Commercial, competition and public law set Brick Court Chambers is a prestigious place — where else do you get to say that a “large amount of my work has actually involved appearing before Lord Sumption”, as one member put it in the comments to the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2019-20?
Brick Court’s premises in London’s Essex Street are luxuriant, although one insider admits to having “reservations about the colour of the carpet in the main building (and some of the art)”. 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 well across the board in the Legal Cheek Survey, with an A* for work. It has 47 juniors and 43 QCs, and offers four pupillages per year with a £65,000 award. About one quarter of the juniors and silks are female.
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 Pupillage Gateway system.
Pupils will not be thrown in at the deep end or expected to muddle through at Brick Court — or at least that is the official line. Not everyone agrees: “If, by training, you include learning on the job, including from leaders and juniors with whom I have worked, then [the set gets] a 10. If you mean formal training then probably a 5; the Bar still suffers in terms of formal training once you start in practice,” one anonymous member reports.
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.