During the 2018/19 pupillage year, our pupils will reflect upon each month they experience as a Pupil barrister.
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.