I thoroughly enjoyed being a pupil at 7BR. During my BPTC I heard many horror stories from friends about their pupillages, but my time as a pupil was full of interesting challenges and experiences. Even before I started pupillage I was really struck by the encouraging and friendly nature of the Members I interacted with. My first supervisor, Craig Carr, invited me for a coffee so we could get to know each other and I could find out more about his work. I also had a pre-pupillage mentor who exchanged helpful emails with me about what I needed to do to prepare (a top tip was buying a good suitcase!). I soon learned that everyone in Chambers was keen to help me feel at home and perform well during the year.
At 7BR pupillage is split across three different practice areas, with each stint of four months’ duration. My four months with Craig was very varied, as he has a personal injury and clinical negligence practice. A typical week might involve a trip to the High Court for a hearing, a conference in Chambers, and trying my hand at drafting paperwork which Craig had recently completed. During my first four months there was also a welcome event for me as a new pupil, and a few Christmas parties!
My second four months were spent with my criminal supervisor Gareth Weetman. During my time with him he prosecuted two lengthy drugs-related trials. It was fantastic to be able to watch these complex trials from start to finish, and to discuss technical points and tactical decisions as they arose. There was still some paperwork to do during this seat, which required a more disciplined approach to time management as it had to fit around the court day.
By the time my first six ended I was itching to get on my feet. When it actually happened for the first time – in a packed courtroom at Chelmsford Crown Court one grey Friday morning – it was probably the most terrifying moment of my life! Although moving into second six was a significant change in pace, the clerks at 7BR made sure the transition into practising was manageable; they built up the amount of time I spent in court gradually over a number of weeks. I began travelling to Leicester, Nottingham, Derby and Lincoln regularly for criminal, civil and family hearings. But I wasn’t “out of sight, out of mind” – I could call Gareth at any time for help, email other Members and ask for their advice, or approach them in robing rooms when our paths crossed. No question was too basic for them.
The third part of my pupillage was another opportunity to experience the real variety of work within Chambers. I chose to spend four months with an employment specialist, Elaine Banton. As I was in court most days doing my own work I planned which days I spent with her, either observing her in the Employment Tribunal or assisting with paperwork. Towards the end of my second six I also worked on the Grenfell Tower Inquiry part-time, which I could fit around my hearings and my time with Elaine.
During the year there were a number of advocacy assessments to complete. This sounds daunting, but I found the assessments to be supportive and constructive. They culminated in a mock trial towards the end of the year against my co-pupil, Nia. That’s not to say that our pupillages were in any way competitive – pupillage at 7BR is definitely not a competition. The feedback from the mock trial and the other assessments was individualised, and I had formal feedback during the year from my supervisors as well. Assessors and supervisors were always transparent about how I was getting on, and what I needed to work on.
I was taken on as a tenant in October 2018. I now have a mixed practice, which is usual for junior tenants at 7BR. My pupillage prepared me very well for the wide variety of hearings, procedural rules, and paperwork which I deal with on a day-to-day basis. I am so pleased that I was able to undertake my pupillage in this set, which values and nurtures barristers who love working in more than one practice area. A lot of people describe this Chambers as a family. I certainly feel part of it.