Having been at the forefront of Brexit vote debates and cases, Monckton Chambers has had a busy past few years. Notably, the set appeared in the case of R (on the application of Miller and others) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union in the Supreme Court. In addition to playing a role in the Brexit discussions, Monckton barristers have also acted for British American Tobacco in disputes relating to free movement of goods and defended Google against a claim that the search engine was abusing its dominant market position. Alongside its strong EU and competition practices, the set has also significant capabilities in telecoms and government contracts.
The roster of big name clients means that juniors have a chance to work on some exciting matters. One insider describes the work that Monckton does as being “cutting edge” particularly in reference to the “interplay between public law, EU law, competition and regulation and Brexit from both government and private side”. Another rookie notes that every day of the week they work on a thrilling matter, from “advising government on how best to design a new policy” to “advising [a] consumer body on its class action rights”.
Training for pupils is divided into four three-month seats, with a different supervisor for each. However, the chambers also gives the option for pupils to stay with their third supervisor for the fourth seat. As with many chambers the training comes mainly from learning on the job. One insider reports: “No formal training as such just experience on the job learning from the masters.”
Another adds: “I’ve massively appreciated the ‘hands-on’ approach of pupil supervisors. All three I’ve sat with have provided consistently detailed feedback and I’ve always felt able to ask questions and discuss issues, even when they’ve been swamped with work. I’m a big fan of the requirement to do a piece of work for as many members as possible: it exposes you to a wide range of individual styles and bits of feedback you might not otherwise receive. It also helps you to forge relationships which come in handy if you’re kept on.”
This style of learning can be quite intense, as another rookie points out: “Not for the faint hearted or those needing special attainment stickers. You learn the hard way of how not to do it for years while your leaders point out your abject failings until you gather a broad skill-set and confidence to fly alone…” For those not intimidated by the lack of training, life at Monckton can be highly rewarding: “If you love the law, it’s great that the work is mainly about grappling with tricky legal problems rather than factual disputes. The work quality here is great.”
Unsurprisingly, the atmosphere at the set is relatively competitive. When asked about whether their colleagues were supportive one interviewee responded: “Not particularly sadly — they are competitors after all.” Another added: “Peers tend to sympathise but not much support.” However, the more senior members of the chambers tend to be kind: “Leaders offer constructive support if you want to bounce ideas (subject to conflicts).” There also seems to be a shift towards making a more supportive atmosphere: “We are trying to branch out more with female support groups, mentoring and more regular training and social events.” Currently the social life at Monckton isn’t great mainly due to the “all-consuming work of the bar”. Another problem contributing to the lack of social atmosphere at the office is that many choose work from home to “avoid wasting time on the commute”. This is common across the bar.
The facilities at the set are pretty standard. One insider also noted the benefit of the chambers’ “great IT and VPN enabling you to work from home in a secure environment”. The clerks, meanwhile, are “proactive and energetic” and “financial and marketing [are] all sorted very professionally”. The chambers itself is located in Gray’s Inn near Gray’s Inn Gardens, a nice spot for a stroll in the summer.
With a revenue growth of over a third in recent years, Monckton is certainly ambitious. “The two joint heads of chambers have brought a much needed more commercial outlook,” we are told.