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).
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.”