From the moment I received a call from Adam Weitzman KC informing me that I had been offered pupillage, I felt welcomed into the 7BR family. Adam kindly invited my co-pupils and I for tea at Chambers to learn more about the year ahead. Shortly after, we were invited to Chambers’ junior summer party. It was an informal event where I recall eagerly asking tenants for their advice on how best to prepare for pupillage. The universal response was to enjoy a long holiday – I didn’t need telling twice! A restful summer spent motorbiking through northern Spain coupled with Chambers’ efforts to include us in events meant that by my first day of pupillage my nerves had (largely) abated. I was energised and excited for the year ahead!
In my first four months of pupillage I was supervised by James Weston. James has a busy practice comprised largely of high value clinical negligence claims, catastrophic injury cases and abuse within social services claims concerning the Human Rights Act. The first four months were largely focussed on written work, I was tasked with drafting advices on liability and quantum, pleadings, and legal research. I also observed James in contested interim hearings and I particularly enjoyed shadowing him in a three day multi-track trial in Manchester. James was very approachable, gave me frequent feedback and created a positive learning environment.
The final two months of first six was a change of pace. I spent almost every day in court with my supervisor Dan Bishop, who prosecutes serious crime cases. I observed him conducting trials concerning drugs, offensive weapons, sexual offences, and death by dangerous driving in Crown Courts across the Midlands Circuit. Dan also organised for me to shadow our Head of Crime, Gordon Aspden KC, who was defending in a murder trial. The opportunity to learn from Dan’s meticulous preparation of cases and incisive advocacy was helpful prior to starting on my feet. The transition from first to second six was significantly less daunting thanks to Dan’s hands on supportive approach.
Second six is a steep learning curve, the stabilisers were off. My disappointment at losing my first case, a Stage 3 MOJ civil hearing, was quickly replaced by the surreal feeling of donning my wig and gown and winning a bail application in the Crown Court the next day! The following day I conducted a private law application in the Family Court. Those first three days epitomise a multi-disciplinary pupillage at 7BR. Every day is different. Whilst it can be challenging to research different areas of law and procedural practice, I am enjoying developing transferable advocacy skills, the confidence to be unphased by the unknown, and understanding the ways in which practice areas intersect and overlap. In the difficult times there is always someone in Chambers to ask for guidance (whether that be in person or via one of the junior WhatsApp groups). Everyone, including members, the clerks, and staff are remarkably friendly and supportive.
A unique aspect of pupillage at 7BR is that pupils can choose which practice area(s) they observe in their final seat. I chose Family and the Court of Protection. My third supervisor has a successful practice in both areas. Second six was a busy time, as I had conducted of my own cases but also completed work for Simon and other members of Chambers. I shadowed my supervisor on cases in financial family law proceedings and for a day when he sat as a Recorder in the Family Court.
Pupillage is first and foremost about learning. One of the ways in which 7BR monitors pupils’ progress is via advocacy assessments. Each assessment is based on written or oral advocacy within civil and criminal law. After each session I received verbal and written feedback. This feedback coupled with reports from my supervisors meant that by the time the tenancy decision was on the horizon I had a realistic gauge on my prospects of tenancy.
I applied to 7BR because I wanted to complete a multi-disciplinary pupillage at a leading Chambers where I could acquire experience in various areas of practice and then make an informed decision before specialising. Furthermore, as a black woman diversity at the Bar is important to me. I wished to join a modern Chambers where I felt represented. Like the Bar, 7BR still has some way to go in furthering diversity but a look at the junior end of Chambers’ website was reassuring. Throughout pupillage, I was encouraged by our celebration of different cultures at Chambers’ events and the Head of Chambers, Rachel Langdale KC, organising training in which Chambers candidly reviewed our progress in diversity and made plans for further improvement.
I write this short piece one month into tenancy. I feel fortunate to be at a nurturing Chambers which aligns with my professional goals and many of my values. I would recommend applying to 7BR to any aspiring barrister.