Your journey to pupillage
I completed both my undergraduate and postgraduate law degrees at King’s College, London, obtaining a First Class Honours and Distinction respectively. I completed my BPTC at BPP law School, Holborn.
My primary areas of interest prior to pupillage were in the fields of property and commercial law. I undertook mini-pupillages with sets specialising in commercial chancery work, traditional chancery work and pure property sets. I also undertook work experience at two solicitors’ firms (within teams specialising in property litigation and criminal law).
I volunteered with my local Citizens Advice Bureau, Islington Law Centre and Advocate (which was at the time the Bar Pro Bono Unit), all of which allowed me to develop skills which I use every day. I spent three days marshalling a High Court Judge and also spent ten months in the Court of Appeal as the Judicial Assistant to Lord Justice Hamblen (now Lord Hamblen). Prior to pupillage, I obtained vast amounts of court experience as an advocate with LPC Law.
The pupillage experience
I was particularly drawn to Gatehouse Chambers as a result of chambers’ specialisms, culture and pupillage structure. Gatehouse Chambers has a reputation for excellence in various practice areas, including in the fields of property, construction, professional negligence, commercial and insurance law. A pupillage at Gatehouse Chambers therefore gave me the opportunity to experience a range of practice areas before determining which areas I would like to develop further. One of the factors which set Gatehouse Chambers apart from other sets was its commitment to diversity and corporate social responsibility.
Even prior to pupillage, Gatehouse Chambers struck me as a set which was committed to training and preparing pupils for life at the bar. Gatehouse Chambers had a clear and structured training programme which achieved a balance between teaching and testing its pupils.
During pupillage, I sat with supervisors specialising in construction, commercial, insurance, property and professional negligence work. In addition to supervisors, pupils are allocated two ‘wingers’ in each seat of pupillage. ‘Wingers’ are other members of chambers, for whom pupils are required to complete formal pieces of work. I shadowed supervisors, wingers and other members of chambers during my pupillage. This included attendance at court, conferences and mediations.
By way of formal training, chambers requires pupils to complete at least two advocacy assessments. Further, before pupils commence court work in their second six, they receive training in insolvency applications, housing, small claims and road traffic accidents. This training is delivered by junior members of chambers.
Pupils are provided with regular feedback on their advocacy assessments. Pupillage at Gatehouse Chambers is flexible enough to accommodate where pupils wish to develop their practice in particular areas. Pupils are encouraged to try the different practice areas which chambers has to offer but, at the same time, chambers recognises that pupils may wish to specialise in a particular area and will support this.
The transition from pupil to tenant
The support from the practice team, other chambers staff and members of chambers made the transition from pupil to tenant seamless. Tenancy did not mean that I was on my own. There is a wealth of experience within chambers and there is always someone available to assist.
What is your practice like now?
I broadly practice in three distinct areas – property, commercial and professional negligence. On average, I am in court two days a week (either in person or remotely). In addition to having my own cases, I have also worked as part of a counsel team on larger commercial cases.
Working hours is very much a personal thing. Members are encouraged to have a work/life balance but longer hours may, of course, be required where there is an upcoming trial or court deadline.
What is the culture of chambers?
Chambers has recently changed its name to Gatehouse Chambers; this clearly reflects our values and what we represent. Chambers has recently moved to 1 Lady Hale Gate in Gray’s Inn. We have impressive new facilities for marketing events, client conferences and remote hearings.
Chambers prides itself in having a strong support network and an open door policy. Gatehouse Chambers is very much a unit and there is always someone available to assist if you need them. Members are supported by an excellent team of staff (including our practice management and marketing teams).
Chambers organises internal training sessions so that we can share our knowledge and experiences. There are also various opportunities for members to socialise with one another, either through chambers’ monthly lunches or zoom drinks (courtesy of the pandemic).
Top tips for those wanting to become a barrister/secure a pupillage at your chambers
You are not expected to have followed one particular pathway to secure a pupillage at Gatehouse Chambers. Indeed, everyone’s journey to the bar is different and we recognise that. However, it is important to show that you are committed to a career at the bar and have the skills required to succeed at the bar.
In relation to applications generally, start drafting early! This will give you time to review, change and ensure that you are happy with the finished product before you submit your application. Check if your university, BPTC provider or Inn offer a mentoring scheme – it is always valuable to have someone else look over your application before you submit.
Prepare for interviews like you would for an exam. Whilst I would not encourage writing a script, ensure that you are prepared with specific examples. I would also recommend that applicants re-visit contract law, tort law and professional ethics as most problem questions tend to focus on these areas.