Radcliffe Chambers

The Legal Cheek View

Barristers at Radcliffe Chambers deal with big-money, complex cases that set precedents and make headlines in the business pages.

This chancery and commercial set was formed in 2006 from the merger of 11 Old Square and 11 New Square. It is based at Lincoln’s Inn, and has more than 60 barristers including 11 QCs. Responding to the 2020-21 Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey, a barrister describes the work: “Varied and challenging; complex legal problems, oral advocacy and the challenge of finding practical solutions never fails to stimulate.” Another insider says: “I’m lucky to have a very engaging, often highly challenging caseload― mainly pensions work, including as a junior on several significant cases in the field in recent years.”

Recent cases include a high-profile dispute between siblings over a multi-million-pound family business, and the long-running litigation between British Airways and trustees of one of its pensions schemes.

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Each afternoon, whatever their workload, members try to find the time to meet for a cup of tea, a daily ritual that embodies the spirit of this convivial, civilised and high-achieving chambers. Pupils are encouraged to attend, giving them an excellent opportunity to mingle, make connections and seek advice. This approach has assisted Radcliffe barristers during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Chambers has always been a very sociable place, with morning coffee, afternoon tea and evening drinks all regular fixtures,” says one barrister. “It’s remained so even during lockdown, with members continuing to keep in touch remotely for informal catch-ups, drinks and quizzes (chambers’ recent IT upgrade has really come into its own).”

Having previously taken on just one pupil, Radcliffe now recruits two a year. They work with four supervisors across different areas, rotating every three months. They will also be invited to assist other members with their cases, broadening their experience and gaining useful insights. “My four supervisors (one of whom has since gone to the bench) all went out of their way both to pass on their knowledge and skills and to make me feel at home in chambers,” a chambers alumnus says.

During the second six months, the exciting work starts with pupils given their own cases. While no doubt daunting, former pupils have reported that this experience really helped them stand on their own two feet in their later career. It also prompts pupils to develop a relationship with instructing solicitors as well as the clerks, and they can of course keep their earnings. And, should work get tricky, “there is always someone available who will willingly chat though a legal problem,” says one rookie. “There is a strong sense of camaraderie within chambers.” Another barrister adds: “Everyone is endlessly supportive and willing to help you out in any way they can.”

In terms of facilities, the “occasionally Dickensian trappings [are] more than compensated for by the elegance of the surroundings”, a practitioner says. The clerking and administrative facilities are described as “excellent” by another respondent. Radcliffe barristers also find time for life outside of work. According to one, “when things are busy it can be pretty 24/7 but there’s always downtime to be enjoyed during quieter periods”.

What The Junior Barristers Say

As well as being a highly respected chancery and commercial set that’s home to some of the big brains of the bar, Radcliffe is one of the most sociable chambers in the Inns of Court. “About ten barristers go on a daily basis for coffee,” reports junior tenant Andrew Brown. “It’s very informal, and you sometimes just talk about sports, but other times you discuss legal issues from the cases you are working on. When I was a pupil I used it as an opportunity to have many fruitful conversations with silks, which was cool.” Afternoon tea draws a younger crowd. “We talk about funny things at the bar, what we read on Legal Cheek, that sort of thing,” continues Brown.

In addition to these regular get togethers, there are lots of informal get togethers after work ranging from drinks around the pubs of legal London to other events. “We took our pupil to the Proms the other night,” reports Brown.

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One of the reasons that Radcliffe works hard on bringing its barristers together is that it is split across three sites (all in Lincoln’s Inn, so it’s not exactly a long walk between them). This is a legacy of the 2006 merger between 11 New Square and 11 Old Square that formed the set, and the more recent taking on of members from 11 Stone Buildings.

Since the merger 11 years ago, Radcliffe hasn’t outright rejected a pupil for tenancy. So, if you do make it into the set, then you have a very good chance of staying there.

Pupils get a broad grounding in chancery and commercial law thanks to a system that sees them rotate between four supervisors with whom they spent three months each. With Radcliffe doing a fair bit of international work, there are also some opportunities for travel. Recent pupils have been to Switzerland, Jersey and the BVIs, for example. In keeping with a policy that sees Radcliffe cover all pupils’ costs, hotels are typically paid for during such trips.

If there is a quality that marks out Radcliffe rookies from their peers, beyond their sociable nature, it’s their commercial approach. “Ultimately this is a business and at interview one of the qualities we look for is that future pupils could be put in front of clients,” notes Brown.

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 2020-21 of over 600 barristers at the leading chambers in England.

Key Info

Juniors 52
QCs 11
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 £60,000
BPTC advance drawdown Undisclosed

Gender Diversity

Female juniors 31%
Female QCs 9%