The Legal Cheek View

Nestled in between Chancery Lane and Lincoln’s Inn, and accessible through the Dickensian Bishop’s Court’s alley, Hardwicke’s environs are about as barristery as it gets.

So entering the set is something of a surprise. Rather than wood panels and portraits of great judges of yesteryear, the visitor finds themselves in what feels like a little piece of the City of London transported to the Inns of Court.

“Modern and functional”, is how one insider describes it, while another praises the “reassuringly expensive” décor. Internal bike racks and a table tennis table add a hipness rarely found in this part of town, while a full-time chef is on hand to cater for regular events. Unlike many sets, Hardwicke has full disability access.

Hardwicke’s barristers to a certain extent reflect the surroundings, with a number of former solicitors among a host of career changers. Those who come straight from bar school tend to be down-to-earth types. “We are all ambitious for each other and successes are celebrated rather than being a source of rivalry,” one insider tells us.

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The set is increasingly geared to commercial law, with most of its roster of silks specialising in this area. But Hardwicke has traditionally been fairly broad-based in its work, and there are practitioners specialising in clinical negligence, construction & engineering, employment, insolvency, insurance & reinsurance, personal injury, private client, professional liability, property and public law. As such pupils get a broad range of experience.

There is a nice mix of work on which rookies can cut their teeth. “I have a broad range of work which keeps me entertained — from the knock-around county court work to junior briefs with the silks in chambers,” relays one.

The training is consistently highly rated, with a supportive culture that “seems less hierarchical than most chambers” helping to ease the transition from baby barrister to tenant. A recent third-six pupil says they received feedback every week alongside private tutorials: “Could not ask for better training”. And once you are a tenant the training apparently doesn’t stop there, with “team training sessions including an annual property training day where the team gathers together for a day and we all present on different topics and talk through things we don’t understand within those areas.”

One member of chambers’ penchant for baking cakes for colleagues is also highly valued among Hardwicke’s young.

With most of the set’s barristers putting in 50-59 hours a week, Hardwicke is a hard-working place, but not obsessively so. “The junior end hang out all the time,” we are told. “Couldn’t fit all my chambers friends in my house.” The set’s co-head, PJ Kirby QC, is famed for his annual charity pop-up restaurant.

There are a lot of business development events, too. The networking sessions often have a diversity theme, with Hardwicke’s corporate responsibility programme one of the most well developed at the bar. Among other involvements, the set is part of the Pathways to Law initiative boosting diversity in the legal profession at entry level, a major backer of FreeBar, the new bar-wide LGBT+ initiative, and a participant in regular charity fundraising events.

What The Junior Barristers Say

Simon Kerry spent four years as a tax associate at accountancy giant PwC before joining Hardwicke as a pupil. A “love for advocacy” prompted his career switch, he says, adding: “I like the excitement of being on my own and being responsible for performance and advice.”

The support during pupillage “could not have been better”, Kerry reveals. The 12-month pupillage sees pupils complete three City law firm-style seats with three different supervising barristers. This unique approach allows pupils to develop a broader understanding of Hardwicke’s specialisms and the different ways its tenants approach their work.

Pupils start their first six observing and learning from barristers in a “safe space where there’s no stupid question”, according to Kerry. This coupled with continuous feedback and open communication means pupils at Hardwicke are given the best possible start. “Everyone wants you to succeed and to give you every reason to succeed,” he adds. Pupils receive specialist advocacy training at the start of their second six through a series of advocacy exercises held in chambers. This prepares pupils for court and ensures they avoid simple mistakes.

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Oxford law graduate Kerry is not the only career switcher in Hardwicke’s ranks. Current tenants include ex-soldiers, former technicians and even a barrister who was a Commonwealth fencer. Connecting this diverse array of professional backgrounds together is a supportive culture that continues long after pupils become junior barristers. Rather than a hierarchical system that divides junior members from silks, Hardwicke’s “open-door” policy means “everyone is willing to give up their time to help you”, Kerry explains.

And Kerry means everyone. He recalls on one occasion during pupillage where he approached PJ Kirby QC, Hardwicke’s joint head of chambers, for guidance after being presented with a legal problem he didn’t know the answer to. Kirby happily obliged and committed over 30 minutes of his time to help Kerry find the solution.

Kerry, who studied the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) at Nottingham Trent University, successfully completed pupillage in October 2017 and joined Hardwicke as tenant in the same month. So how has he found life at the bar so far? Although he looks back fondly on the salary and paid holiday he received at PwC, Kerry says his new self-employed role offers him greater responsibility and higher flexibility, managing his own caseload and developing his own practice.

Although working hours vary depending on the individual case, Kerry regards long nights as a “nice problem to have”. There are also plenty of opportunities to get involved with pro bono work, Kerry says, while some tenants have completed in-house secondments thanks to Hardwicke’s strong links with businesses across the City.

That is not to say Hardwicke is all work and no play. Regular drinks events (both in chambers and out), ping pong competitions and department socials help create a collegiate and relaxed atmosphere.

So does Kerry have any tips for those considering a switch to the bar? Well, taking into account he was on Hardwicke’s pupillage reserve list, it is perhaps unsurprising to hear that he perceives luck just as important as preparation and talent. His advice to those on an unconventional path to the bar is to apply to places where your experience and background will be valued and appreciated.

Insider Scorecard

Quality of work
Work/life balance

Insider Scorecard Grades range from A* to D and are derived from the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2019-20 of over 600 barristers at the leading chambers in England.

Key Info

Juniors 78
QCs 11
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 £55,000
BPTC advance drawdown £15,000


Average hours 50-59 hours

Average hours are derived from the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2018-19.

Gender Diversity

Female juniors 36%
Female QCs 18%