Commercial, competition and public law set Brick Court Chambers is a prestigious place. Its premises in London’s Essex Street are luxuriant, and it is rumoured to be among the highest earning chambers in the capital.
Recent notable cases include a Supreme Court judgment that doctors and families can agree to allow a person in a long-term vegetative state to die without having their decision approved by a court. Brick Court also acted in a European Court of Justice case on European Arrest Warrants and double jeopardy, and is working on a £1.2 billion mega-dispute over a stake in a Russian oligarch’s fishing company.
Brick Court scored As across the board in the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2018-19, with an A* for work. It has 46 juniors and 41 QCs, and offers four pupillages per year with a £65,000 award. About one quarter of the juniors and silks are female.
Earlier this year, the chambers faced a horrendous clash of timetables at its annual summer party at Tate Britain on 11 July—the day of the England v Croatia World Cup semi-final. The day was saved, for Brick Court if not for the home team, by a hastily arranged screening of the match for guests. As well as the annual summer jamboree, there are more than enough social events throughout the year to make a pupil barrister feel welcome. However, there is no forced jollity. One rookie explains: “We’re a social lot, and go for lunch or drinks regularly — there are also regular chambers functions. But there is no ‘compulsory fun’, which is a blessing for those of us with young families, because we can just go home when we want to.”
Candidates must complete a mini-pupillage, which is assessed, as part of the application process. Brick Court encourages all those interested in joining to apply for a mini-pupillage before they apply through the Gateway system.
Unlike some other chambers, pupils will not be thrown in at the deep end or expected to muddle through at Brick Court. The pupillage system is tightly structured so as to be fair as well as rigorous. Pupils sit with three different supervisors. There are few opportunities for pupils to get up in court and put forward a case, which some may see as a disadvantage. On the other hand, however, pupils report that their skills are fine-tuned by a series of monthly advocacy exercises, for which they receive supervisor feedback on their performance. Pupils are also given a series of written exercises, each of which must be completed within five days.
They are not expected to work into the wee small hours, and a reasonable work-life balance is maintained. Former pupils report a merciful absence of back-biting during the year as there is no limit to the number of tenancies on offer and everyone has a fair shot. Last year’s intake would no doubt have been thankful for this collaborative atmosphere and limitless opportunity as the competition included no less than a magic circle partner. In among the enthusiastic clutch of rookies there was a former Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer head of competition litigation who left his £1.5 million annual income after 30 years at the firm to pursue his dream of life at the bar. Presumably with his credentials and contacts he would have had his pick of chambers, which makes his move quite the vote of confidence in Brick Court.