Devereux Chambers

The Legal Cheek View

Made up of 57 barristers, including 12 KCs, Devereux Chambers is a multi-specialist set operating across a range of areas. Whether acting for individuals, major corporates, or government departments, the quality of work is described by one tenant as “unbelievable”. The set’s key strengths lie in employment, tax, personal injury, clinical negligence, and insurance. Members also take on work in other areas, including education, sports law, and health and safety. 

Speaking to juniors at the set, we hear that a broad practice is maintained in these years. One tells us: “At the junior end of practice at Devereux, barristers work on a variety of cases across all of our practice areas. This leads to enormous variety in the work that we do: no two days are the same.” Working across such a broad range of areas is also fantastic training — some areas will naturally lend themselves to more advocacy, some to more paperwork, meaning a variety of skills can be honed. As one junior puts it: “I can’t imagine a better way to start practice at the Bar.” Juniors can also explore areas that maybe didn’t initially interest them. Tax doesn’t sound like the most thrilling area, but one tenant tells us: “I’m a tax specialist and tax law changes every year — so it is always interesting”. Maybe we were wrong.  

In terms of the cases you take on, work starts off relatively basic, with a sprinkling of more complex stuff that steadily transforms into working towards higher value instructions more regularly. One junior sums it up: “The work has a mix of discrimination work with great human interest and technical tax work which is incredibly difficult and intellectually challenging. Highly stimulating in a variety of ways.” Another highlights the mix of challenging law and the supporting mundane tasks: “Working for a brain injured claimant can involve high-stakes negotiation, but it can also involve tedious number-crunching and costs budgeting.” Baby juniors are handed opportunities to develop advocacy skills — which are “not afforded at all top sets” — through being expected to run their own civil court and employment cases from the get-go. There is also opportunity to be led in large commercial and tax disputes, including “plenty of trips to the Court of Appeal or Supreme Court clinging to the coat-tails of senior members”.

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There are certainly plenty of exciting cases taking place in Chambers. In just this past year, Andrew Burns KC gave evidence on the employment and industrial relations obligations of employers to joint Select Committees investigating the legality of P&O Ferries’ dismissal of 800 workers, Harriet Fear Davies was part of a counsel team appearing in the Court of Appeal of the Caymans Islands in relation to a landmark fraud claim, Robert Weir KC appeared in the first ever Supreme Court case to consider the Consumer Protection Act 1987, and Peter Edwards represented claimants, all police widows entitled to ongoing pension payments, in a Judicial Review Application worth £198 million. Certainly plenty for the members to get stuck into! 

Even with all these big cases going on, Devereux Chambers is notably a friendly and collegiate place. The “lack of egos” is a particular like of one Devereux insider while another tells us simply “we work as a team”. This means there is always someone willing to lend a hand if you get stuck on a tricky point of law. “From the junior end right up to the most senior silk — if you have a question that touches on someone else’s experience or expertise, everyone tries to help,” one junior at the set tells us. Another comments: “I regularly take any knotty problems to other members and inevitably come away with the answer, or with something much closer to the answer.” 

With so much hard work going on, it’s inevitable that work-life balance is “not perfect”. Members comment that it may not always be possible to have weekends and holidays off, but this is normal at the top end of the Bar. As one tenant puts it: “The volume of work does eat into evenings and weekends but that is the price of a successful practice.” Often, long hours are “a matter of personal choice”. As one barrister says: “I have never felt under pressure to work longer than I want to, either from the clerks or more senior members. You have to work hard (and sometimes long) to maintain a practice anywhere, but at Devereux you feel in control.” The clerks are especially praised for helping the barristers to manage their time. We are also told by one tenant who has recently taken a substantial period of paternity leave that Chambers have been very supportive of this.  

When there is some downtime, Devereux’s building is perfectly positioned next to The Devereux Pub meaning there is scope for after work drinks. We are told bonds at work are strengthened further by regular lunch in Middle Temple Hall, and sponsored charitable activities such as walks, fun runs, cycling contests, and quiz nights. The pandemic has taken a toll. One junior tells us “there are still people that do not come to chambers regularly”, whilst another adds that social life is “still taking some time to recover post-pandemic”. Generally, however, “the spirit of camaraderie” at the set remains strong. 

Talking of location, Devereux has an ideal position within Middle Temple. Overlooking Fountain Court (which does contain a fountain) and with a pub next door and the Royal Courts of Justice just across the street, what more can you ask for as a barrister! Inside, we hear the set is redecorated every year and that it’s currently looking “very smart” and “makes a good impression”. We hear the rooms are “generously spacious” though one tenant moans, “I do wish the carpets were nicer.” Technology wise, there are conference rooms, permitting hybrid conferences — especially useful these days. The IT support is said to be “amazing” within Chambers, with Jacki Muirhead — director of operations — getting a particular shoutout, but some support, we’re told, is outsourced. One tenant tells us that this can be “patchy”, whilst another exclaims that it is “awful” — I suppose there have to be some downsides to everything!

Devereux Chambers offers two pupillages per year, each coming with an award of £75,000. The assessed part of pupillage is split between three pupil supervisors, and pupils can express a preference for seats, choosing from employment, tax, personal injury/clinical negligence, and commercial. There is also a possibility of a fourth unassessed seat, during which the pupil can gain experience in another practice area, if desired. As a result of working for different members of Chambers, pupils “are able to observe, learn from and draw upon the broad spectrum of strengths, skills, and styles held within Chambers”, according to one tenant. In the first six, pupils will undertake legal research, work on client papers, draft advice, pleadings and skeleton arguments, and accompany their supervisor to conferences and to court. In the second six, pupils will start to take on their own cases, usually in tribunals and the county court. Throughout pupillage, there will be a number of written and advocacy assessments.  

Pupillage at the set is highly praised. One former pupil notes that it is “carefully planned and well executed” albeit with the caveat that “some areas are better taught than others”. One junior tenant who recently went through pupillage at the set describes it as “second to none. It was rare among my cohort of pupils to have supervisors at such a high level of call. That, combined with the willingness of even the most senior silks to involve pupils in, for example, appeals to the Supreme Court, meant that I started practice with an excellent understanding of both the work that I would be doing immediately, and the work that I hope to do when I reach the pinnacle of my career”. Even beyond pupillage, the learning continues. As one senior junior puts it: “Every day is a school day, even after over twenty years of experience.” 

Applicants to Devereux Chambers should apply through the Pupillage Gateway. Paper applications are marked and narrowed down to around 40 candidates who are invited to a first round interview. This interview is fairly relaxed and only lasts around 15 minutes. Those scoring highest in the interview, around 10, will be invited to a final round interview where they will be given a legal problem 30 minutes before the interview and asked to prepare. The interview will then take place in front of a panel. Throughout the process, the criteria on which applicants are assessed are: intellect and analysis, a good approach to problem solving, communication and presentation skills, and an aptitude for chambers’ core areas of practice. 

Devereux Chambers participates in access and social mobility schemes, such as the Pegasus Access Scheme run by the Inner Temple and the Social Mobility Foundation Bar placement scheme. Additional mini-pupillages to the ones typically on offer are available through such schemes.

What The Junior Barristers Say

Tom Westwell 

Your journey to pupillage

I took a slightly unusual route to pupillage in that I spent several years as a solicitor first. After studying Classics, I did the GDL at BPP and then worked at Freshfields in London for six years. I qualified into the firm’s “People and Reward” team, specialising in employment, pensions and share incentives law. I worked mainly on large corporate transactions with an international element. I enjoyed the work but over time I realised that what I liked most about it was advising on difficult legal problems rather than dealing with the more administrative aspects of the role. I have also always enjoyed public speaking. I therefore decided to make the switch to being a barrister.

I decided that getting a better grounding in academic law would probably help me with pupillage applications. My first step after leaving Freshfields was therefore to do the BCL at Oxford. I then went through the application process during my BCL year. I wanted to continue practising in employment law, so, after doing a couple of mini-pupillages in the Christmas holidays, I applied to a range of employment sets and was delighted to get an offer from Devereux.

My experience as a solicitor entitled me to an exemption from the requirement to do the BPTC. I spent the year before the start of my pupillage working as a Judicial Assistant at the Supreme Court, first for Lord Wilson and then for Lord Burrows. Working with the judges and watching top barristers up close was a great way to prepare for pupillage.

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The pupillage experience

I was initially drawn to Devereux by its excellent reputation in employment law, but I also liked the idea of practising in its other specialist areas: personal injury, tax, and commercial law. I also felt that I connected well with the Devereux barristers who interviewed me, and that they understood where I was coming from as an applicant switching careers. I’m sure that that was helped by the fact that several other Devereux members have previously worked in other fields.

Pupillage at Devereux is rigorous and well organised. It is divided into four three-month seats: assessed seats in employment, tax and personal injury, and an unassessed seat after the tenancy decision in an area of the pupil’s choice. At the end of each assessed seat, your supervisor prepares a written report with detailed feedback and marks for your performance across different areas. They then sit down with you to go through the report in detail. In addition, pupils complete seven assessments organised by the pupillage committee: five written and two advocacy. You do not know who has set them and, for the written assessments, your work is anonymised so that the assessor does not know it is yours until after they have marked it. The advocacy assessments are done before a panel of three people, including a former judge. They are a great opportunity to improve your advocacy skills.

All this means that as a pupil at Devereux you are assessed in a structured, objective, and transparent way. It is a demanding process, but you will have a good idea of where you stand as the year goes along and as the tenancy decision approaches in July.

In terms of day-to-day work, sometimes your supervisor will set you a task they have already completed themselves, but most of the time you will be helping them with “live” cases, giving you a true sense of what practice is like. I saw my supervisors appear in court on a range of different matters, from a multi-day trial in the High Court, to hearings in the employment tribunal, the tax tribunals, and the Court of Appeal. As well as doing research, I drafted pleadings, skeleton arguments, and notes of advice. I was extremely impressed by the quality of the training across the board.

The transition from pupil to tenant

My pupillage left me as well prepared as I could have been for the transition to tenancy. On top of the rigour of the pupillage itself, Devereux supervisors are encouraged to give pupils opportunities to shadow very junior tenants, so you get an idea of the kind of work you will be doing right at the start of tenancy. In addition, in your final months as a pupil at Devereux you are likely to take on several of your own cases. You will still have a supervisor at this time, which means that you can start to build up court experience while also having someone more senior on hand to discuss your cases with you and answer your questions.

That said, nothing can quite prepare you for your first few months as a tenant: everything seems new, your clients are looking to you for answers, you are still learning how to manage your diary, you are trying to work out whether you need your robes for a hearing… The list goes on. That’s why it is so important to have people in your chambers who are willing to give you advice and tips. My colleagues are very supportive, which has made the transition to practice smoother. I have now been a tenant for a little over a year, and I feel much more confident about managing my own cases and about standing up in court than I did initially. It is very satisfying when you come across a problem you have encountered before and can draw on your experience to achieve the result your client wants.

What is your practice like now?

I practise across all of Devereux’s areas of specialism: employment, personal injury, tax and commercial. This means that I get exposed to many kinds of work. In employment and personal injury in particular, you will find yourself appearing in court several times a week from the start. But there are also plenty of opportunities to work with more senior barristers on bigger cases, especially in tax but also in employment, personal injury, and commercial work. This mixture of work means that you get to hone your own advocacy and cross-examination skills in your own cases, while also seeing more experienced practitioners in action and learning from them.

Another big advantage of practice at Devereux is the variety of clients you are likely to work with. Your clients could range from members of the HR team at a large employer with plenty of experience of litigation in the employment tribunal, to an individual personal injury claimant who has had an accident at work and has never been to court before. I find it stimulating to work with such a wide range of clients.

As a junior tenant the hours can be long, and it can be difficult to achieve a good work/life balance. I expect that that is true for most junior barristers. But because you are self-employed you have some control over your hours and workload. As a solicitor I had to do whatever work was allocated to me; now I have more freedom to choose what work I do, and when.

The job is too varied and unpredictable for there to be a typical working week. You have to learn to juggle different tasks and to cope with uncertainty. While that can of course be stressful, it is one of the things that makes this job so stimulating.

 What is the culture of chambers?

I feel very lucky to work with such an accomplished group of colleagues in an atmosphere which is friendly and supportive. While the pandemic has resulted in more people working from home, there are always a good number of people in chambers. We have a great rapport at the junior end and meet up for lunch or drinks quite regularly. On top of that, the senior leadership team are very approachable and good with people.

At Devereux we are also lucky to have a brilliant team of clerks and support staff. I have regular practice development meetings with my clerks to assess my workload and the type of work I am doing, and to plan ahead. I know that they have my best interests at heart and want to help me succeed in my career.

Finally, one of the best parts of the job is the physical environment. At Devereux we have rooms in our own building at the entrance to Middle Temple and on two floors in Queen Elizabeth Building. It is a huge privilege to work in such beautiful surroundings.

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

My three top tips for getting pupillage are:

1. Make your application as strong as you can across the board. For example, no matter how good your academic record is, it is likely to be more difficult for you to succeed if (say) you have no advocacy experience and have not done any mini-pupillages. It is therefore important to identify where the weaker points in your application are and to take steps to address them.

2. Don’t be disheartened by rejections. The pupillage application process is very challenging, and you will almost inevitably face disappointment at one point or another. It is important not to let this dent your confidence. Try to learn from each experience and keep looking forward to the next opportunity.

3. Do your research. We are not expecting detailed legal knowledge of our practice areas, but we are looking for people with a genuine interest in the work we do.

The application process requires a lot of hard work and commitment, but it is all worth it for the chance to work in this unique profession. Good luck!

Insider Scorecard

Quality of work
Work/life balance
Social life
Legal Tech

Insider Scorecard grades range from A* to C and are derived from the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2023-24 completed by barristers at the set.

Key Info

Juniors 45
KCs 12
Pupillages 2
Oxbridge-educated new tenants* 2/5

*Figure is for the five most junior members of chambers; does not include postgraduate studies.


Pupillage award £75,000
Bar course drawdown £20,000


Female juniors 31%
Female KCs 25%
BME juniors 8%
BME KCs 16%