When it comes to tax, Gray’s Inn Tax Chambers (GITC) is one of the top sets to turn to. Established in 1965, the small specialist set is made up of only 11 members, and is often viewed as outsmarting magic circle sets when it comes to tax law.
The 11 members at GITC act for both British taxpayers and HMRC in advisory and litigious capacities. Their expertise also extends to cross-border and international issues. While tax may not jump out to law students as the most exciting area of law, one junior tells us that it is in fact “endlessly fascinating”. Indeed, we are told that working in tax law is “like being paid to do crosswords and sudoku for a living”.
Given the reputation of the tenants at the set, the work that comes their way is often of very high value. As one member explains: “Having the best people brings in the best work.” Recent cases worked on by members at GITC include a massive group litigation in the High Court and the Court of Appeal on behalf of businesses and public authorities against Royal Mail for allegedly overcharging VAT for decades, and acting both for and against HMRC in a recent case concerning whether fundamental features of the UK corporation tax regime were compatible with EU law and the post-Brexit position.
For those who might be intimidated by a lack of tax-specific knowledge, juniors at the set are keen to emphasise that you do not need to come in with any particular knowledge of the area, rather an idea of why you think tax law might be for you. The training at Gray’s Inn Tax Chambers, especially in relation to providing that tax specific knowledge, is highly-ranked by its juniors. One recent tenant describes: “I came into pupillage knowing nothing about tax law. I emerged knowing a fair amount and where to look for most of the rest.” Another told us that the set “has some of the pre-eminent silks of their generation; it is a privilege to learn from them”.
There is also a supportive atmosphere within the set. We are told that “the senior leaders in Chambers are very supportive both professionally and personally”. The comparatively small world of tax law means it is highly likely your colleagues will have worked on cases that you may be relying on!
Views on social life at the set are somewhat mixed. We are generally told that “everyone is very friendly and up for a drink when required”, though there are less big social events compared to other chambers. One junior comments that “there is no pressure to socialise” and instead “friendships within Chambers are left to form naturally”.
In terms of the location of GITC, the set is one of the few chambers not located within the Inns of Court. While this may result in some of the collegiate feel being lost, it does mean the set has a “modern building in the heart of the city”. On the inside, we are told that it is “very fancy”. Each member has their own large office within the building. The technology and IT support are well-rated, while the cloud software allows members to work from anywhere.
Gray’s Inn Tax Chambers offers between 1-2 pupillages a year. Candidates are assessed on the following criteria: academic and intellectual ability; advocacy and communication skills; an interest in and understanding of the type of work done by Chambers; an ability to work with other members of Chambers, instructing solicitors, accountants, and clients; and determination and resilience. GITC state that a first class degree is usually required. Both law and non-law degrees are considered equally.
Applications are not made through the Pupillage Gateway, but instead are directly to Chambers. Candidates will have to go through up to three interviews, the second of which will include a written assessment.
Successful applicants will complete a 12-month non-practicing pupillage. This means that, unusually, they will not take on any cases during their second six. The reason behind this is that it gives pupils a chance to get to grips with tax law, something which they are unlikely to have previously studied. GITC states that much of pupillage will be spent in Chambers, reading papers, gaining an understanding of issues, and sitting in on conferences.
The pupillage award is an impressive £100,000, making it the highest at the Bar. It should be noted however, that, unlike at many leading commercial sets, there are no second six earnings on top of this. Regardless, the large award is certainly an attractive prospect to any aspiring tax barrister.