Littleton pupillage

Littleton Chambers

The Legal Cheek View

Littleton Chambers is traditionally regarded as an employment set, being one of the country’s leading chambers in this field. However, it also has growing expertise in commercial law, and is now highly respected in a number of areas including commercial dispute resolution and company law. The set is also a big name in the sports law world. The set’s 54 tenants, including 16 KCs, also work across insolvency, civil fraud, and professional discipline, to name just a few areas. Whatever they are working on, the work is “genuinely stimulating”, according to one tenant at the set.

Those considering a career at the bar should consider employment law as a practice area. As one tenant at Littleton explains: “the beauty of high-octane employment work is that it’s legally difficult but all of human life is represented. That means you get all the intellectual challenge of commercial law and all the courtroom drama of criminal law”. As one tenant puts it: “I never cease to be amazed by the things that go on in workplaces”. What is even better at Littleton is that the reputation of the set in this field means that some of the most exciting work is coming through the door. A junior at the set tells us: “employment law never fails to present interesting legal and human problems, just look at the news! We’re lucky to get a lot of the cutting-edge employment law work at Littleton”.

Littleton’s tenants have certainly appeared in some interesting cases, from acting for the employers before the CJEU in the collective redundancy case arising out of the collapse of Woolworths to a Supreme Court case setting the burden of proof in discrimination and harassment claims. Tenants have even worked on litigation brought against Harvey Weinstein, and an inquiry into bullying in the House of Lords — headline grabbing cases, for sure! There are opportunities to be led on these big cases and to take on smaller matters as sole counsel. One insider tells us: “at Littleton you can develop an exciting and challenging led and unled practice at the forefront of employment and discrimination law. In your unled practice you can be working with the top employment firms in multi day trials very early on. In your led practice you have the opportunity of working with our 14 employment silks in ground-breaking and sensitive litigation”.

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If employment law isn’t your thing, fear not! There is an “incredible variety of cases” at Littleton, not least when it comes to the commercial side of the set. With the aim that commercial work will soon make up half of the set’s work, tenants of all levels are working on exciting cases. One junior tells us: “what really keeps you on your toes here, and the real advantage of being at Littleton, is the responsibility you can have as sole counsel in mid-size cases, from decision-making in litigation to conduct of advocacy”. Bigger cases where you are led by silks or senior juniors are also rewarding. Whether it be a case involving millions of euros worth of financial investments made by the Vatican or a claim worth a whopping £1.5 billion arising from the sale of the UK’s most expensive residential property, there is plenty going on. Tenants are also regularly instructed in international matters.

Sports law is also a booming sector for the set, with instructions frequently coming in from football clubs, players, and their managers, helped by the fact Littleton has leading silk Paul Gilroy KC on board. The department also runs the Inspire Sports Law Initiative, which is designed to support athletes transitioning away from high performance sport into a career in the law.

Over the past year, some of the standout cases worked on by tenants at Littleton have included Nick Siddall KC and Grahame Anderson securing victory in one of the most hotly awaited whistleblowing decisions in recent years concerning whether you can separate out the whistleblowing from the behaviour of the whistleblower; Andrew Maguire obtaining the first reported order for summary judgement in a crypto case; several members appearing in a landmark Supreme Court decision on diplomatic immunity; and Adam Solomon KC appearing for the Solicitors Regulatory Authority in a High Court case which saw a solicitor sent to prison for contempt of court.

With so much interesting work going on, how do tenants at Littleton Chambers maintain a good work-life balance? Well, one tenant tells us “I don’t think the perfect work-life balance exists, or is attainable, but chambers allows you to get close”. We are told that the clerks are incredibly supportive, with one junior telling us: “my clerks are constantly checking in to see what they can do to help”. Tenants are given full control over their diaries. One new dad tells us: “as a new dad (for the third time) you are able to be totally autonomous about how you want to run your diary and make time for the really important things in life”. We also hear that the clerks “are a big champion of holidays!”

It’s not just the clerks who provide support at Littleton. Tenants at the set highly rate the supportiveness of their barrister colleagues. One junior tenant tells us: “every door is open, people are happy to discuss issues and go out of their way to try to assist”. Another similarly attests that “colleagues are just a stroll down the corridor or a phone call away” with “anyone from silks to the most junior tenant” being willing to provide an ear. Chambers director Liz Dux gets a special mention — she’s said to be “wonderful”.

One junior sweetly tells us that “the friendships in chambers are genuine and longstanding”. Fortunately, the colleagues can play together as well as work. We are told that there are “many social opportunities in chambers”, especially at the junior end. Whilst we are told that social life at the set has “taken an enormous hit” due to Covid, members are looking forward to getting back to the regular drinks, and are pleased that the annual client summer party, Christmas gathering, and chambers dinner are up and running again.

When socials do occur, there is often no better setting than Littleton’s own roof terrace which we hear is a great location for drinks. Inside, the reception foyer and conference rooms are said to be “impressive”. Some other areas are a little “tired” and one tenant complains that they wish the aircon worked better but overall the building and facilities are “more than adequate” for the set’s needs. Another Littleton luxury is a policy allowing junior tenants to have a room for themselves (if that is what they desire). “It’s great not having to listen to other people on the telephone!”, one junior who took up this offer tells us. Good admin support is also on hand, which is another bonus.

Littleton takes on 2 pupils a year. The chosen individuals will spend time with at least two, sometimes up to four, pupil supervisors over the course of the year. During the first six, pupils will conduct legal research, draft statements of case, prepare written Opinions and Skeleton Arguments, accompany their supervisor to court, and will also undertake work for other members of chambers, which is “valuable because you end up learning from many more people than your four supervisors”. During the second six, pupils will begin to take on their own work, typically being briefed once or twice a week. Throughout the course of the pupillage year, there will be several formal assessments on which pupils will receive graded feedback.

Pupillage at Littleton comes highly recommended by former pupils and current tenants at the set, with “excellent supervisors” and a “highly structured” programme. One tenant tells us: “Chambers provides an excellent programme of training and professional development for everyone at every level of seniority”. Another adds that “Littleton takes pupillage exceptionally seriously and all of chambers is involved in nurturing our pupils”. At the end of pupillage, you may fly your supervisor’s nest, but you are not left alone at Littleton. Pupil-supervisor relationships, and opportunities, continue on into tenancy, says one member: “I still speak to my supervisors regularly for advice on junior practice and have had the opportunity to work with three on subsequent cases.” One member who joined as a third six pupil also commented on the set’s “outstanding” training, in which they received “real and focused attention and feedback”.

Those looking to apply to Littleton Chambers for pupillage should do so through the Pupillage Gateway. Applications will be sifted, with the approximately top 20% best candidates being invited to a first-round interview at which they will be presented with a legal problem. Those scoring highest at the interview will be invited to undertake a three-day assessed mini-pupillage at Littleton. During the mini, wannabe pupils will be asked to draft an opinion on a problem question and then discuss it in an interview setting. Those who impress will be invited to a final-round interview, which will again include a problem question. Littleton emphasise that whilst they use legal problems extensively in their application process, it is skills such as legal reasoning and advocacy that are being assessed rather than pure legal knowledge.

Littleton Chambers is a founding partner of Bridging the Bar and those considering applying for pupillage at the set can apply for a dedicated mini-pupillage if they fulfil the Bridging the Bar criteria.

What The Junior Barristers Say

Alex Bryant 

Your journey to pupillage

No two applicants have the same ‘journey’ story to the Bar. Unlike on MasterChef or the X-Factor where all the contestants seem to have the same back story, everyone’s is slightly different. My ‘journey’ is as follows:

My secondary education was at two state grammar schools in Kent. I studied history as an undergraduate at the University of York. Whilst at school and university I had a whole host of part-time jobs: from packaging frozen food, to erecting marquees, to fitting curtains in the well-heeled homes of the UK.

My legal studies kicked off sharpish following York. Whilst in my final year at York, I was fortunate to be awarded a scholarship from Inner Temple for the Graduate Diploma in Law (“GDL”). I started the GDL in the autumn after I graduated from York. I studied the GDL at BPP in London. Whilst at BPP, I was again fortunate to get a scholarship from Inner Temple for the Bar Professional Training Course (“BPTC”). I started the BPTC as soon as I finished the GDL. I studied the BPTC at the University of Law in London.

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My mooting experience started when I was a history undergraduate. In my final year at York, I decided to join the University of York Law Society to see whether I wanted to pursue a career in the law. It was by joining this Society that I became aware of mooting. I enrolled in the first competition I could and, fast forward a few months and much to my continued surprise, I was competing in the final at the Supreme Court in front of Lord Hughes. Mooting is a great way to see whether oral advocacy makes you tick. From York until I finished the BPTC, I competed in about 6 mooting competitions. My mooting had an international dimension as I was part of the team that represented the Inner Temple at a moot in Bologna. Mooting can take up a lot of time and so, whilst it is important and useful experience, do not let it dominate your life such that it becomes all encompassing and distracts you from other worthwhile experiences.

My mini-pupillage experience was slow to get off the ground. I found mini pupillages tough to get. It took me until the latter part of my GDL year to complete my first mini pupillage. I have since discovered that chambers can be inundated with more mini pupillage applications than pupillage applications and so do not be disheartened if you struggle to get mini pupillages early on. I was fortunate that I was awarded a Pegasus Access Support Scheme (“PASS”) scholarship by Inner Temple. Part of the PASS scholarship is a mini pupillage in a set of chambers of your choice. Once I had one mini pupillage under my belt, I found it easier to get other experiences at other chambers. I think I did 7 overall. There is no set number of mini pupillages you should do before applying for pupillage. Whilst it is advisable to do a few before applying, you can still get pupillage, or come close to getting pupillage without them. I was fortunate enough to be first reserve at a London set of chambers without having done a mini pupillage. I also did mini pupillages in as many practice areas as I could to see what twigged my interest. On top of my mini pupillages, I spent a couple of weeks marshalling Lady Justice Asplin in the Court of Appeal and a week marshalling HHJ Richardson QC in Hull Crown Court. If people are finding it tough to get mini pupillages, I would encourage people to think about getting marshalling experience (sitting with a judge) and work experience at solicitors’ firms specialising in litigation. Both activities will provide insight into the profession and will strengthen your applications for both mini pupillages and pupillages.

Immediately after completing the BPTC, I worked as a groundsman at my old school. After exhausting the quality reading material in the caretaker’s office, I applied to be a county court advocate. Fortunately, my application was successful and for a few months I appeared as an advocate in the county courts of the South-East of England. This provided me with extensive and real advocacy experience. I stopped being a county court advocate as I had been offered a job as a paralegal in a commercial litigation boutique in London. I accepted the role to gain experience of complex commercial litigation. My time as a paralegal was time well spent as it equipped me with a crucial insight into, as well as a confidence to operate in the world of litigation.

I got pupillage on my third attempt. The year that I was successful, I applied to as many chambers as I could. I think, in total, I applied to around 25-30 chambers. The process of applying for pupillage is gruelling. You will also find that every barrister will give you different advice on how you should go about the slog of obtaining pupillage. The key to it, in my opinion, is to be diligent and tenacious: give each application careful attention, but don’t get disheartened if, despite your labours, you get nowhere.

The pupillage experience

I was initially drawn to Littleton because they are very highly regarded, they had been recommended to me a number of times, and the work they did sounded interesting. As a paralegal, I was also involved in a case in which a baby barrister from Littleton was instructed on a newsworthy employment tribunal claim. I thought it was very impressive that someone so junior was doing something so advanced and interesting so early in their career.

I was sold on Littleton, rather surprisingly, by my experience of the interview process. Whilst it was very exacting, I felt like it offered me a fair and real opportunity to show my abilities; far more so than other selection processes that I had gone through. The rigour of the process, plus the fact that at each stage I met more engaging, friendly, and welcoming barristers who seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say, revealed an environment which I thought I would enjoy working in.

Pupillage is split into four seats of three months. You will have a different supervisor for each seat. The tenancy decision is taken after you have completed your third seat. During the nine months prior to the decision, you will be exposed to diverse, exciting, and interesting work. The diversity of the work is ensured as you will be required to do work for different members of chambers, all who possess slightly different specialisms. This could be from assisting a silk advise a major sporting body, attending the High Court on a multi-week civil fraud case, assisting your supervisor with disputes within the employment tribunal, drafting grounds of appeal and skeleton arguments in an appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, or attending the Supreme Court to argue the finer points of Diplomatic Immunity.

Littleton puts you through your paces in the nine months prior to the tenancy decision. Alongside the work that you do for your supervisor and other members of chambers, you will be required to do seven formal assessments. Whilst the process is demanding, it quickly advances your advocacy abilities as well as your legal knowledge. Not only does practice make perfect, but after each assessment you are provided with detailed written and oral feedback from two or three members of chambers.

Although you are worked hard during pupillage, the members and staff of chambers are very supportive throughout the process and encourage you to join and attend in with chambers social and professional networking events.

The transition from pupil to tenant

The transition from pupil to tenant has been made much easier by the support I have received from Chambers. It is undoubtedly a stressful period where everything appears daunting. However, the training provided at Littleton more than prepares you for the realities of life as a junior tenant, chambers has a number of formal inductions prior to starting tenancy to help prepare you for practice, and there is always someone free for a chat or at the end of a phone.

The transition has also been made easier as the clerks have been brilliant at finding me exciting led and non-led work. This allayed the worry of not having any money coming in when the pupillage award stopped and also occupied my mind so that I did not ponder the magnitude of being a self-employed barrister.

What is your practice like now?

Early life as a tenant of Littleton is far from dull. One week you could be in Watford Employment Tribunal running a trial; another you could be being led by a senior member of chambers in an employment trial, a commercial trial, sports arbitration, injunction application or investigation. My first trial as a tenant was a fourteen-day financial sector whistleblowing dispute in which I was led by Lydia Banerjee. One of my colleagues’ first trials as a tenant was acting as sole counsel in a multi-day sexual harassment claim in the East London Employment Tribunal against a silk from another chambers. Another was being second junior in an appeal in the Supreme Court.

What is the culture of chambers?

Littleton is tucked away in a modern building in the corner of the majestic Inner Temple, which means we get the best of both worlds – air-conditioning and a lovely setting. We are also lucky to have a terrace which is used in the summer to host Chambers events, both social and professional.

We are fortunate at Littleton to have such supportive colleagues. There is always someone on hand to help you out with a tricky question or chat over a coffee. Chambers also hosts regular social events. These are always well attended and are great fun.

The clerks and staff are brilliant: supportive, friendly, and attentive in equal measure. They are always more on top of matters than you are, and can be relied on to lend assistance whenever it is needed. The clerks and our fabulous Chambers Director Liz Dux will encourage you to be ambitious and take on bigger and better work. They also understand that life at the Bar is hectic and highly pressurized and are very good at ensuring you take well-earned restorative breaks. The last thing you want is Ms Dux putting her head round your door (whilst you are asleep face down on your desk) telling you off for working too hard! Our equally marvellous Administrative Director will ensure that you don’t drop the ball on important professional administrative requirements.

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

Be diligent and tenacious: give each application careful attention, don’t get disheartened if, despite your labours, you get nowhere, and if you are unsuccessful one year, make sure you make the most of the following year and do something which will enhance your CV and make you a better applicant.

As regards chambers, focus on those sets where you are genuinely interested in their area of speciality and make sure you research what will be required of you if you are successful in securing an interview.

Deadlines

Pupillage

Applications open 04/01/2023
Applications close 08/02/2023

Insider Scorecard

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

Insider Scorecard grades range from A* to C and are derived from the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2022-3 completed by barristers at the set.

Key Info

Juniors 38
KCs 16
Pupillages 2
Oxbridge-educated new tenants* 2/5

*Applies to the five most junior members of chambers; excludes postgraduate studies.

Money

Pupillage award £75,000
BPTC advance drawdown £15,000

Diversity

Female juniors 30%
Female KCs 6%
BME juniors 13%
BME KCs 19%