July 2020

I am very pleased to report that the month of July presented us all with the opportunity to have somewhat of a more traditional second six experience. Over the past few weeks, several court centres started listing a greater number of hearings to attend in-person which finally provided us with the chance to go to court, meet our clients and quite literally get on our feet! I am sure that I can speak for all of the pupils when I say that we have thoroughly enjoyed being able to put into practice all that we have learnt during the course of our pupillage so far.

Since getting on our feet in April, the variety and complexity of the cases that we have been instructed on has increased significantly within all areas of our practice. The diverse nature of the cases that we have faced every week has ensured that we are being challenged and are able to refine our skills on a daily basis. This has been most helpful as we have undoubtedly grown in confidence and knowledge.

Outside of court, I have been able to experience being involved in some very interesting events and opportunities. In particular, I assisted another member of chambers in preparing and delivering a training seminar to a local authority in respect of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of disabled children during care proceedings. I really enjoyed conducting research in such a niche area of law and being able to consider how local authorities are able to fulfil the duties imposed upon them by several statutes.

The impact of the current public health emergency has of course meant that, for the past few months, we have not been able to physically work in chambers. That being said, the support that we have received from everyone at St Ives has been second to none. I am so grateful to the members, clerks and staff at St Ives who have all gone out of their way to assist and help us in any way they can. Pupillage at St Ives Chambers really has surpassed all of our expectations. We all feel extremely fortunate to be undertaking our pupillage here and are looking forward to what the next few months will bring.

By Zara Mahmood

June 2020

As those who read this will no doubt be aware, the country has remained largely locked down over June. The courts become more open with each passing week but remain far from capacity. We as pupils are thoroughly enjoying the small number of cases that we have been able to do.  I think it would be safe to say that we are now all very comfortable with conducting telephone hearings.

Fortunately, in the life of a pupil, there is always more to learn! I have enjoyed attending a number of talks put on by members of Chambers. For example, the private family law lecture series. This featured engaging topics such as transitioning parents and forced marriage protection orders. Michael Singleton gave a very interesting talk on his outlook for housing litigation in the next 3-6 months. I have also attended an insightful talk by the Business and Property team about tenant insolvency and the impact of covid-19. It was this talk which made we want to write an article on waiver of a landlord’s right to forfeiture for Chambers’ website. I enjoyed researching a recent development in the law and considering its practical implications.

I have also completed a commercial advice relating to an insurance dispute for a member of Chambers. This was comfortably the most complex piece of work that I have attempted thus far in pupillage and is something that I would never have had time but for lockdown.

I have also been fortunate enough to be able to shadow our Deputy Head of Chambers, Elizabeth Isaacs QC, in a hybrid fact finding hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice. I think that having conducted a small amount of cases myself, I found it all the more beneficial to see it done at the highest level. It was also useful to observe a hybrid hearing given that it is still in the development phase.

By Lachlan Stewart.

May 2020

May has been a very exciting month. Despite the strange start to our second six, we now each have several cases under our belts. Although still a little problematic at times, we have started to get to grips with working from home and remote hearings. It goes without saying that throughout the lockdown, and in the run up to each of our hearings, Chambers has been incredibly supportive. Members have been more than happy to talk through issues in our cases and to help us prepare despite the physical distance.

The time between our own cases has been spent shadowing members online and over the phone. This has meant that we have been given the chance to see work that we didn’t get to see during our first six. This month I have worked on two advices for members. The first was a complicated private law jurisdiction matter where neither the Brussels II Regulations nor the Hague Convention applied. The second was a family finance case with interesting issues surrounding a husband’s reduced income having been furloughed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Criminal Team has also kept us busy with more advocacy exercises. This month they upped the challenge by setting us a multi handed Newton hearing over Zoom. The hearing ran as it would have done in the Crown Court. Applications needed to be filed in advance, instructions needed to be taken in conference and all formalities properly observed. The exercise ran for about three hours and the feedback was incredibly useful and detailed. The three of us are very grateful to everyone in Chambers who has given up their time to help us during the lockdown.

The biggest disappointment in May has been that our first cheque party has had to be postponed. This is an annual tradition where the pupils organise a party for Chambers shortly after their first case. Thankfully, we hadn’t ordered the quiche and sausage rolls before the lockdown started. Even if it is many months away, we are excited to reorganise the party and celebrate starting ‘on our feet’ with the rest of Chambers.

By Thomas Duggan

April 2020

It’s fair to say that April took a very different course to what we had been preparing for, since starting pupillage seven months ago. COVID-19 has meant that we have not yet experienced the feeling of going into court, putting on our robes and meeting our clients in person. I am, however, very pleased to say that I am officially on my feet and have been instructed in a variety of matters. I have also made my first appearance in the Crown Court!

The start of second six, in the midst of a national lockdown, has of course presented us with many changes that we have had to adapt to. I certainly never imagined the possibility of commencing my practising period of pupillage in my own living room.

Nevertheless, this month, more than ever has highlighted to me how incredibly fortunate I am to be a pupil at St Ives. I know that I can speak for all of us when I say that we have been provided with an overwhelming amount of support! From the outset of this crisis, the Wellbeing Committee ensured that each of us were assigned with a mentor to speak with about any challenges or problems that we may inevitably be facing during these uncertain times. Furthermore, the infamous “Wine Fridays” have also continued (via Zoom) and we have been able to regularly check in and catch up with members of chambers. I cannot express enough how grateful we are to everyone at St Ives who have reached out and supported us.

Moreover, the subsequent adjournment of the majority of hearings has meant that there have been some quieter moments in our diaries. Nonetheless, my supervisor as well as other members of chambers have been brilliant and kindly organised several virtual advocacy exercises for us. These have been particularly useful in preparing us for appearing in remote hearings.

All in all, the challenges presented by the current pandemic have provided us with an opportunity to test our resilience and versatility. That being said, we are very much looking forward to the day when we can return to court and continue our second six in the traditional way!

By Zara Mahmood

March 2020

The beginning of this month marked the end of my time with the criminal team. I had been shadowing Justin Jarmola and nervously awaited a jury verdict on a murder trial which had been running for 8 weeks. The defendant was acquitted! By proxy this gave me a taste of the satisfaction that criminal practice can bring. I felt very fortunate to have been able to attend parts of this trial. In particular, Mr Jarmola ensured that all of the pupil’s attended to hear submissions of no case to answer on behalf of two of the defendants. It was fascinating to hear experienced silks debate legal principles with a High Court judge in such a high pressure setting.

From the lofty heights of above – junior month began. During the month of March Chambers tries to ensure that you spend time with more junior members across all areas of Chambers’ work. The idea is that it gets pupils seeing the work they will soon be doing. You also acclimatise to chopping and changing between courts and ways of thinking. For example, the mindset of innocence and guilt was no use to me at a private family law directions hearing.

Our final monthly advocacy exercise involved witness handling. A member of Chambers who had run this case for real, only a month ago, played the witness. I found this added an extra layer of difficulty to cross examination. I thought to myself, is he frowning because he is in character or because this line of questioning is poor? As with all of these exercises, the answer was a bit of both. March was also when the Midland Advocacy weekend was held. As a result of the in-house training we have undergone, we felt confident of our abilities going into it. I am pleased to report that the hard work paid off and that we all passed the course.

We had the benefit of attending an internal training session that was organised by the Housing team. This involved an open discussion on how members have been approaching certain types of cases. This was then followed by an examination of Fitness for Human Habitation Act 2018, and how we would approach claims through this lens. It was exciting to debate what we thought the effect of brand-new legislation would have on have on housing law going forward.

This month I also took some annual leave. I felt it important to give myself time to switch off and reflect. My supervisor, in keeping with Chambers’ wellbeing policy, encouraged me to take this time to myself, allowing me to come back ready before the madness of second six begins.

By Lachlan Stewart

February 2020

I know I speak for the three of us when I say that February was a very interesting month. We each moved into a new practice area within Chambers and have been able to experience the benefit of a mixed common law pupillage.

The majority of my time in February was spent in Birmingham Crown Court where my supervisor was being led in a multi-handed murder trial. It was a real privilege to observe and listen to the quality of advocacy on display during the course of that trial. After court my supervisor would spend time with me going through written submissions and applications that I had drafted the day before. This was incredibly helpful, and I now have a much better appreciation and understanding of written criminal advocacy.

Another highlight of my time with the criminal team was watching an appeal before the Lord Chief Justice in London. I felt very lucky to be able to watch the advocates take a tricky point of law and present it clearly and persuasively.

Towards the end of the month we were invited to attend a civil training seminar put on by two members of Chambers for local solicitors. The two topics discussed at the training session were leasehold enfranchisement and modifying and discharging restrictive covenants in a leasehold setting. The talks were incredibly informative and offered another chance for us to meet local practitioners in a relaxed and informal setting.

As ever, another month brings another advocacy exercise. February’s exercise involved a social housing dispute. We are fortunate to have so many members of chambers who are willing to give their time after work to help us improve our advocacy and prepare for second six. I cannot overstate just how useful the sessions have been. While they can be tough at times, I am grateful that we have been given the opportunity to practice different styles of advocacy before we ‘go on our feet’ in April.

By Thomas Duggan

January 2020

The start of 2020 has presented us with another exciting challenge as we have all moved into a new practice area. Over the course of January, I have been introduced to the world of family law. Having spent the past three months seeing crime, the learning curve was always going to be steep. Nevertheless, the transition has in fact been a smooth one. My pupil supervisor has been incredibly supportive in taking the time at the end of each hearing to go through the case with me and answer any questions that I may have. My supervisor has also ensured that I have seen a real mix of public, private and family finance work which has provided me with a solid foundation for when I will be taking on family work of my own in due course.

One of the many benefits of being a pupil at St Ives is that we are encouraged to prepare cases as if they are our own. This involves having to draft the requisite legal documents, identify points for examination in chief/cross-examination and preparing submissions, prior to each hearing. Fundamentally, once we have completed the work, our supervisors provide us with robust and comprehensive feedback and indicate the ways in which we can improve.

My understanding of family law in practice has been further strengthened after attending various internal training events that have been organised by several members chambers.  These practice development sessions have been extremely useful. We have been provided with strategies for case management, establishing ourselves at the Bar as well as more practical information such as billing and marketing.

Another month has also brought the invaluable opportunity of developing our advocacy skills. Coincidentally this month was a family exercise and the three of us were required to prepare closing submissions in respect of a contested ICO removal. Fortunately, we had Mr Recorder Bowe on hand to act as the judge and keep us on our toes!

Somehow, my month with the family team has now come to an end. Nonetheless, the hard work shall of course continue and I am really looking forward to moving to the civil team and learning about another diverse area of law.

By Zara Mahmood

December 2019

The month of December brought more trains, speed reading and like ‘proper’ members of the bar, increasing quantities of hot drinks. At the beginning of the month we also attended the Housing team Christmas party at the Cosy Club. None of us knew what to expect having not begun our housing seats yet. We had a relaxed evening and enjoyed starting to meet wider members of the housing legal community on the Midlands circuit.

However, us pupils have also continued the hard work! We completed an advocacy exercise around a small claims trial in relation to a road traffic accident. I found it a beneficial experience trying to manage hostile witnesses in the form of some exceptionally in character junior tenants. The wider feedback was also helpful in learning some more practical, trial focused skills that you are not taught on the bar course.

December, with some modest experience in our areas, gave us an uplift in the complexity of written tasks to be completed for our supervisors. Through structured feedback, we are building the understanding and confidence to execute these skills when on our feet.

With this being my third month, I enjoyed being present at a final hearing, where I had already met the client on two previous occasions. As a result, I had built up a rapport with them and could fully appreciate the way my supervisor was choosing to tie the evidence together. Additionally, this made seeing a good result for the client be achieved all the more satisfying. Another highlight was having the opportunity to attend a Forensic Access information evening. The talks were not only interesting but highly useful in gaining an insight into the world of forensics beyond the courtroom.

Looking into the new year I am conscious of how quickly 3 months has gone by. Already we have all learned huge amounts of new information and grown as individuals. This has been facilitated by the support of our supervisors. We have all been strongly encouraged to take a good Christmas break and divert our minds well away from the law. I am excited to move into Private Law Children and Family Finance when I return bringing with them new challenges and opportunities.

By Lachlan Stewart


November 2019

The end of November marks the end of our second month as pupils at St Ives Chambers. I know that I speak for all three of us when I say that we have been made to feel incredibly welcome. Walking into Chambers on day one was daunting, but everyone at St Ives has made such an effort to put our nerves to rest and help us whenever they possibly can.

For the past two months I have been observing my pupil supervisor in several complex public family law cases. The opportunity to watch him in court, and then discuss the reasoning behind why he asked certain questions, has been extremely valuable. The thing that has really surprised me is just how fluid a case can be. Witnesses can be unpredictable and so the need to be flexible and think on your feet is crucial. Watching my supervisor deal with issues as they arise in court has been very helpful.

Although Chambers is located in Birmingham, I have been able to travel around the Midlands to different court centres and attend the High Court in London twice. It has been a real privilege to be able to see the different styles of advocacy that people adopt. By travelling to different courts and by being in front of a variety of judges, I have been able to better understand what makes a submission persuasive and how to better assist the court.

Earlier this month we completed our first in-house advocacy exercise. Throughout the year members of Chambers run advocacy exercises for the pupils. This month was a Crown Court trial. We were given the papers and asked to prepare and perform the exercise as if it was our own case in court. The feedback we received was detailed, targeted and practical. The exercise was a very useful opportunity a flavour of judicial scrutiny before we go ‘on our feet’ in April. I am grateful to the members of Chambers who gave up their time to help us improve on what we have already seen in court so far. An advantage that I have benefited from is Chambers strong link to the West Midlands FLBA, who have been putting on series of autumn lectures. At a time when it feels there is so much to learn it is heartening to see senior members of Chambers attending these events and gladly accepting the notes alongside pupils.

As well as the educational experience, Chambers has been very proactive in helping us make connections with local solicitors and firms. One event I found particularly enjoyable was the Annual Child Care Conference at the Park Regis Hotel. The conference was informative and the opportunity to meet so many local practitioners was fantastic. I have since bumped into several solicitors that I met at that event. It is really lovely to see more and more familiar faces while I’m in court with my supervisor!

By Thomas Duggan.