When I graduated with a law degree, I had no idea what I wanted to do with it. I had really enjoyed studying law, and in particular, the combination of analytical thinking and its real-world application. I knew that I wanted to have a career in law which was intellectually stimulating but also afforded me a good degree of control over my working life. I did not know then that this is exactly what a career at the Commercial Bar offers.
Fast-forward a few years, I was fortunate to receive a few offers of pupillage from commercial sets. The choice to come to OEC was a no-brainer because of the quality of work, the favourable odds of getting tenancy and, most importantly, I genuinely liked everyone from OEC that I had met during the interview process.
My experience of pupillage at OEC was extremely positive. I sat with three supervisors and saw different types of work with each of them. As well as providing feedback on my work and training me to start practice, I felt that each of my supervisors was invested in my success as a pupil and my well-being. I was often encouraged (sometimes daily!) to go home at 6.30pm. I rarely worked into the evening or at weekends.
There are four aspects of pupillage at OEC which made my experience positive.
First, there are no formal ‘assessments’ in the sense of a set piece of work, which means that your tenancy application does not hinge on any one particular piece of work. The flip side is that every piece of work you do is assessed but I preferred that holistic approach and knowing that one bad piece of work would not ruin my prospects of tenancy.
Secondly and relatedly, at OEC, if a pupil meets the tenancy standard, they will be recommended for tenancy. This means that there is no sense of competition between pupils, and the pupillage structure is not set up to pit you against your co-pupils. The tenancy decision is taken around late June/early July with Chambers’ voting on the Tenancy Committee’s recommendation (and then joining you for drinks at the pub!).
Thirdly, I was assigned a member of chambers as a mentor during my pupillage who I could speak to confidentially about any concerns I had without it affecting my tenancy application. In the event, I did not have any such concerns, but knowing that there was a friendly face I could turn to was reassuring. The first-year tenants were also a great source of support and arranged regular meetings with me and my co-pupil to share their wisdom about pupillage and to give us information about admin we needed to have under control!
Fourthly, OEC’s pupillage comes with a practising second six which offers a fantastic opportunity to cut your teeth in small hearings.
Life as a junior tenant
When I started practice at OEC, I moved into my own room and started to manage my own caseload, with the help of our experienced clerking team. I usually have a mix of big cases – where I will be the most junior barrister in a large team of barristers – and small cases where I am the sole counsel. When I am not in court, I have a good degree of independence over when and how I work, which I greatly value. OEC is a great place to be a junior tenant. I have found Chambers is a relaxed and informal place and coming in to work in jeans is a comfort I treasure!