Gatehouse Chambers

The Legal Cheek View

It’s all change for Gatehouse Chambers; the new decade has brought a new name and new digs. Previously named Hardwicke Chambers, on discovering its namesake Lord Hardwicke, the 18th century Lord Chancellor, was one of two authors of the Yorke-Talbot opinion 1729 which was relied upon as providing legal justification for slavery, the set decided it was “time for a change”. The new identity coincides with the set’s move to a new high spec, purpose designed, six-storey premises at Gray’s Inn’s Lady Hale Gate in July 2021.

The new premises has “tip top soundproofing”, sit and stand desks as well as private meeting pods for remote hearings and conferences. One excited tenant told the 2021-22 Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey, “our new building is by far the best looking and highest spec chambers building I have ever been in, in 20 years at the bar”. Oh and if that wasn’t enough, there two roof terraces — eat your heart out City law firms.

The set’s 94 barristers include a number of former solicitors among a host of career changers with members having worked in television, politics and one tenant having represented Australia in fencing. Gatehouse is commercially geared, with most of its roster of ten silks specialising in this area. It does, however, cover a broad range of work, including clinical negligence, construction & engineering, employment, insolvency, insurance & reinsurance, personal injury, private client, professional liability, property and public law.

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There is therefore a nice mix of matters on which rookies can cut their teeth. “Personal injury & clin neg work is hugely varied, a good mix of a human element and technical aspects, a mix of court work and advising, drafting and negotiating”, relays one junior, while another tells us this: “As my practice develops year to year I find myself doing more and more interesting and engaging work, and feel chambers is really helping me develop as a practitioner”. Gatehouse brings opportunity for juniors to assist silks on some of the very biggest cases in the commercial court but also earn their “advocacy spurs on smaller matters”.

During the pandemic, of course, Gatehouse’s tenants worked from home. “IT provision is excellent and served us very well in lockdown”, one member tells us, while another describes the tech support as “spectacular” with help even being provided on Christmas Day!

The affable nature of the set helped ease any sense of isolation. “We have an open-door policy and give support with legal issues, ethical issues, practice issues and also have many members who are happy to provide emotional support”, one barrister explains. “During lockdown there have been many small and large groups providing support to each other via WhatsApp and Zoom as well as individuals”, another reveals. A further source tells us, “the last year has reminded me just how important it is to be in a set that thinks about people and not just profits”. Pupils were also specifically supported through weekly catch-ups, dubbed ‘pupils brews’, to help further solidify bonds.

Although the set’s bustling social scene continued during the pandemic through Zoom meet-ups and virtual drinks, our spies look forward to the return of in-person events, with the chambers’ ski trip said to be a particular calendar highlight.

The training is consistently highly rated. One member says the training is “well thought-through, and virtually guarantees receiving feedback from a wide variety of people as well as giving experience of different types of work”. The requirement to give “helpful and thorough feedback to pupils is also taken seriously by members of chambers as a whole, and in particular by those members who act as pupillage supervisors”, another explains. Pupils undergo an “extremely well structured” pupillage consisting of three four-month stints with different supervisors, while pupils are also assigned two ‘wingers’ for each of those four-month stints, usually completing at least three written pieces of work for each winger as well as written work for other members of chambers. Once into the second six, you can expect to be in court two to three times a week, the majority of which you will be in the County Court with the occasional High Court. Pupil work usually comes from possession actions, property related injunctions, bankruptcy and winding up petitions and small claims trials. Pupils should “only in truly exceptional circumstances” expect to be in chambers before 8:30am or leave after 6pm.

The training apparently doesn’t stop at pupillage, with internal, cross-practice training days for tenants. Gatehouse also provides training for the all-important wider business skills including business development, social media, networking and taxes.

With most of the set’s barristers putting in 50-59 hours a week, Gatehouse Chambers is a hard-working place, but not obsessively so. It is “extremely supportive of flexible working”, according to one barrister”. As always, work/life balance often comes down to personal circumstances and practice area — international work obviously lends itself to odd working hours and travelling requirements. One tenant, however, happily revealed they “never work weekends” unless they have a trial starting on the Monday.

Gatehouse’s corporate responsibility programme is one of the most well developed at the bar and is something it takes seriously. The set is part of a plethora of equality, diversity and inclusion initiatives, including FreeBar, the new bar-wide LGBT+ initiative, Pathways to Law, an initiative boosting diversity in the legal profession at entry level, and Bridging the Bar, which provides mini-pupillages to students from non-traditional backgrounds. Gatehouse member Morayo Faborun Bennett is a founding member of All Rise, an initiative which aims create a better culture at the bar. If that wasn’t enough, chambers co-head, PJ Kirby QC, is also famed for his annual charity pop-up restaurant.

Gatehouse Chambers look for pupillage candidates who can “bounce back from the inevitable knocks”, according to its website, while junior members are expected to be “proactive team players”. You can discover more about life as pupil at Gatehouse by listening to the set’s very own barrister-run podcast.

What The Junior Barristers Say

Priya Gopal

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.

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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.

Deadlines

Pupillage

Applications open 05/01/2022
Applications close 09/02/2022

Mini-Pupillage

1 January - 31 March
Applications close 01/12/2021

Mini-Pupillage

1 April - 30 June
Applications close 01/03/2022

Mini-Pupillage

1 July - 30 September
Applications close 01/06/2022

Mini-Pupillage

1 October - 31 December
Applications close 01/09/2022

Insider Scorecard

A*
Training
A*
Quality of work
A*
Colleagues
A*
Facilities
A
Work/life balance
A*
Social life
A*
Legal Tech

Insider Scorecard Grades range from A* to D and are derived from the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2021-22 of over 600 barristers at the leading chambers in England.

Key Info

Juniors 84
QCs 10
Pupillages 2
Oxbridge-educated new tenants* 3/5

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

Money

Pupillage award £55,000
BPTC advance drawdown £15,000

Diversity

Female juniors 32%
Female QCs 20%
BME juniors Undisclosed
BME QCs Undisclosed