As a pupil, you spend 6 months shadowing a supervisor who will ask you to assist in all their work – you might attempt a first of a pleading or witness statement, take a note in meetings with clients or just bounce ideas around with them about a particular case. A particular highlight is going along to court to watch them in front of a judge – something you are first allowed to do yourself in the second half of your pupillage.
Once you are a Junior Tenant (which means you are a full member of Chambers), life is a busy mixture of your own court work (mainly in the county courts) and assisting more senior barristers with larger cases where you are one of a team.
By the time you start pupillage, you have either a law degree or the GDL behind you and you have completed the BPTC, which is a practical course on which you learn everything you need to know about being a barrister. The main focus of that, of course, is learning how to become a persuasive, oral advocate and what is expected of you in court. Although you’ve had a lot of training, there is loads to learn on the job. It is the day to day routine of watching your supervisor and then, as a tenant, managing your own practice that really helps you develop and hone your skills as a lawyer an advocate.
At Henderson, the pupillage is very structured. You are expected complete pieces of assessed work for lots of members of chambers and they give you very clear feedback. You move supervisors every three months to get a sense of how different people work. You even get the opportunity to do a secondment out in the Turks and Caicos islands. Often the work you help with will ultimately be sent to the client and it is good to have this level of responsibility early and to know that if you do a good job, you’re really helping a member of chambers.
Once you’re a tenant – you are self-employed! The flexibility of this is great whilst the fact that you still are a member of Chambers, with shared resources and a shared workplace means that you still feel very supported. It’s so easy to knock on colleagues’ doors and ask for advice or run an idea past them.
Highlights so far for me have included being involved in preparing for trial in a big product liability case about software errors in accounting software. We were representing over 500 claimants in a collective ‘group action’. The work was really stimulating, there was a lot of strategy and the clients were really appreciative.
Being a pupil is hard work – in the final few months you are essentially doing the job of being a junior barrister in court but without yet having the security of knowing you have a long term position in Chambers. That said, the junior barristers were so supportive – they’ve all been there really recently and they remember it can be tough. The high you’re on when you get your tenancy offer is unbeatable.
The big selling point for me at Henderson Chambers is the sense of camaraderie. I love coming into work and seeing my colleagues. I find the work challenging and exciting. There’s a great sense of support but it comes in the context of having the flexibility of self-employment.