Year of graduation 2011
Current position Junior tenant, QEB
I came to the law after working for two years before then making the decision to do a postgraduate law degree. I was attracted to the Bar because it offered not only the opportunity to be independent and self-employed but also to be at the sharp end of making difficult decisions daily, which is incredibly rewarding. I had done some volunteering with the FRU (Free Representation Unit), representing clients in final hearings in employment tribunals, and every time I did so I came away wanting to do more. That I felt was a good sign.
When I started my GDL I had no real idea what area of law I might be interested in. I was impressed with (and slightly daunted by) others in my position who seemed to have it all figured out. The only way I was able to gain any sort of insight was by going on mini-pupillages covering a variety of different areas of law and it soon became clear that family law was the area in which I was most interested.
I applied to a number of family law sets but from the start my first choice was QEB. When I did my mini-pupillage at QEB I was struck by how open, friendly and welcoming everyone was during my week there. I was also attracted to QEB’s particular area of focus. QEB specialises in family law and especially the financial consequences following separation. This area requires a unique combination of skills. As well as needing to have a good head for figures and a proficiency in some complex areas of law (particularly land and equity) there is a strong client-facing component. You may be dealing with significant sums of money but behind it all there is a real person facing real problems.
Furthermore, QEB also has a very active private children law practice, particularly among the junior end, but there are also more senior members of chambers who have strong practices in international abduction and relocation.
As a chambers whose members are frequently involved in the highest-profile and most important cases and whose former members include a number of Supreme Court and Court of Appeal judges there is no better place for pupils to learn and develop a family law practice.
If taken on as a pupil you will have three supervisors of around four months each. QEB ensures that the supervisors are at a range of levels of seniority so that pupils can experience diverse types of work. Pupils are also assigned a junior contact, someone who is typically under 5 years’ call. Pupils are encouraged to frequently go to court with their junior contact, and they will also be a point of contact if pupils have any questions they want to ask that they would prefer not to ask their supervisor.
QEB takes pupillage training very seriously and as part of the programme pupils will take part in a number of training exercises and assessments throughout the year. The exercises are designed to test all of the skills that you might need as a family law barrister, including advocacy, legal research, written opinions and conference skills. Each assessment comes with a detailed feedback so pupils can understand how they might improve, as well as giving an opportunity for pupils to showcase their skills for the purposes of the decision about tenancy at the end of the pupillage. Although these can be nerve-wracking, it is much better for pupils to be given every opportunity to impress in a structured and objective way.
At QEB we try to give pupils as much work as possible in their second six months. Pupils will often be at court around two to three times per week. That would not be possible without the strong support network we have in place. As a pupil you will always feel that you can ask anyone in chambers for help or advice on a case, regardless of their seniority. Any earnings that you make in the second six months will supplement the pupillage award.
Thanks to the effort that QEB puts into its recruitment and training, anyone who completes the year is very well-prepared for the challenge of life as a tenant at the Bar, whether at QEB or elsewhere. QEB is a relatively small set of chambers which has a very close and tight-knit feel which means new tenants are given the support they need to flourish from the start of their careers.