New Square Chambers

The Legal Cheek View

Located in the glorious setting of Lincoln’s Inn, New Square Chambers is a leading commercial chancery set working in a range of exciting areas. If business and property are areas of law that you enjoy, then you will find New Square is right up your street. The set is particularly renowned when it comes to company law and rural and agricultural matters, but its members also work in commercial litigation, insolvency, trusts, wills, and estates. The set also undertakes a substantial amount of offshore work.

One thing is for sure, there is plenty of exciting work available to the tenants at New Square. One insider tells us that there is a “great variety of work” with “clients ranging from major organisations to individuals”. We also hear that there is an “excellent mix of court and advisory work”. Turning to the nature of the work, it is safe to say that there is rarely a dull day. One junior tenant tells us: “given the nature of commercial chancery work, the factual issues are often fascinating, amusing, harrowing, shocking, or a mixture of all of those things”.

Whether it be appearing in the first wills case to go before the Supreme Court or handling a multi-million-pound claim arising out of the liquidation of a Cayman Islands hedge fund, tenants at the set are “lucky to be involved in many interesting cases at the cutting edge of the law”. The past year has seen Aidan Briggs appear in a case in which the Court of Appeal handed down a landmark decision, affecting thousands of wills and trust instruments worldwide, on trustee remuneration; Alexander Learmonth KC successfully appear in a High Court appeal involving the removal of an elderly litigation friend who was under the influence of her son; and Guy Adams represent the claimant in a case raising an issue as to the applicable contractual construction principles in relation to long term relational contracts, which is a relatively new and developing topic. It is all very exciting!

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It’s not just the KCs and junior seniors who get the interesting work. One pupil at the set tells us the “work I have done has been intellectually challenging, often involving complex and/or overlapping areas of law, including knotty (and perhaps niche) issues”. Naturally, there will be some more mundane work from time to time, but the calibre of the tenants at the set means there is always something exciting going on around you.

With so much challenging work, do the tenants at New Square get any down time? Whilst work life balance is “never perfect at the Bar”, one tenant tells us that “you decide how much you want to work”. One junior tells us that it is “not unheard of to work on a weekend, but being a busy junior practitioner is nothing to complain about”. From the pupils perspective, one New Square newbie tells us: “as a pupil, you are not expected to work outside the hours (roughly) of 9-6 or on weekends. However, pupils are given a lot of independence and I have been given the freedom to manage my time and work as I wish. In consequence, during busy spells or when I have felt it necessary to produce a high standard of work or to meet deadlines, I have worked longer days and/or weekends”. That doesn’t sound so bad!

Further good news is that the bunch at New Square are all very supportive. One tenant tells us: “the culture is unlike anywhere else. We are a small set and the junior end in particular is a close-knit”. Made up of just 43 members, five of whom are KCs, this makes sense. The “collegiality” and “calm and positive atmosphere” are praised by one insider who tells us that there is “an old school sense of decency and helping each other which is not always still found at the Bar”. Juniors say that they can always knock on someone’s door when they need help or advice, and also feel very supported by the clerks. We also hear that pupils are allocated a junior tenant as a wellbeing mentor during the pupillage year — a wonderful initiative.

Given that they are such a close-knit group, it is unsurprising that tenants enjoy socialising together. Lunches in Lincoln’s Inn are a regular occurrence, as are post-work trips to local pubs. We are told that there is a social secretary who puts on an “excellent range of events”. Recent outings have included: “going to the polo, a dinner at Boisdale including live motown music and dancing, a rum tasting, a night at a cocktail bar, a rugby match etc. etc.”

When it comes to location, the tenants of New Square really are spoilt. One tenant gushes: “we have the most beautiful building in Lincoln’s Inn — built in the 16th century it is a highly used background for photos and stops on tours”. Other tenants also attest to the Instagrammable building, with one saying that their “wisteria is the envy of our neighbours and the background of all tourists’ photographs” while another added: “we are on all the photos of Lincoln’s Inn with the legendary red postbox!” Old buildings do, inevitably, come with their downsides. One junior tells us that “the lack of insulation leaves something to be desired”. Tech at the set gets decent ratings. We are told “everything runs smoothly” and one tenants says “no criticism but nothing particularly swanky”.

But those applying for pupillage at New Square won’t just be doing it for the ‘gram. There is a generous pupillage award of £80,000 on offer for the two lucky candidates selected each year. Perhaps more importantly, the training at the set is also highly rated. A current pupil tells us: “the training I have received has been excellent. There is no formal assessment or grading system like at many sets (which, in my opinion, would be rather infantilising/reminiscent of Key Stage 3). Rather, pupils primarily do work for their pupil supervisors and receive feedback and tips on an ad hoc basis. After a few months, chambers’ ‘open-door policy’ means that pupils do work for several other members of chambers. This means we are exposed to the full breadth of commercial chancery work, see and absorb different barristers’ styles, and constructive feedback from multiple perspectives”. They do add: “the only criticism I would make is that, owing to the informal system, some members of chambers require some gentle nudging/reminders to provide feedback.” Like many other chancery sets, pupillage is generally non-practicing, meaning pupils won’t have their own caseloads.

Applicants for pupillage should apply through the Pupillage Gateway. Three rounds of interviews will narrow down the hopefuls, who are judged on academic ability, oral and written advocacy skills, communication skills, analytical ability, interpersonal skills, focus and drive, an ability to work independently, an ability to deal with difficult situations, and a commitment to the Bar and Chambers’ practice areas. Around 25 candidates will be invited to a 15-minute first-round interview, which will be of a general nature. The second-round interview is more extensive, lasting around an hour, and includes the analysis of a legal problem. The final round interview will similarly last around an hour and will involve a legal problem.

For those looking for a taster of the set, New Square offers regular mini-pupillages as well as around 10 assessed mini-pupillages per year for candidates from socially mobile backgrounds. Students who perform well on this social mobility mini will be guaranteed a first-round interview when they apply for pupillage. New Square takees equality, diversity, and inclusion seriously. Initiatives include the Stephen Lawrence Day Essay Competition for school students, anonymous and institution-blind application sifting for pupillage and mini-pupillage, and a parental and long-term leave policy.

What The Junior Barristers Say

Millie Rai

Your journey to pupillage

My journey to pupillage was rather orthodox. I studied law at University College London, graduating in 2020. Upon arriving at university, I had a budding interest in pursuing a career at the Bar (perhaps because, as my siblings would put it, I enjoyed the sound of my own voice far too much). From the outset, I threw myself into UCL’s mooting competitions. This gave me a flavour of the type of oral advocacy encountered at the Bar. During my second year of university, I began applying for and undertaking mini-pupillages. This provided insight into the daily realities of life at the Bar across various practice areas.

By the time I entered my final year, I was set on a career at the commercial chancery Bar and began applying for Bar School and Inn scholarships.

My application for a scholarship from Gray’s Inn was unsuccessful – the first of many lessons that, as far as the pursuit of pupillage is concerned, rejection is par for the course. Instead, I applied for the Bar Course with an integrated LLM, which enabled me to obtain a postgraduate loan to fund the course.

During this year, I took the “nothing-ventured-nothing-gained” approach and made a handful of pupillage applications. I secured a few first round pupillage interviews, but was ultimately unsuccessful.

In retrospect, the experience of interviews, feedback from barristers, and the opportunity to reflect and learn from my mistakes bolstered my applications the following year, whilst at Bar School.

I commenced pupillage with New Square Chambers in October 2021, secured tenancy, and have been in fully-fledged practice since October 2022.

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The pupillage experience

My pupillage at New Square was split into four seats. For the first three months, my work consisted almost exclusively of shadowing and assisting my pupil supervisor, who happened to have a very broad practice. I was exposed to a wide range of work as a result, from chambers’ core practice areas of trusts and company law to more niche issues of administrative and intellectual property law.

I spent my second seat with a trusts and estates specialist. Having had a few months to settle in, chambers’ ‘open door’ policy meant that I was encouraged to do work for other members of chambers alongside assisting my supervisor. Whilst my workload and the demands on my time certainly increased, the opportunity to observe and absorb different advocacy styles, and ways of tackling practical, procedural, and legal issues was invaluable.

Generally, I would read into a set of papers that my supervisor was working on and prepare draft advices, pleadings, or skeleton arguments. In the early stages of pupillage, my supervisor would usually either complete the same work in tandem, and we would then compare and discuss our respective products. As time went on, and my experience and confidence grew, I would often complete a first draft for my supervisor, which they would incorporate into or use to assist them in completing their own version. There were no formal assessments. Rather, feedback was given on an ad hoc and informal basis. I found this to be an effective and organic way of honing the skills needed for practice.

Unlike most of our neighbours in Lincoln’s Inn, New Square Chambers offers a practising second six. This meant that from April, I was able to take on my own instructions and regularly appeared in County Courts up and down the country. During pupillage, much of my caseload consisted of possession and bankruptcy hearings. Whilst daunting at first, this was by far the most enjoyable aspect of my pupillage. Crucial though shadowing is, I have found that there is no preparation quite like exposure in front of a judge and having to think on one’s own feet to deal with the crises that so frequently occur at the coalface.

A typical day during pupillage was from 9-6. I was expressly encouraged not to work later than 6pm, although I sometimes chose to do so to keep on top of my work or, for example, during a busy trial period.

Pupils at New Square are allocated a well-being mentor, usually a junior member of chambers. I valued this aspect of pupillage, which in some respects can be an isolating and daunting experience. I regularly checked in with my mentor over coffee or lunch and was able to speak to them about ‘off-the-record’ without fear of judgment for asking silly questions and the like. My mentor’s tenure has continued (perhaps against his will) well into my tenancy!

The transition from pupil to tenant

Like most pupils at New Square, I had a very busy second six, such that I had already begun to build my own practice and to forge relationships with solicitors by the time I started as a tenant. My transition from pupil to tenant was almost seamless as a result. Indeed, the most marked difference was that I finally had my own room! A steady flow of work continued thanks to a small number of repeat instructions from pupillage, and to strong relationships with other members of chambers, who would refer cover hearings to me, as well as advisory or drafting briefs suitable for a baby junior.

What is your practice like now?

I currently have a broad commercial chancery practice. In the main, my workload is split between company/insolvency matters on one hand, and property and probate matters on the other. There is a great deal of overlap between chambers’ core practice areas, however, meaning I regularly deal, for example, with general commercial disputes and aspects of trusts litigation too.

My work is almost entirely unled – that is to say, I represent clients as sole counsel, as opposed to being a junior in a team of barristers. The strong sense of responsibility this has brought from the beginning of my career has been satisfying and often terrifying in equal measure. There is some limited scope for led work, however. For example, I have assisted a senior member of chambers in a complex ongoing trusts dispute in the Isle of Man.

On average, I am in court once or twice a week, with the rest of my time spent on paperwork in chambers, whether that be drafting advices, pleadings, or skeleton arguments in readiness for hearings. I find this to be an ideal balance.

Whilst the amount of work I take on and, in turn, my working hours are ultimately down to me, I tend to be very busy (which is no bad thing for a baby barrister). Although the structure of my day can vary widely, I typically start work at around 8am and finish around 6:30pm. I try to avoid working on weekends, but find that it is helpful to get a head-start on my to-do list on a Sunday whilst email-free.

The management of my practice is hugely facilitated by our brilliant clerks and staff. Each barrister is assigned to one of two clerking teams. I am in a constant dialogue with my clerks. They are all-seeing and -knowing, aware of my capacity, turnaround time, and the direction in which I hope to build up my practice.

What is the culture of chambers?

New Square is a genuinely friendly and close-knit set. Members know each other well and are supportive of one another. You will often find members milling into each other’s rooms for advice or to bounce ideas off one another. This is of particular comfort at the junior end.

We have a well-deserved reputation for being a hardworking but sociable set. This is reflected in our chambers-wide business development efforts, which range from publishing articles and hosting conferences, to throwing annual parties and attending Ascot with clients.

Business development aside, those members regularly in chambers can often be found having lunch together in Lincoln’s Inn hall, or round the corner for a pint after work. For those further afield, we also organise social events from time to time. We are currently looking forward to a summer party for all members, clerks, and staff kindly hosted by one of our silks.

Throughout pupillage and beyond, I have found New Square Chambers to feel like home. It has been an ideal environment for starting my career, both on a professional and personal level.

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

(1) Do your research: prospective pupils should take the time to acquire a realistic understanding of the practice of junior tenants. Barristers’ chambers’ websites can be somewhat opaque and may not make clear what a given set’s core practice areas are, nor the sort of work to be expected in the early years of practice. Demonstrating a real grasp of this will make your application more convincing.

(2) Grasp opportunities: the vast majority of pupillage applicants will experience rejection. Seek feedback after unsuccessful applications and interviews and take it on board for the future. Continue to say ‘yes’ to new opportunities, whether it be a part-time job, a place on a prestigious mooting team, or a scholarship abroad. This invariably broadens horizons and gives you a chance to hone the skills required of a good barrister.

(3) Don’t give up: the journey to pupillage is difficult, requiring patience and resilience in abundance. Whilst it is important to be realistic about your chances of obtaining pupillage, if you are sure that the Bar is for you, the blood, sweat, and tears will all be worth it.



Taking place between November 2024 and January 2025
Applications open 01/06/2024
Applications close 31/08/2024

Insider Scorecard

Quality of work
Work/life balance
Social life
Legal Tech

Insider Scorecard grades range from A* to C and are derived from the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2023-24 completed by barristers at the set.

Key Info

Juniors 38
KCs 5
Pupillages 2
Oxbridge-educated new tenants* 3/5

*Figure is for the five most junior members of chambers; does not include postgraduate studies


Pupillage award £80,000
Bar course drawdown £15,000


Female juniors 21%
Female KCs 0%
BME juniors 12%
BME KCs 0%