Littleton Chambers

The Legal Cheek View

“I never cease to be amazed by the things that go on in workplaces,” one of the Littleton respondents to the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2018-19 tells us in the anonymous comments. This intriguing quote is a clue to a large chunk of what Littleton Chambers does, with over half of the set’s work employment law related. It’s an area that is often factually very interesting, since it involves fundamentally human interests, as well as commercial ones on the part of employers.

Juniors at the set should expect to gain exposure to a mix of statutory employment work and High Court employment cases. “One day you can be arguing about the effect of a statutory provision, the next day cross-examining a truculent witness and the day after writing an opinion on the construction of a contract,” another Littleton insider tells us.

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The rest of the set’s work covers a wide range of commercial law, some of which overlaps with employment. Company law disputes, sports law, financial services, and even public law matters regularly come through the clerks’ room door. Rookies can expect exposure across a range of these areas during pupillage, which is split into four three-month seats, each working under different supervisors.

The training is “very well-structured”, we’re told, with “regular feedback on work, both from supervisors and other members of chambers, which makes it possible to improve as quickly as possible.” Another Littleton rookie adds: “There is only so much learning you can do before you actually just have to do the job yourself – the learning curve into practice is undoubtedly a very steep one. But the training you receive during pupillage is excellent and equips you with the tools you will need to do the job well.”

This is one of the bar’s friendlier sets. Socialising with colleagues is common. One of the junior members tells us that several colleagues came on his stag do recently. As barristers progress up the ranks there are less ad hoc trips to the pub and more socials arranged in advance: “Quite a lot have young families and so there isn’t a culture of members of chambers going out en masse for drinks – though there are usually good nights out to mark occasions like when a new tenant is recruited or someone takes silk.” Within chambers the Littleton silks have a reputation for being approachable and down to earth. “Even the top silks will happily take time out to answer questions you might have,” we are told.

The chambers building itself, located at the top of King’s Bench Walk opposite Inner Temple Hall, is deceptively modern. The IT facilities are apparently good, while a policy that allows junior tenants to have a room for themselves (if that’s what they want) is appreciated. “It’s great not having to listen to other people on the telephone!” one rookie who took up this offer tells us. The cherry on the cake is Littleton’s revamped its roof terrace, featuring outdoor heating, picnic furniture and beanbags.

What The Junior Barristers Say

The working environment at Littleton Chambers, according to Kieran Wilson, its most junior barrister, is “incredibly friendly and supportive”. He adds: “I don’t have any junior bar horror stories to share, unfortunately!”

All this niceness began before Kieran had even started: the summer before pupillage kicked off, he was assigned a junior mentor who he‘d meet regularly for a confidential chat over lunch or coffee. During his pupillage, Kieran spent three months working with four different supervisors, gaining experience in Littleton’s core practice areas of employment and commercial law.

Aside from the formal assessments (of which there are six throughout the year), every piece of work during Kieran’s pupillage related to a live case. His friends at other chambers haven’t been so lucky he tells us: there’s a lot of “dead work” in which those pupils work on cases which have already ended.

In contrast, at Littleton: “you’re essentially working with your supervisor in accordance with their deadlines – you get to see all the chops and changes that can happen when a case comes to trial”. It’s also a two-way street, “the end of seat debrief provides a holistic overview as to how well you’re doing”. When it comes to assessments and work for other members of chambers, “you’re given a score out of ten,” explains Kieran, which helps serve as a benchmark for future practice.

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Based in the heart of legal London in Temple, a stone’s throw from the River Thames, Littleton houses 44 juniors and 12 QCs. It has just revamped its roof terrace: “there’s picnic furniture and beanbags with outdoor heating, so it’s great in both the summer and the slightly chillier months”. His room? It’s “very nice” Kieran enthuses, “I share with two other colleagues who are relatively junior, but senior enough to field any questions I might have”.

There is no strict sense of deference at Littleton: “my room is directly across the corridor from one of our top QCs and we have a brief chat each time we bump into each other on the stairs”.

Kieran’s practice covers a range of areas now that he has tenancy, including employment law and international arbitration. The leap from pupillage to practice means moving from “worrying that you’re not going to satisfy your supervisor to the much more real demand of satisfying your client”. But if you’re lucky enough to be at Littleton, it doesn’t sound like you have to worry too much because “it’s made abundantly clear that your supervisors from pupillage are still there to help you once you enter practice”.

We find there are some great moments too as Kieran reminisces about his first win, an employment tribunal case: “I remember my client being worried sick, to then see her nerves turn as she realised the outcome – that was incredibly rewarding”.

Recent highlights include an appearance in the Administrative Court for a university opposing a renewed application for judicial review brought by a student who was found to have plagiarised his masters dissertation, and acting as junior counsel in a high-value international commercial arbitration due to be heard later this year.

He says there is no typical working day or week: “I may be in court every single day for a week, and the very next I’m drafting witness statements or arranging a call with a client”. No two days are the same, “some days I’m sat at my desk for 12 hours straight”, on others, “I barely come into chambers”. With plenty of irony, Kieran alludes to “all that glamorous travel” when journeying to tribunals across the UK (though he does mention he was once randomly papped as he exited Reading Employment Tribunal). But international postings are becoming more common, with one of Kieran’s colleagues recently attending an arbitration in Malaysia – so the glam factor may yet improve.

With the responsibility of being self-employed comes the ability to be self-disciplined. “I create a to-do list every week” and “try to stick to 9-6 as close as possible,” he says. Note, however, that working weekends “come with the territory”.

There is plenty of time to play, though: there is “definitely” socialising within chambers, more often than not. “We have a very close knit feel about us – particularly at the junior end”. Highlights include grabbing a quick bite to eat together in the Member’s Room, going out after work for drinks or even the occasional party. Plus, there’s always the chambers tea to look forward to every Monday.

Kieran’s tips for those seeking pupillage at Littleton include: making a start on the application form early on, then identifying the gaps in your CV and thinking how best you might fill them. At the interview stage, Kieran advises: “don’t try and be what a barrister ought to be – be yourself – the panel would much rather see a genuine reflection of you, as opposed to an impersonation”.

Of rejection, Kieran speaks candidly: “it’s part and parcel of the application process”. “I received two pupillage offers, but that was the product of significantly more applications”. Though it’s easy to feel disheartened when rejected, Kieran thinks it’s important to remember, “the numbers are always stacked against the people”. For those about to embark on pupillages, Kieran advises: “it’s a given that in order to be a barrister, you must be good at the law – beyond that, I think everyone has their own style. It’s okay to look to others to see what you like – but, ultimately, a self-employed barrister should do things their way”.

Deadlines

Mini-Pupillage

This is part of the pupillage selection process
Applications open 08/01/2019
Applications close 07/02/2019

Pupillage

Applications open 08/01/2019
Applications close 07/02/2019

Insider Scorecard

A*
Training
A*
Quality of work
A
Colleagues
A
Facilities
A
Social life

Insider Scorecard Grades range from A* to D and are derived from the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2018-19 of over 600 barristers at the leading chambers in England.

Key Info

Juniors 42
QCs 10
Pupillages 2
Oxbridge-educated new tenants* 4/5

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

Money

Pupillage award £67,500
BPTC advance drawdown £15,000

Hours

Average hours 50-59 hours

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

Gender Diversity

Female juniors 21%
Female QCs 10%