classic car frauds, to banking, to building power stations”, which always keep members on their toes. The set is recognised domestically and internationally for its specialist technology work receiving “some of the most interesting instructions in this area”. The set even has its own technology-focused podcast, ‘TechLaw’, where tenants explore topical issues in technology law, with a particular focus on AI, blockchain technology and emerging tech.

Junior barristers can expect the chance to get “involved in really big-ticket commercial trials and arbitrations all the time, [and] there’s a valuable balance between being led by QCs and doing proper advocacy on your own”. The set’s mix of work across the commercial spectrum means there is “never a dull day” as a tenant at 4 Pump Court. Big cases of late include a dispute arising from a power project on a military base in the Falkland Islands, a Supreme Court landmark arbitration decision based on the legal duties of arbitrators as well as a case involving thirty classic cars, many extremely rare, whereby two members acted successfully for the claimant, who was awarded over £13 million in damages. The set also boasts of its expertise in Islamic finance disputes, for those who can tell their murabaha from their sukuk structures.

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The set prides itself as being “a truly happy ship” and being collegiate in nature. “All doors are genuinely open and there is always someone willing to chat through a problem or bounce ideas with,” one tenant explains, while another tells us that support for more juniors in building their practices comes from a “raft of policies and initiatives to assist people to develop their practice in the way they want”.

The set’s highly supportive attitude continued throughout the pandemic, we are told. Despite working from home, one rookie reports: “even in lockdown, people were still willing to give you time to help you out with issues”. Common for commercial sets, most of those lending their time are likely to be men, however, three of the last four most recently made-up silks are women, showing that times are-a-changing. The set’s ethos is demonstrated through its support of a scheme to fund a criminal pupillage in light of the difficulties faced by criminal sets during the pandemic. 4 Pump Court is also one of the first of two chambers to be named supporters of the Charter for Black Talent in Finance and the Professions, an initiative aimed at increasing the number of, and supporting the profession of, black people within professional services.

Set in the heart of Temple, “the outside of the building is very impressive,” on rookie comments. It has recently invested money into an extensive refurbishment including conference rooms (now kitted out for remote hearings), reception areas and clerks room “which now look first class”, bringing “Soho House chic to the Temple”. Nearly every tenant has their own spacious room with freedom to decorate how one pleases. IT provision has “much improved over the years” and as a specialist IT set, it is no surprise there are people on hand to engage with IT suppliers.

When it comes to work/life balance, this is mostly dictated by barristers themselves and the demand of their cases. However, we are told “chambers is very good in this regard”, with members “encouraged not to work beyond 9:00-18:30 and will often be encouraged to leave if found still at their desks ‘after hours’ – caseload permitting, of course! The set has been at the forefront of leading wellbeing initiatives too, and has provided mental health and healthy working practices courses to its members. 4 Pump Court’s clerks are “very helpful and supportive, there is no pressure from that perspective” and “are very good at respecting time booked off”. One tenant says their work/life balance is “good for a commercial barrister, the job is demanding at times, but I am usually able to keep engagements in the evenings and/or at the weekends”.

The set is known to love a social as much as its law. “On a Friday, members are often found at Daly’s”, a wine bar opposite the Royal Courts of Justice, which became “Digital Daly’s” during lockdown alongside Zoom teas. Members are hopeful the excellent pre-pandemic chambers social life, involving “lunches, coffees and bigger events”, to return in the coming months.

Pupillage here is structured into two three-month stints, followed by a full six-month period on your feet in the County Court, all supported by three supervisors. One happy recent pupil says, “all three of my supervisors have been absolutely superb — I couldn’t have asked for better.” Pupils are on their feet “sooner rather than later, with minor claims, which helps you cut your teeth” by providing a broad commercial grounding. Pupillage involves four formal assessments, two pieces of written work and two oral advocacy, which provides “lots of practice, lots of drafting and quite a lot of feedback,” one ex-pupil and now tenant reports. The pupillage award sails above many, at £70,000 plus any fees earned in the second six. The set has no recruitment quota and in recent years has offered tenancies to all pupils. Be assured that training continues past pupillage with chambers putting on “lots of training events” and tenants being “encouraged to give talks” based on their practice areas.

Unsurprisingly, 4 Pump Court seeks to recruit “bright independent-minded people, who thrive on hard work”, and for those looking to gain an insight into life at the set, it offers mini-pupillage opportunities throughout the year.

What The Junior Barristers Say

Anna Hoffmann

Your journey to pupillage

Anna first attended high school in Switzerland and went onto study History and Politics at Oxford. Following her undergraduate degree, she completed a Master’s in Public Policy in Berlin at the Hertie School of Governance, followed by the GDL and BPTC, achieving distinction or equivalent in each.

On her journey, Anna participated in the Jessup Moot in 2015, going on to coach in four subsequent years, as well as various varsity and Inn competitions.

On her route to 4 Pump Court, Anna undertook several short internships including with Amnesty International and also volunteered during the refugee crisis in Berlin in 2015. Employment wise, she has worked at international law firm Homburger AG in Switzerland, environmental policy consultancy Adelphi and various policy focused internships including RAND in Cambridge.

Prior to being offered pupillage with 4 Pump Court, Anna had conducted mini-pupillages at Essex Court and 39 Essex Chambers, with several others lined up, although not completed due to her pupillage offer, which she thinks helped her applications stand out.

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The pupillage experience

Pupillage is not an easy year but 4 Pump Court made it as smooth and enjoyable as possible. I had heard that chambers was a really supportive and friendly place with very interesting work and an up-and-coming vibe, which was what drew me to 4 Pump Court and also turned out to be true. Pupillage was very well organised and structured into three “seats” with three supervisors (both pupils rotating through the same three supervisors) with a practising second six. There were two written and two oral assessments, and regular feedback in between on pieces of work completed. Chambers were keen to see a learning curve and progression between these assessments.

There was a lot of support from junior tenants (who have no say in the pupillage decision) and supervisors of course. Pupils are not in competition and if both meet the standard set by chambers, both will be taken on. To my knowledge that has been the case in almost all of the last few years. All in all, 4 Pump Court really lived up to its reputation of being a welcoming and open set with a high quality work. I was also pleased to find relationships with clerks to be very positive and everything being very “unstuffy” and modern.

I got to work on many interesting cases during pupillage from international shipping arbitrations to FCA regulatory work and, of course, the highlight at the end of pupillage was being involved with the Miller 2 case. That was of course an insane stroke of luck but also without that I would have been very happy with the range and calibre of work observed during pupillage.

The transition from pupil to tenant

At 4 Pump Court junior tenants get to do their own advocacy and cases next to led work and as a new tenant I found I had a steady stream of my own small cases and also some opportunities to work with more senior members of chambers on larger cases.

Talking to other junior tenants was and remains key as this is how a lot of the learning and training happens in an informal way after pupillage. This is of course harder during Covid. The transition to tenant (which happened pre-Covid) was quite smooth and well-supported and I found the early practice review with the clerks a few months into being a new tenant very helpful. At the same time, I should emphasise that it is key during that transition to pro-actively ask for guidance and support as it is no longer built in as it was during pupillage.

What is your practice like now?

My practice is still quite varied with instructions in most areas that chambers practises in. There is plenty of work coming in and chambers has recently called for applications from established tenants due to the increasing stream of work that comes through the door.

Having both a clerk and barrister mentor has been very useful. There is a wide variety of practices and work/life balances in chambers. It really is up to the individual barrister to shape their practice and hours. Of course, sometimes, the reality of the job is that work may come in waves and needs to be dealt with. However, then it is also possible to take some time off. The clerking team are certainly supportive of striving for a good work-life balance. Therefore, there isn’t really a “normal” work week, which is part of the appeal of the job, but also requires good self-management.

In-person court exposure has been limited in the last one and half years due to Covid, but I tend to be in online hearings every week and those can be quite efficient actually – stable internet connections are a must in these times.

As chambers is leading in tech law, this is something I would like to develop further and it would be good to expand the international work I have started to do more of recently and which was and remains a key appeal of 4 Pump Court.

What is the culture of chambers?

Colleagues are very friendly and it will be good to see more of them again now that we are hopefully going to be back more in chambers. The facilities just had a major upgrade with a total overhaul of many areas of chambers which was a real improvement. The clerking team is excellent. Chambers is not very hierarchical at all.

Covid has been a challenging time (for everyone I am sure) and while there were Zoom get-togethers they could not really replace real in-person interactions. This summer, chambers had a get-together to re-connect after over a year of very fragmented personal interactions, which was excellent.

Top tips for those wanting to become a barrister/secure a pupillage at your chambers

4 Pump Court has their own application form and it is well worth spending some time in really grappling with the questions and seeing this as a chance for some written advocacy. Like all chambers, they will look for outstanding academic abilities but common sense, sound judgment and the ability to get on with a wide range of people are also important. Make sure to research what chambers does and to read their selection criteria in detail.

Deadlines

Mini-Pupillage

12 October 2021 - applications are received on a rolling basis
Applications close 12/10/2021

Mini-Pupillage

Applications are received on a rolling basis
Applications close 31/12/2021

Pupillage 2023

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

Mini-Pupillage

Applications are received on a rolling basis
Applications close 31/07/2022

Insider Scorecard

A*
Training
A*
Quality of work
A*
Colleagues
A*
Facilities
A
Work/life balance
A
Social life
A
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 46
QCs 26
Pupillages 2
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 £25,000

Diversity

Female juniors 24%
Female QCs 24%
BME juniors Undisclosed
BME QCs Undisclosed

The Chambers In Its Own Words