Whilst I was preparing to start as a pupil barrister by catching the last of the Greek sunshine in September 2015, preparations seemed to be underway in Chambers to welcome me and Kirsty. As you will know if you have reached this far on the website, our first four months were going to be spent with civil supervisors. So it was a nice surprise when an email from my soon-to-be supervisor, Jeffrey Jupp, arrived to invite me for lunch before I started. Jeffrey explained what I would be doing, gave me some tips on how to approach things, and we had a general chat. That thoughtful approach set the tone for how Chambers treats pupils generally. Shortly after I started at 7BR I went to a talk at my Inn by a new tenant at another set of chambers. It was about how to be a pupil and featured advice along the lines of, ‘try to be invisible and avoid expressing opinions’. I am sure that is sage advice for some pupils, but it just did not apply to me at 7BR. It is a busy set, which is home to many people with impressive practices, but as a pupil I also found people to be open, welcoming and approachable. In a year which by its nature can make you feel a little neurotic, that made a big difference.
The first four months followed a fairly predictable pattern. Jeffrey was very busy and there were a few hearings out of London: I recall a 2-day final hearing in the Employment Tribunal at Exeter and a couple of trips to Nottingham. But my days were mostly spent coming into chambers for 9:00, often with a hearing or a conference in London, and if I had not left by 6:30 someone would usually be telling me it was time to go home.
The Second Six was a change of pace. This was when I learnt that most of the people boarding trains at King’s Cross first thing in the morning seem to be barristers. The fact that members were so open also came in handy during those months. One of the things I didn’t realise is quite how often ethical issues arise, especially in crime. There were a few occasions when I had to make decisions at court and I wanted to be sure I was doing the right thing. Where that happened I could always give Chambers a call to speak to someone who had been there before, and I never felt like I couldn’t do that because I was a pupil so I was being assessed.
But assessment there is, and what is reassuring is that you know where you stand. There is a full advocacy programme starting around November and culminating in a mock trial in the last few weeks. Kirsty and I received scores and feedback after each round (individually, not together – there is no sense of competition between pupils), and at the end the Head of Advocacy wrote an overview report. There were also two general reviews during the year when my supervisors for the previous four months wrote a short report and I met with them and the member in charge of independent monitoring of pupillage for an appraisal. So by the time of the AGM in September, I had a good sense of what the people who knew me best thought of me. This was fair and transparent.
I write this account two months after finishing pupillage. As I look at my diary for next week, I see two preliminary hearings in the Crown Court. One of these is going to be a sentence. There is also a small claims trial, a civil application to strike out in a commercial dispute, and a day in the family court. That is about par for a very junior tenant at 7BR; I will be doing a broad mixture of work for at least a couple of years. So getting a grounding in civil, then crime, with a shorter period of family sandwiched, and then a practice area of my choice, was ideal preparation for the diet of cases I will be dealing with for the next couple of years. I wanted to do pupillage at a common-law set with a strong reputation, where I could do a bit of everything and work out where my abilities and passion lay. I certainly got that at 7BR, and I have never had cause to regret my decision.