Jamie Randall spent three years working at financial consultancy firm Oliver Wyman before joining Serle Court as a pupil in 2017. He was drawn to the commercial and chancery bar because that’s where he says his previous experience would prove most useful.
After narrowing his focus down to six sets and completing eight mini-pupillages, including one at Serle Court, it was this quaint chambers located in London’s historic Lincoln’s Inn that stood out above and beyond the rest. “The people here were by far the most welcoming, the atmosphere was great, and I was drawn by the fact that so many members had experience working in other professions before taking up pupillage.”
The wide spectrum of work on offer at the set also appealed to Randall. Practice areas include civil fraud (for which it is probably most well-known), commercial litigation, trusts and probate, offshore, company law, insolvency and property law. Randall studied classics at Oxford and began applying for pupillage as soon as he embarked on the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). “I was quite new to the law so wanted to join a set with a broad practice mix,” says Randall, who completed the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) at City, University of London.
Chambers’ main premises are housed in a traditional building in New Square with an annex over two floors on Chancery Lane. The silks tend to have their own room and juniors can choose to, too, but often share with up to two other members. There’s no canteen but the juniors often club together and lunch in the hall at Lincoln’s Inn. Plus chambers’ central location means it’s quite convenient to grab a quick bite to eat.
Pupillage at Serle Court is 12-months of training divided into four three-month periods. During the year, pupils are assigned four supervisors in different practice areas within the commercial chancery umbrella. You can expect to be assigned at least one seat in commercial law and another in chancery, and in your final seat there’s the option to pick an area of your choice.
There is courtroom exposure but pupils undertake a non-practising second six. This means they shadow supervisors rather than taking on their own caseload and conducting advocacy in court. There are perks to this approach: you get more time to learn in a slightly less pressured environment on matters of a higher level than you’d perhaps undertake on your own, explains Randall. His biggest learning experiences during pupillage were observing a complex commercial trial and a four-day matter which was heard by the Privy Council. “It was useful to see how trials work: what constitutes a good or bad cross-examination and to see the different parties and issues at play.”
Serle Court takes up to three pupils each year. Randall’s cohort got along well; there was “no sense of competition” because there is plenty of work to go around and chambers is keen to retain those deemed good enough. Pupils are assessed on an ongoing basis: there are two formal assessments, one written and one oral, conducted in front of a senior member of chambers. Both are graded, and at the end of each seat supervisors share feedback on all work undertaken with them.
Randall secured tenancy in October last year. He spent six months on secondment to City outfit Kingsley Napley soon afterwards — a route which is not uncommon for juniors at Serle Court to take. His experience in the firm’s dispute resolution team helped in his transition from pupil to junior barrister. He says that it was useful to spend time working on cases within a team — “that adds to your confidence when starting out on your own,” he explains. Plus there’s always the benefit of building rapport with a particular firm. Since returning to chambers, Randall, who handles cases in all areas of chambers’ practice, says it took a couple of weeks to get his caseload up and running but has been busy ever since.
Self-employed Randall typically arrives in chambers at 9am and leaves by 7pm. He tends to focus on one case each day. This could involve drafting particulars of claim, witness statements and skeleton arguments or prepping for a hearing in court. He’s currently working through a series of injunctions which he says require a “quick turnaround” — typically between two to three days. The fast-paced nature of this work can sway his working hours but the clerks are good at understanding “how much you have on and can take on”.
The work at Serle Court often has an international element. Members, many of whom have been called to the bar in foreign jurisdictions, have worked on cases originating from glamourous, sun-soaked locations including the Bahamas, Barbados and the Cayman Islands. They undertake pro bono work, too, mainly for national legal charity Advocate or the Chancery Bar Litigant in Person Support Scheme (CLIPS). Many cases involve a silk and a junior which helps foster a sense of cohesion. “There isn’t a sense of hierarchy in chambers,” says Randall. “The silks are all very approachable and willing to speak through any legal issue.”
The QCs are regulars at socials too. The social scene is amiable, with a number of evening get-togethers hosted by chambers and a drinks do every month. The socialising extends to events with solicitors which are “great for networking”, and recent shindigs include a darts fixture and football tournament.