Radcliffe Chambers

The Legal Cheek View

Meet Radcliffe Chambers at the Legal Cheek Virtual Pupillage Fair on Saturday 9 October 2021

Radcliffe Chambers deals with big-money, complex cases which often 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. Then in 2015, expanded further through being joined by a “highly regarded team of commercial and insolvency barristers” from 11 Stone Buildings. All now housed at Lincoln’s Inn, Radcliffe Chambers has 66 barristers, including 11 QCs.

One barrister describes the work that comes through the clerks’ room as “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.” One recent chambers success was a ten-week trial involving acting for former trustees of Kids Company which went into insolvency after unfounded allegations of sexual abuse hit the press on the day the Cabinet Office made a £3 million grant to enable the charity to restructure. Other previous 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 pension schemes.

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Having previously taken on just one pupil, Radcliffe now recruits up to two a year. Pupils work with four supervisors across different areas, rotating every three months, as well as assisting other members with their cases to broaden their experience. One former pupil tells us: “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.” During the second six months, the exciting work starts with pupils standing on their own two feet by being given their own cases.

One rookie who has been through the process told the 2021-22 Legal Cheek Barristers Survey: “Radcliffe put a lot of effort into my training. For every piece of work I was set by my supervisor I was given helpful feedback. I was also allowed to undertake some of my own work in my second six while under my supervisors’ watchful eye.” And, should work get tricky, “there is always someone available who will willingly chat though a legal problem”. One member tells of the “strong sense of camaraderie” at the set with another adding: “Everyone is endlessly supportive and willing to help you out in any way they can.” Radcliffe also provides training courses in practice management and forensic accounting, necessary for self-employed life. To help out the newbies further, the set does not require rent for the first two years of practice.

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”. Each afternoon, members try to find the time to meet for a cup of tea, a daily ritual which embodies the spirit of this convivial chambers. Pupils are encouraged to attend, giving them an excellent opportunity to mingle, make connections and seek advice. “Chambers has always been a very sociable place, with morning coffee, afternoon tea and evening drinks all regular fixtures,” says one tenant. We are told the set made a real effort during the pandemic to keep up social activities, with members continuing to keep in touch remotely for informal catch-ups, drinks and quizzes.

Set in the heart of Lincoln’s Inn, the “occasionally Dickensian trappings [are] more than compensated for by the elegance of the surroundings”, one member says, and we’re told clients particularly enjoy coming into chambers for drinks on the rooftop terrace. Radcliffe had an IT update last year with support being regarded as “excellent” and “quick to respond”.

Radcliffe Chambers looks for pupillage candidates who have a sense of “commerciality” and assures hopefuls there is “no Radcliffe Chambers type”. The set uses Rare recruitment which contextualises applicant’s achievements and runs its application outside of the centralised Gateway but in line with the Bar Council guidelines.

What The Junior Barristers Say

Natalie Pratt

Your journey to pupillage

I took a long route to pupillage. I undertook an LLB (University of Surrey) and then the BCL (University of Oxford, St Hugh’s College). I graduated from the BCL in 2013, following which I took a lectureship at the University of Buckingham, followed by a teaching fellowship at the Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London. Alongside my teaching positions I completed a PhD (also at the Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London) and the BPTC part-time at BPP, and was called in 2018. I left my teaching fellowship and undertook pupillage with Radcliffe Chambers during 2019/2020.

I undertook three mini-pupillages, all in my BCL year. Overall, I applied to around 15 Chambers for pupillage (including through the gateway).

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The pupillage experience

Pupillage is divided into a non-practising first six, and a practising second six. In each six months a pupil is supervised by two pupil supervisors, each for a duration of three months. I was drawn to Radcliffe as it is one of the only chancery sets that offers a practising second six. Being an older pupil with a lot of academic experience, I was keen to be on my feet and practising as soon as possible.

During pupillage my work was varied, as chambers rotates you between supervisors with different practise areas and different needs. Some supervisors would set me work on live cases (including doing first drafts of pleadings and skeletons) and others would set me work on completed cases. Chambers operates a checklist to ensure that you gain experience of the full range of tasks that you will need to perform as a tenant, and to ensure that you observe the full range of hearings that you might be expected to conduct as a junior tenant.

I would also do work for both my supervisors and other members of chambers, which gave me the opportunity to see all aspects of chambers core practice areas, as well as many of the more specialist areas practised by members. For example, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to shadow our Head of Chambers on a three-week pensions trial, and also assist in a traveller injunction case (which has led to a lot of work during my first year of tenancy, and a hearing in the Court of Appeal).

During my pupillage year there was one advocacy assessment that was to be completed before a pupil was allowed on their feet. I understand that there are now additional formal assessments, including some written work.

The transition from pupil to tenant

Seamless. It was as simple as removing the ‘pupil’ label from the email signature and watching my name go on the door. Chambers slowly increased my workload so that by the last few weeks of pupillage I was doing exclusively my own work (with the safety of a pupil supervisor for back-up). There was no real difference from the last few weeks in September to the first few weeks in October.

Socially, chambers is very inclusive of the pupils, so I had already been included in most social events (which had mostly been online from March 2020) and knew the other members well. Those relationships carried over from pupillage to tenancy, as did the support that members offered.

What is your practice like now?

My caseload includes the usual chancery baby-junior work (bankruptcies and insolvency applications, possession hearings, short trials, CMCs etc). However, I am also junior counsel in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham & Ors v Persons Unknown litigation (which is now in the Court of Appeal), and I have been sole counsel in two ‘meaty’ charity law matters (a judicial review and a four-day FTT appeal). One side-effect of the pandemic is that a lot of the regular baby-junior work dried up (especially winding up petitions), so I found that I was given the opportunity to do more challenging work earlier than I might otherwise have done so.

Working hours and the landscape of a working week vary. I will work at least five days of the week, and if there is something big on, it can stretch to seven. However, I could also say ‘no’ to taking on work, so I do have some control over that. I expect to work at least eight to ten hours a day. I may revisit that work/life balance, and at the moment am focussing on making sure that I take a short break every few months; however, whilst the junior end of chambers is busy, I would like to make sure that I take advantage of that as much as possible.

What is the culture of chambers?

Chambers is a very social and supportive place, and was especially so throughout the pandemic – with regular online social events, and members making themselves available to discuss work and help guide the pupils and junior tenants. Prior to the pandemic, there were always multiple in person social events every week (including tea, coffee and drinks).

Chambers is not ‘stuffy’, and has a modern and strong working relationship between its members, staff and clerks.

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

Generally, do not rush to pupillage; take time to gain experiences and skills that you can transfer to your career at the bar.

As to Radcliffe specifically, consider carefully if the culture of chambers that which you are looking for – a Radcliffe tenant contributes to chambers’ life, and does not have an isolated existence.

Finally, when applying, take time to think about why Radcliffe as to other competitor sets. There are a handful of chambers who have a very similar range of practice areas and quality of work, and it is important that you consider, and know, why Radcliffe is the chambers for you (and tell chambers the same when you apply!).

Deadlines

Pupillage

To commence October 2023
Applications open 05/01/2022
Applications close 09/02/2022

Mini-Pupillage

1 December 2021 - 28 February 2022
Applications open 01/09/2021
Applications close 31/10/2021

Mini-Pupillage

1 April 2022 - 31 July 2022
Applications open 01/11/2021
Applications close 28/02/2022

Mini-Pupillage

1 September 2022 - 30 November 2022
Applications open 01/03/2022
Applications close 30/06/2022

Mini-Pupillage

1 December 2022 - 28 February 2023
Applications open 01/07/2022
Applications close 31/10/2022

Insider Scorecard

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

Insider Scorecard Grades range from A* to D and are derived from the Legal Cheek Junior Barrister Survey 2021-22 of over 600 barristers at the leading chambers in England.

Key Info

Juniors 55
QCs 11
Pupillages 2
Oxbridge-educated new tenants* 2/5

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

Money

Pupillage award £65,000
BPTC advance drawdown 15,000

Diversity

Female juniors 29%
Female QCs 9%
BME juniors 2%
BME QCs 27%