During the 2018/19 pupillage year, our pupils will reflect upon each month they experience as a Pupil barrister.
Another pupillage blog means that another month has passed and that we have survived another month on our feet. With each passing month, we as pupils have grown in confidence and knowledge and further developed our understanding of what it means to be practicing barristers. For me, this month has been a step up in the complexity of cases, but I have enjoyed the opportunity to test the skills I have picked up throughout pupillage. I have enjoyed the balance between testing what I have learnt in court and improving my drafting and advice writing outside of court.
One of the biggest benefits of being a pupil at St Ives, aside from the supportive atmosphere of chambers, is the mixed common law pupillage. We are challenged in different areas of law and it can require a change of practice area daily. This ensures that we stay up to date with developments in law across the board and it gives us a firmer grounding as practitioners. Having different work given to us by different clerking teams means we cannot shy away from areas we may feel less strong. Instead of being uncertain or unconfident in a particular area of law we have to tackle the job head on and confront our apprehension. I feel this has made me a better pupil barrister and has developed my skills. It is incredibly helpful to have a mixed practice as often different areas overlap.
As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, the best thing about being a pupil at St Ives for me is the support we are offered in chambers. I have said before how there is always someone around to answer our questions or sit and help us to problem solve in our cases. I have failed to mention the support my fellow pupils offer me. At the start of the year Holly, Harry and I did not know each other very well. As we have all progressed through pupillage together, we have become very close and a real support to each other. Without wanting to be too soppy, I couldn’t have picked a better set of co-pupils to experience this year with. I have very much enjoyed the past four months on my feet and cannot wait to see what the final two months of pupillage bring.
By George Smith.
Our blogs to date have been very much focused on the professional side of pupillage, I thought a blog in relation to the social side of Chambers might be a nice change!
St Ives Chambers has a heavy focus on health and wellbeing at the Bar. Our fantastic health and wellbeing committee organise regular activities and events. In May, we had a week dedicated to health and wellbeing, with activities in Chambers ranging from mindfulness, mediation, nutrition seminars and chair massages! In addition to this, we have a ‘wine Friday’ once a month in Chambers. This is an event appreciated by all members, but is of great value to the Pupils as it is an opportunity to meet and get to know members of chambers.
In addition to chambers events, there are also a number of seminars, conferences and networking events. A recent highlight for me was the Family Team Annual Charity Quiz, which this year was in memory of HHJ Hindley QC, raising money for St Mary’s Hospice. In addition to supporting a great cause, it was also a brilliant opportunity to meet and catch up with solicitors. One of the rounds, involved members of chambers and pupils dressing up and acting out scenes from famous movies or television programmes. I played the delightful Mrs Doyle from Father Ted sporting some lovely hair rollers and an apron. We also had appearances from Vicky Pollard and Daenerys. Something next year’s pupils have to look forward to!
The biggest event for Harry, George and I this month, has been the ‘first cheque party’. At St Ives Chambers there has been a longstanding tradition, whereby the pupils in Chambers use the cheque from their first case to throw a party in Chambers. Our theme was ‘welcome to the bar(s)’ with a classic cocktail bar, a gin bar and a prosecco bar. Many members came to celebrate with us and show their support, once again making us feel extremely lucky to be undertaking our pupillage at St Ives.
The month of May has seen rapid changes in the nature of our pupillage and the nerves of being on our feet are starting to subside somewhat. Although each day still presents new challenges, our confidence is really beginning to grow. I think I can speak on behalf of all of the pupils, when I say that pupillage at St Ives Chambers has surpassed our expectations. One of the defining features of St Ives’ approach to pupillage is the frequency with which we are in court. Since getting on our feet in April, we have had few days which do not involve advocacy in some form. The nature and complexity of our cases also goes far beyond what we expected to be involved with at this stage in our careers. All three of us have regularly appeared before tribunals of varying levels and have completed advices on all manner of complicated and interesting legal points.
The culture at St Ives is such that although we are encouraged to challenge ourselves, help and support is always at hand should it be needed. We regularly meet with both our pupillage supervisors and mentors. This ensures that guidance and advice is always available. Should we have any quieter moments in our diaries, we continue to shadow senior members as we did in our first six. This allows us to continue to develop and perfect our skills.
One aspect of my pupillage that I have found to be particularly enjoyable is the diverse nature of a mixed common law pupillage. The variety of completing criminal, civil and family cases ensures that each day is fresh and challenging. I am really enjoying every aspect of my pupillage to date and I look forward to everything that the coming weeks and months have in store.
By Harry Marriott.
April has marked the start of our second six which means we are now all on our feet. This month has been a whirlwind, but each day has presented a new and exciting challenge. With the transition to second six we were all allocated new supervisors and given our first briefs. The change has been a shift upwards in terms of work however the month has been incredibly interesting. I think I speak for all of the pupils when I say that the last few weeks of our first six had us itching to go on our feet, it is only when you get there that you quite realise the responsibility and hard work the job requires. We are all in a very privileged position to have the opportunity to represent clients in court and to promote their case in a way that they cannot. This month I have found myself in the crown courts on some days, in front of the magistrates on others and across civil, family and crime. The work has been varied and exciting and each day has provided its own challenges and rewards.
This month has highlighted to me how fortunate I am to be a pupil at St Ives. There have been numerous occasions where I have called on different members of chambers, junior and senior, at all hours of the day and night to ask for support or help. In my experience, everybody has always been happy and willing to assist in any way they can. This attitude from chambers has helped me to develop my understanding and has made me confident to ask when I am stuck. I know there is always someone on the other end of the phone to help me in a time of need. I know my gratitude is shared by Holly and Harry too, despite any issues we may face, the support at St Ives is second to none.
As we transition into May I am looking forward to undertaking more complicated and demanding cases. The diary looks busy and our gowns no longer look brand new. This month will provide a good opportunity to continue building on our skills and I am eager to face the challenges ahead.
By George Smith.
March marks the last month of our first six. I think I speak on behalf of all three pupils, when I say we truly do not know where the time has gone! During this month, all three of us have had the benefit of shadowing the Juniors in Chambers to observe the types of cases we will be doing when we start on our feet next week. We have seen a range of hearings, from small claims to criminal appeals. Our fantastic clerks also arranged for us to spend a day with a CPS agent on a prosecution list in the Magistrates Court. This month has been an invaluable opportunity to prepare cases as if they were our own, with the safety net of being able to compare such preparation and ask questions.
We have also completed the last of our in-house advocacy exercises, expert witness handling. Soon after commencing pupillage, it became clear that, whilst the BPTC teaches you the foundations of witness handling, your approach would inevitably need to be adapted in every case. This advocacy exercise was particularly helpful in this regard. We have also now completed our circuit advocacy weekend in Northampton at Highgate House. We were required to prepare a criminal trial, a small claims hearing and a skeleton argument for an application for interim relief. Managing this workload on top of our normal pupillage commitments was of course a challenge. However, one thing that soon became apparent during my preparation was how helpful our in-house advocacy exercises had been. I was able to use the feedback that I had received over the course of our first six to ensure that the time I spent preparing was used efficiently, and my delivery of this preparation was effective.
The question we are being asked almost on a daily basis is “how long now?” and “how do you feel about going on your feet?” The answer being, nervous and excited in equal measure. After six months of taking a note in conference, we will be giving the advice. After six months of sitting on the back row in silence, we will be stood at the front running the case. The last six months have been brilliant, I have no doubt the next six will be the same.
During the month of February, we have begun to see a greater number of areas of legal practice in order to have as much exposure, as is possible, to all of the areas of a mixed common law pupillage. In doing so, we spend time with a variety of specialists each with their own particular expertise. This enables us as pupils to see a multitude of different styles of not only advocacy, but other skills, such as client management and negotiation. This exposure is undoubtedly going to assist as we progress into our second six.
During the past month, I have changed from seeing several months of criminal work and been introduced to numerous family cases. This included public, private, and family finance work. Although the regular moves require hard work to ensure a comprehensive understanding, the quick pace means that every day is a new and exciting challenge. For me, this is probably the most enjoyable aspect of St Ives’s unique style of pupillage.
At this stage in our first six, we not only look back at what we have achieved so far, but also start to look forward to the new challenges that we will be faced with when we get on our feet in only a few weeks’ time. Although inevitably there are some nerves, we can be sure that the skills that we have been taught in our first few months of pupillage at St Ives have undoubtedly placed us in the best possible position to tackle this. Every single member of chambers has taken time to ensure we are developing the skills required to succeed. Should we ever feel that there is a problem, help is always at hand. Each pupil has their own allocated mentor, along with their pupillage supervisor. This ensures that any questions or concerns can be addressed and answered as soon as they arise. This support network is particularly valuable at this stage in our pupillage. These last few weeks have reiterated to me just how happy I am to be completing my pupillage at St Ives Chambers.
By Harry Marriott.
This month has provided a new and exciting challenge in the form of a change in practice area. Having spent the best part of three months in public family work, following the break of Christmas I moved over to the civil team. So far, I have experienced housing matters, injunctions and land disputes amongst other things. During my time in the civil team I have had to go right back to basic principles as well as looking at new concepts. Not only have I had to revise but also develop my research skills to help bring myself up to speed with complex areas of the law and procedure.
Pupillage is a very challenging year; each area is new and often the task ahead can seem daunting. At St Ives we are encouraged to have a go ourselves, research a task, draft relevant documents and plan a case as if it were our own. Having completed the work, we are given robust and detailed feedback, presented with examples of work completed by our supervisors and talked through the process. I think this helps us to learn most and encourages us to grapple with complex principles quickly and logically.
The brilliant thing about doing a mixed common law pupillage at St Ives is that it gives us a chance to see a wide range of arears with an array of different barristers. The skills we learn in each area are often transferable and seeing such a broad mix of work provides us with a solid foundation ahead of second six.
Having learnt new skills and witnessed different styles of advocacy, we were once again put to the test in another advocacy exercise. Each of us had to take a different role in a case and structure our submissions to address the law appropriately and address one another’s arguments. Once again, the feedback given was focused and helped to develop our advocacy skills no end.
All in all, this month has been an interesting and fast-moving month which all of the pupils have enjoyed.
By George Smith.
It is hard to believe that it has been three months since we began pupillage in October. My pupillage to date has been focussed on family law, having had no exposure to the area of family law, it was not an area of law I had considered. That said, it is now an area of law that I find both fascinating and challenging. A stand-out lesson for me during these first three months, has been the importance and value of experiencing different areas of the law and keeping an open mind, as there is vast difference in reading a judgment and observing a case from instruction stage to completion.
Pupillage thus far has been incremental, from spending our first few days observing cases, quickly progressing to drafting position statements and orders and now being at a stage where we are asked to prepare the case as if we are running it ourselves. Whilst our supervisors are currently our main point of contact, they are by no means our only support during pupillage. All members of chambers, having been through pupillage themselves, are as keen for us to succeed as we are. My decision to apply for pupillage at St Ives was affirmed after undertaking a mini-pupillage where I witnessed the supportive nature of the members in chambers and the excellent advocates St Ives produce. I applied wanting to undertake a pupillage with such support and mentoring, and that is exactly what we have got!
We have now undertaken two advocacy exercises, a small claims case and a criminal case. During these exercises, we are not only provided with an explanation as to how to improve our advocacy but also a demonstration as to how to do this. Watching experienced advocates pick up the papers, form a line of cross-examination and deliver this in such an effective way is invaluable. I think I speak on behalf of all three pupils when I say the prospect of becoming such an advocate is both exciting and motivating!
The month of November has seen the progress made in our first month of pupillage continue and begin to accelerate. The biggest change in the past month has been the introduction of advocacy exercises, run internally by junior tenants. The first of these consisted of a small claims court case. After being given a bundle of documents to consider over a weekend, all three pupils were tasked with performing the advocacy exercise as if this were a real court scenario. This resulted in an intense two-hour session in which we received an abundance of targeted feedback, constructive criticism and live examples of how to improve. The experience felt a lot more realistic of a real court situation than advocacy exercises encountered prior to commencing pupillage. I think I can say on behalf of all three pupils that this was a highly rewarding and useful, albeit daunting, exercise. For this, we are extremely grateful to those who gave up their valuable time in order to help us to improve. With further advocacy exercises every month until we start our second six, we will hopefully feel as comfortable as is possible when we ‘get on our feet’!
Along with the introduction of internal advocacy exercises this month, the tasks set by my pupillage supervisor have also increased in complexity. However, this has been coupled with continued levels of support. My supervisor continues to take time out of his busy schedule to talk me through cases and answer any questions I have, no matter how naïve they may seem. My pupillage so far has consisted of viewing predominately criminal work, being expertly guided through both legal and factual issues. However, as this month has progressed, I have been increasingly exposed to other areas of law that comprise St Ives’ practice (such as regulatory and housing work). These brief introductions will hopefully be built on in time.
St Ives Chambers also runs a mentoring scheme for pupils, which acts as a point of contact in addition to that of our pupil supervisors. Regular meetings are scheduled with pupil mentors in order to ensure that we are not experiencing any difficulties, along with being able to offer resources and advice over a coffee or a pint. At a time when so much of what we are learning is entirely new, this is an invaluable process. So far, I have personally found that the combination of both a direct pupil supervisor and a more junior pupillage mentor to work well, both offering incisive and helpful guidance. There is a distinct sense at St Ives that everyone is willing to go above and beyond to ensure that pupils progress and succeed.
By Harry Marriott.
I think I can speak for all of the pupils when I say that we have all had a very busy, exciting first month and have all been made to feel incredibly welcome. I have spent my first month observing my pupil master in family law, public law cases. This has provided me the opportunity to watch many cases at various stages of the court process and given me the chance to hear many different advocacy styles. What has really stood out is how the case can turn almost on its head in court, compared to how it read on paper. I have seen from my supervisor how a few well thought out questions can reverse another advocates case theory and open up a whole new explanation for an incident. I didn’t quite realise before pupillage, but so much can be learnt from sitting and observing and then discussing what we have seen with our supervisors. We are in a very fortunate position where we can read the papers, see the job done and then discuss the thought process behind a question.
The first month has been a real whirlwind. Outside of court we have been trying to meet as many members of St Ives and local solicitors’ firms as possible as well as trying to find our feet in the new job. One particularly useful event was the most recent family law conference hosted at Edgbaston Cricket Club. The event was very informative both for our knowledge on the law and its practical application. There are many similar events coming up and we are looking forward to attending them and learning something new.
Since the start of the month I think we have all learnt a great deal. Not only are we being taught how to draft and manage a case, but we are also being taught how to create a good case theory. We are being taught how to read between the lines and look at the bigger issues for our clients, this is a big shift from what has been taught to us before. I think even though we have only been in Chambers for a short month, we have learnt a vast amount. I am looking forward to improving my newly learnt skills over the next month.
On another note, I am also hoping that over the next month I can properly commit the codes to various doors to memory. It is awfully embarrassing having to stand in a corridor with armfuls of bundles, fumbling for my diary to look up a door code or worse, knocking on more senior members doors to shamefully ask again how to get into the pupil’s room!
To read about the experiences of our 2017/18 pupil barristers, click here.