Blackstone Chambers is a big beast at the commercial and public bar. It’s home to top quality barristers such as Lord Pannick QC, who became something of a household name during the Supreme Court Article 50 case (whether Parliamentary approval was required before the government could set Brexit in motion). Other stars in the Blackstone constellation are Sir James Eadie QC, who acted for the other side in the Brexit case, human rights advocate Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC, high-flyer Dinah Rose QC and ‘the godfather of sports law’, Michael Beloff QC.
Barristers here frequently act in cases that are in the public eye. Examples include the Supreme Court case on whether abortion laws in Northern Ireland breach human rights and Shell’s £55 million compensation to Nigerian fishermen for oil spills. Outside of court, Blackstone members play a prominent role in NGO or charity campaigns: earlier this year, Shaheed Fatima QC presented the findings of a panel report that she had led into protecting children in conflict zones for an international inquiry chaired by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Recently, Blackstone barristers acted in Queen’s Park Rangers’ appeal against an English Football League fine of £42 million on competition law grounds, for Barclays against a former trader’s whistle-blowing and unfair dismissal claims, and in a copyright and contractual battle over the Star Wars franchise after a filming row broke out at a Manchester fan convention shortly before the release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.
Practice areas are likely to overlap here, and pupils could find themselves exposed to a wide variety of legal issues—commercial, EU & competition, human rights, employment, fraud, media, tax, public international law and financial services are just some of the areas of expertise on offer here.
Blackstone has 57 juniors and 51 QCs at its modern premises in London’s Temple, and takes on four pupils each year, offering an award of £65,000. It has a high hit-rate for offering tenancy to pupils. Demographically, about one-third of its juniors and 18% of its silks are female, and it has a female co-head of chambers, Monica Carss-Frisk QC. Blackstone attained a highly impressive score in the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2018-19, with A*s for training, work, colleagues and facilities, and an A for social life. The working hours are average (for the bar!), at between 50 and 59 hours per week.
It’s important to note that applicants for pupillage must have already completed a mini-pupillage at Blackstone and chambers’ preference is for this to take place “sometime in the months up to mid-April of the year they begin their Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC)”.
One potential disadvantage for Blackstone pupils is that they will not be on their feet in court at any point and will not take on any of their own paid work during the 12 months, although they are encouraged to take on cases pro bono. Instead, pupils sit with four different supervisors and must gain a grounding in the chambers’ core areas of commercial, public and employment law. Drafting pleadings and writing skeleton arguments and other written work will take up most of the pupil’s time, and they will attend conferences with clients. Pupils are assessed through a rigorous process of written tasks and advocacy exercises.
Given the reputation of this chambers and quality of work on offer, any rookies in with a shout of joining this star-studded set should jump at the chance.