The Legal Cheek View
When it comes to restructuring and insolvency, South Square are at the top of their game. Working on both domestic and international cases, the set is the go-to when businesses fall apart. Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the current economic crisis have created an increasingly turbulent business market, and South Square’s 46 tenants are seeing their work pile up as a result. It’s no surprise that aspiring barristers are drawn to this heavyweight commercial set, given the possibility of working on high-profile, high-value cases as well as opportunities to visit such locations as the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Bermuda, Dubai, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
Whilst restructuring and insolvency are the first areas that come to mind when you think of South Square, there is far more to the set than that. The 46 members, including an impressive 17 KCs, are also highly respected when it comes to commercial chancery, banking and finance, company law, and commercial dispute resolution. The work can be incredibly varied, with one insider telling us that “every piece of work is always different so it’s a constant learning curve”. That certainly seems to be the case, with clients ranging from high street banks to aviation companies. Football fans should note that the set has a history of advising Premier League clubs on takeovers, relocations, and restructuring, as well as appearing in disciplinary proceedings on behalf of footballers and managers such as Thierry Henry and Arsène Wenger. It has also advised on motorsports issues, acting for Lewis Hamilton and other F1 drivers.
It is hard to get away from the restructuring and insolvency core of this set — and why would you want to? It is a fascinating area, as one member says: “Insolvency lies at the intersection of many different areas of law. Tenants at South Square have worked on some of the biggest cases in recent years, including the Lehman Brothers Waterfall applications and the Debenhams insolvency. It is immensely interesting.” An insider explains, “because of our specialty in insolvency law, we do all of the important Supreme Court and Court of Appeal cases”. Apparently “there is lots of opportunity” to be led by the silks as a baby junior too. Commenting further on the type of work even newbies to the job can expect, one tenant tells us: “I’ve got two cases in the Supreme Court this year. I’ve also done a five-day international arbitration on my own (I’m a junior junior).” Certainly sounds exciting!
What The Junior Barristers Say
Your journey to pupillage
I studied law as an undergraduate at Brasenose College, Oxford. After this I stayed at Brasenose for another year to do the Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) thanks to the receipt of scholarships from the Law Faculty and College. On the BCL I studied conflict of laws, restitution, advanced property and trusts, and human rights at work. This was a great experience which I would really recommend to anyone who is able to do it – it deepens your legal knowledge and ability to think critically, whilst also putting you in touch with a global network of like-minded students.
After finishing up at Oxford I received a scholarship from Gray’s Inn and started the BPTC (as it then was). During the BPTC year I taught trusts law at two colleges in Oxford. Whilst at Oxford I had participated in a number of moots (including the International Price Media Law Moot) and whilst on the BPTC I was a runner-up in the Gray’s Inn Moot Competition.
I was also fortunate to be awarded one of Gray’s Inn’s residential scholarships. This meant I (along with a dozen or so other BPTC students) got (free!) accommodation in Gray’s Inn for the year of our BPTC. Not only was the accommodation very nice, but this also enabled us to get really involved in the life of Gray’s Inn during that year. The Inns provide lots of opportunities to meet barristers (and the judges), get careers advice, and improve your advocacy skills.
I was fortunate that whilst on the BCL I got pupillage at South Square. At that point South Square was not part of the Gateway (although it now is) and this was my first time applying. As a result, I never went through the Gateway process. Prior to applying for pupillage, I had done quite a few minis (roughly 6-12) in a range of areas. I had done a mini at South Square (which encouraged me to apply) but my co-pupil (and now co-tenant) had not.