Pupillage at Brick Court Chambers is more than just the final step in qualification as a barrister. It is an opportunity to work with some of the leading practitioners at the English Bar, and on some of the most important and interesting cases of the day.
At Brick Court Chambers we recognise that our continued success depends upon our recruiting people of the highest calibre. For that reason, there is no Brick Court “type”. Provided that you have the ability and the determination to succeed as a barrister at the highest level, you will be welcome whatever your background.
The challenging nature of the work at Brick Court Chambers demands a high level of intellectual ability and a willingness to work hard. Not surprisingly, those who undertake pupillage with us usually have very strong academic backgrounds. What we are looking for is evidence of outstanding intellectual ability, although not necessarily in law.
We normally offer up to four 12-month pupillages (including deferred pupillages). The award for 2020/21 is £65,000.
On occasions we also consider applications for pupillage from established practitioners. As a general rule we would expect those who have less than 7 years’ experience to undertake a full 12 month pupillage (even if the BSB has granted a dispensation from the full pupillage term) and to apply through the Pupillage Gateway (see further below).
We only ever offer pupillages to those applicants who we believe have a realistic prospect of ultimately achieving a tenancy.
The decision to offer a pupillage is made by the Pupillage Committee and is based on the applicant’s paper application, the mini-pupillage interview, the performance during the mini-pupillage, the performance on a standardised piece of assessed written work and the final interview (which involves an advocacy assessment).
The assessed mini-pupillage therefore forms an integral part of our selection process and so we do not ordinarily consider candidates for pupillage unless they have undertaken an assessed mini-pupillage with us.
Although Brick Court Chambers is a member of Pupillage Gateway, we encourage those interested in applying for pupillage to apply for (and if possible to undertake) a mini-pupillage before applying for pupillage through the Gateway system. Doing so enables us to accommodate a greater number of mini-pupils than we could if applicants all waited to apply through Gateway. The best time for you to apply for (and undertake) a mini-pupillage will depend to some extent on your own circumstances. We accept applications from those undertaking qualifying law degrees once they have completed their penultimate year. Non-law graduates should apply as soon as you have started your GDL course.
As we are a member of Pupillage Gateway all applications for pupillage must be made through that system. As a result, even if you have applied for a mini-pupillage in advance of the Gateway process, you will still need to apply for pupillage through Gateway. The deadline for mini-pupillage applications for those intending to apply for pupillage via Gateway in the 2020 round (for pupillages commencing September 2021) is 31 January 2020. You do not, however, need to have completed a mini-pupillage in advance of the mini-pupillage application deadline.
We differ from other chambers in the importance we place on mini-pupillages. They are an integral part of our pupillage selection process and, consequently, we do not normally consider candidates for pupillage unless they have undertaken a mini-pupillage with us. We want to obtain as much information as we reasonably can about our pupillage candidates. We do not think it is in either our interests or those of those applying to us that we make our decisions merely on the basis of a Pupillage Gateway form, references and performance at a couple of interviews. We think that a more detailed assessment is fairer to candidates. All mini-pupillages are therefore assessed.
In addition to being a part of our selection process, a mini-pupillage is also an important opportunity for you to experience life in Chambers first-hand and to make an informed assessment about what it is really like. You will be deciding whether you would like to spend your year of pupillage with us, and hopefully, thereafter remain here as a tenant. We believe that we work in a happy and stimulating environment and would like you to have the opportunity to see that for yourself.
An assessed mini-pupillage normally involves spending a week in Chambers, although it may be possible to undertake a shorter period on request. Mini-pupils see a snapshot of the work of Chambers. Assessed mini-pupils are allocated a member of Chambers as a mini-pupil supervisor. They will be asked to look at work for their supervisor, perhaps research some points, attend conferences or go to court with their supervisor or another member of Chambers. We will ask you to review at least one set of papers for your supervisor and, in addition, to carry out a standard piece of assessed work during the week which will be reviewed by members of Chambers' Pupillage Committee. There will be opportunities to meet and speak to other members of Chambers, and our current pupils, including over lunch. We offer a small sum towards expenses (currently £10 per day, with a further £50 available towards expenses on production of receipts).
The best time for you to apply for a mini-pupillage will depend upon your circumstances. In order to maximise your chances of being offered a mini-pupillage you should balance the need to apply early enough with the desirability of having studied as much law as possible before you come to apply. Guidance as to when and how to apply for a mini-pupillage can be found on the main Pupillage & Tenancy page.
All applications for mini-pupillage are initially considered (anonymously) on paper by members of Chambers' Pupillage Committee by reference to Chambers’ selection criteria (see the Selection Criteria section of the Pupillage & Tenancy pages). Those applicants who are considered realistic applicants for pupillage are invited to a short interview, usually conducted by two members of Chambers. Successful candidates will then be offered a mini-pupillage, at a date convenient to them.
Chambers is a member of Pupillage Gateway and all applications for 12 month pupillages (including deferred 12 month pupillages) must be made online at http://www.pupillagegateway.com. Given the importance we place on mini-pupillages, we encourage candidates to apply for (and if feasible undertake) an assessed mini-pupillage before making their pupillage application via the Pupillage Gateway. Guidance on when and how to apply for a mini-pupillage can be found on the main Pupillage and Tenancy page.
All of those who have undertaken an assessed mini-pupillage are considered for final interview. The decision as to whom to invite for final interview is taken by the Pupillage Committee by reference to Chambers’ selection criteria (see the Selection Criteria section of the Pupillage & Tenancy pages) and is based upon a candidate’s paper application, their performance at the mini-pupillage interview, the mini-pupillage itself, the standardised assessed work and confidential references. We usually invite around 15-20 candidates to final interviews.
Final interviews are normally held on a Saturday in line with the Gateway timetable.
Those who are invited for a final interview will be provided with a legal problem in advance of attending the interview, and the first part of the interview will comprise a short advocacy exercise based on that problem. Given the range of backgrounds of those who apply to Chambers, we endeavour to select a problem which is self-contained and does not require knowledge of any particular legal area.
Offers to successful candidates will be made in accordance with the Pupillage Gateway timetable.
Each 12 month pupil is assigned to three or four different pupil supervisors during the year. All pupils are also assigned a mentor (a junior tenant) at the outset of their pupillage from whom they can seek advice throughout the pupillage year.
The breadth of work within Chambers is often a reason for pupils coming to Brick Court Chambers. We think that a grounding in EU and Public Law is a benefit to any Commercial practitioner. Equally, the EU or Public Law practitioner needs to understand Commercial principles and litigation. A pupil can expect to see a range of work within Chambers’ various specialisations during their pupillage. But we also can, and do, vary the emphasis according to personal choice: some pupils come to Chambers with a clear view as to the area of practice in which they expect to specialise, others do not. We expect the choice of pupil supervisors to reflect your personal preferences in areas of work.
Pupils may have the opportunity to spend some time visiting the institutions and/or courts in Brussels, Luxembourg or Strasbourg. Chambers funds the travel expenses for each pupil to attend one hearing in the European Courts during their pupillage year if an appropriate opportunity arises.
As well as being an important period of training, pupillage is inevitably also a period of assessment and we strive very hard to ensure that our assessment process is rigorously fair and objective. To that end, the Tenancy Committee seeks to collect as much information on each of our pupils from as wide a range of members of Chambers as possible.
Each pupil supervisor provides a detailed report on all of a pupil’s work during the time the pupil is sitting with them, and every other member of Chambers for whom pupils complete a piece of work provides a report on that particular piece (as well as providing detailed feedback to the pupil in person).
In addition, the Tenancy Committee arranges a number of advocacy exercises (typically 6-7) throughout the year, involving the making or defending of applications of the kind that junior tenants might expect to encounter in their first few years of practice, such as applications for summary judgment or security for costs. The first two exercises are not assessed, to enable pupils to ‘find their feet’ as advocates and to receive feedback from the panel. After that, the exercises are assessed, although the training element remains very important.
In addition to the advocacy exercises and their work for their pupil supervisors and other members of Chambers, all pupils complete the same six pieces of standardised assessed work. These are set by six different members of Chambers and span the various specialisms within Chambers. All standardised work is assessed ‘blind’ by the member of Chambers who set it and, again, detailed feedback is then given to the pupils.
Pupillage is inevitably demanding but we do our best to make it as enjoyable and interesting an experience as possible.
It is made clear to all pupils that it is quality and not quantity of work that counts. Pupils are not in general expected to work late into the evenings or during weekends, although the nature of practice is such that there will be periods when longer hours are necessary.
Pupils are welcomed into the social life of Chambers. Shortly after pupillage offers are made, those who accept are invited to a reception and dinner to meet members of Chambers. During pupillage, pupils will often have lunch with their pupil supervisors and other members of Chambers, and are welcome at Chambers' social events. There is usually a dinner for pupils and junior tenants every term.
Above all, though, we believe that it is the high quality of work and training at Brick Court Chambers that contributes most to our pupils' satisfaction. As one pupil said to an interviewer from Chambers & Partners, "it was the easiest money I've ever earned because every day was just so interesting."
The Tenancy Decision
The Tenancy Committee monitors the work of pupils throughout the year and each pupil is given a frank and confidential assessment of their performance to date in January and again around Easter.
In July, the Committee reports to Chambers and makes recommendations as to those pupils who should be offered tenancies. Those recommendations are based on all of the material collected by the Committee throughout the year: the three pupil supervisors’ reports, the reports on the standardised assessed pieces, the advocacy assessments and the reports of each member of Chambers for whom work has been done.
Tenancies are always offered on merit, not on quotas. If you are good enough, you will be taken on. We aim to ensure that a consistent standard is applied to all pupils when assessing them for tenancy. We spend considerable time ensuring that our system is fair, consistent, and transparent.
After the Tenancy Decision
For those who are taken on as tenants, the early days of practice are exciting times. Experience has shown that all of our new tenants have rapidly established thriving practices. (The financial rewards for those who are taken on are considered below.) We are proud that all of the tenants we have taken on in recent times have remained with us, rather than leaving the Bar or moving to another set.
As part of Chambers’ commitment to the ongoing training of our new members, Chambers funds the attendance of all new tenants in the first three years in practice on the South Eastern Circuit Bar Mess Foundation International Advocacy Course at Keble College, Oxford. Regular practice management sessions with clerks and more experienced members of Chambers are also held.
We work extremely hard to find good homes for any of our pupils who are not offered tenancies here. The overwhelming majority find tenancies at other good chambers. In recent years these have included 4 New Square, 3 Verulam Buildings, Quadrant Chambers, 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square, Monckton Chambers, One Crown Office Row, 20 Essex Street and 11 King's Bench Walk.
Pupillage at Brick Court Chambers carries an award of £65,000 for 2017/18. Up to £25,000 of the award can be drawn down during the year preceding pupillage (subject to Chambers’ approval).
Often those who apply to us do not appreciate the extent of the financial rewards even in the early days of tenancy. Experience indicates that a new tenant at Brick Court Chambers will soon find their earnings matching or exceeding those of contemporaries elsewhere at the Bar or at City solicitors’ firms. Over the past three years average first year income exceeded £150,000 and average second year income exceeded £250,000 (in many cases by a considerable margin).
Chambers offers all new tenants an interest-free loan of £50,000, payable during the first six months of tenancy in monthly instalments. The loan is usually repayable within two years of the first draw down. Junior tenants are not required to pay room rent or Chambers’ expenses in the first year of practice or until receipts total £80,000, whichever is the sooner. Chambers also offers generous financial arrangements for those members who wish to take maternity and paternity leave (for further details please go to the Equal Opportunities section of the Pupillage and Tenancy pages).
1. Ability to Analyse and Articulate as a Lawyer
a. Ability to analyse factual and legal issues in a problem
b. Ability to think clearly under pressure
c. Ability to absorb information rapidly
e. Clarity and persuasiveness of oral expression
f. Clarity of expression in writing
a. Interest in and commitment to the Bar
b. Interest in Commercial Law / EU and Competition Law / Public Law and human rights
c. Interest in commercial business and public affairs
a. Ability to remain calm under pressure
b. Sensitivity in dealings with others
f. Common sense
Full details of our Equality and Diversity policies can be found here.
Brick Court Chambers Student Open Day - DATE TO BE CONFIRMED
Following the success of our previous Open Days, we are again offering university students the opportunity to learn more about Brick Court Chambers. We hope that the day will give those attending a short but real insight into life at the Bar.
Brick Court is a leading set of London Chambers which specialises in commercial, European and public law. Members of Chambers have been involved in many leading cases in the last few years, such as Berezovsky v Abramovich, SAAMCO, Lowick Rose LLP v Swynson Ltd, Sainsbury’s v Mastercard, Bank Charges, Jackson v Attorney General, Constantin Medien v Ecclestone & Others, Rainy Sky, R (on the application of Gina Miller and Dos Santos) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, Tobacco litigation and Isle of Wight Council v Platt, along with many others.
The Open Day, which this year is taking place in the Parliament Chamber, Middle Temple from approximately 10.30am to 2.30pm, is likely to involve:
This Open Day will not constitute a mini-pupillage, but we hope that it may give you a good introduction to Brick Court Chambers and to the Bar more generally. In particular, we have in mind that it may not always be easy for students to obtain information about practising as a barrister, and that visiting a law fair can only ever provide a general introduction.
Unfortunately places are limited. If you are interested in attending, please send an email to Lyana Peniston (Mrs), Pupillage Manager, Brick Court Chambers, 7-8 Essex Street, London WC2R 3LD. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please attach a CV when applying so that we may have some idea of your interests, the courses you are taking etc.
We appreciate that those who attend may incur travel costs, and we will be happy to reimburse reasonable travel costs. If these are likely to exceed £50, please contact Lyana Peniston by 24 February 2020. All of these arrangements will be made through Lyana Peniston.
If there is any aspect of the Open Day that you would like to discuss further, please do not hesitate to telephone Lyana Peniston in Chambers. Her direct line is 020 7520 9881.
Michael Bools QC
Chair – Pupillage Committee
Pupillage at Brick Court Chambers involves a fascinating range of work. I chose Brick Court because of its excellent reputation in my main areas of interest: public law, human rights and public international law. But I was also looking for the opportunity to expand my horizons and experience practice in other areas of law. Pupils sit with three different supervisors, roughly spanning all of Chambers’ practice areas. My first supervisor was Maya Lester, with whom I worked on a number of challenges to economic sanctions imposed by the EU, including against Zimbabwe and Iran. These raised interesting questions about fundamental rights within the European legal order.
I had the opportunity to travel with Maya to Luxembourg to observe the ECJ proceedings in European Commission v Yassin Abdullah Kadi. I then sat with Andrew Henshaw, with whom I worked on a number of commercial arbitrations, as well as cases that raised interesting questions of European law, such as the UK’s challenge to the Short Selling Regulation. Finally, I sat with Martin Chamberlain and had the opportunity to work on cases involving a wide range of public law and human rights issues.
Chambers invests heavily in the pupillage process. This was an important factor for me when considering where to apply for pupillage. The year was well structured, the learning experience was thorough and the assessment process was transparent. Pupils take part in a number of advocacy assessments, and six written assessments in total. I was given feedback after every assessment and for the work that I did for my supervisors and other members of Chambers. I felt that I was able to make mistakes and learn from them.
While pupillage at Brick Court is certainly challenging, work-life balance is taken seriously. As a parent to a young child, it was important to know that pupils are not normally expected to work late into the evening or on weekends. Of equal importance was the fact that pupils are given clear days to prepare for written and advocacy assessments. During my pupillage, I tended to work between 8:30am and 6:00pm but my pupil supervisors were flexible about how I organised my day and I occasionally chose to work from home or come in earlier and leave early enough to take my daughter to the park. Assessment periods were an exception, but then the pressure was self-imposed.
Overall, pupillage at Brick Court certainly exceeded my expectations. The work was varied and intellectually challenging; the clerks and members of Chambers were friendly and supportive; and because there was no limit to the tenancies on offer, the atmosphere between the pupils was one of solidarity rather than competition.
When deciding where to apply for pupillage, the breadth of the work available at Brick Court Chambers was particularly appealing. My main interest is in commercial law, but I enjoyed subjects such as Intellectual Property and EU law at university, and the opportunity to have a wider practice was attractive. Everyone that I met during my week as a mini-pupil was friendly and I liked the atmosphere in Chambers.
Pupillage itself was as varied and interesting as I had expected. There is undoubtedly a lot to learn during the year. However, my supervisors (Nicholas Saunders, Fionn Pilbrow and Stephen Midwinter) were always helpful and provided feedback on my work so that I knew how to improve.
The following describes a fairly representative week from my pupillage, when I was sitting with Stephen Midwinter.
Today I am working on a defence and counterclaim in a contractual dispute relating to the London 2012 Olympic Games. As a pupil, I am generally asked to produce a first draft of whatever my supervisor is working on. This is a really helpful way of learning how to do the job. Once my supervisors have finished the piece of work, there is always an opportunity to discuss their approach. Drafting is something that I found particularly difficult when I started as a pupil. The pleadings in Chambers are usually significantly more complicated than those on the BPTC. However, I have found that it gets much easier with practice. For today’s defence, I have had to read through a number of contracts, as well as the correspondence between the solicitors, to work out how they fit together.
This morning, I accompanied Stephen to a conference regarding a large charterparty arbitration that is starting later this term. Stephen is being led by Jonathan Hirst QC and we are meeting with the instructing solicitors to discuss our strategy for the coming weeks. I generally attend all of the same conferences as my supervisors and I find it useful to see how cases are developing. Sometimes I am asked to write a brief note before the conference, summarising the main issues to be discussed and my thoughts on them, but Stephen and Jonathan are already very familiar with this case.
We have an advocacy exercise this afternoon so I prepare for that after the conference. There is an advocacy exercise about once a month, and I have done six so far. The advocacy exercises are my favourite part of pupillage, and one of the reasons that I chose Brick Court. We are given the papers in advance and have two days to prepare for each one. We exchange skeletons the day before, and the exercises themselves normally last about 45 minutes. They are usually cases that members of Chambers were involved in and they range from applications for summary judgment to appeals to the Supreme Court. It is great to have the opportunity to make tactical decisions yourself and the exercises are a brilliant way to practice advocacy. The questions from the panel are often challenging, but the feedback is more focused than on the BPTC. Not all Chambers run advocacy exercises, and I think that they are a real advantage if you enjoy advocacy. I have not found them to be competitive between the pupils, and we usually go for a drink together afterwards.
Today and tomorrow, Stephen is involved in a jurisdiction hearing (Vava & Others v Anglo American South Africa Ltd  EWHC 2131 (QB)). The case is about whether, Anglo American South Africa Ltd (AASA), is domiciled in England, despite being a South African company. If it is, then a group of South African miners wish to bring a class action in England. As well as requiring detailed argument about the meaning of Article 60 of the Brussels I Regulation, the case involves a lot of factual evidence as to the nature of AASA’s business and the location of its board meetings and other company activities. Stephen is being led by a silk from another Chambers. We have lunch with the solicitors and discuss further points to be made in the afternoon. I assisted Stephen with the first draft of the skeleton several weeks ago, so it is great to see the case in court.
I watch the rest of the jurisdiction hearing today. It seems to have gone well (and it later turns out that our application challenging jurisdiction has been successful).
Today I am drafting a speaking note for Stephen for an insurance arbitration. The case concerns the construction of a quota share reinsurance treaty. I had not studied insurance law at university but I have really enjoyed the insurance work that I have seen during pupillage. As with much commercial work, the case will turn on the construction of the contract and it is necessary to look for court decisions involving similar clauses. It is also important to think about how the treaty could work in practice. One thing that I have found really interesting about pupillage is the extent to which I have had to understand the practicalities of different businesses.
I will not be expected to work over the weekend. My hours have generally been around 9.30am to 6.30pm. If there is a lot of work to be done, I might stay later, but I usually have sufficient time to finish my work during the day.
I started doing mini-pupillages as a law conversion student with comparatively limited legal background. To the extent that I had a view, I was interested in European and public law. During my week’s mini-pupillage at Brick Court I concluded that I also wanted a broader practice that would include commercial work.
My time as a pupil did not disappoint. I sat with three different supervisors whose specialisms reflected the full range of Chambers’ expertise. Over the year I was involved in:
Pupillage was first and foremost a learning experience. From day one my supervisors offered me the opportunity to draft opinions and skeleton arguments as well as attend conferences and attend court. Throughout the year I was provided with a steady stream of feedback, encouragement and corrections. Pupillage can be a stressful experience wherever you go. It made a big difference that my supervisors were committed to helping me to improve as the year went on.
Another key aspect of the training process was the monthly advocacy assessments within chambers. All the assessments were based on real cases in which members of chambers had previously been instructed. Appearing before a panel of Brick Court members was a challenging experience. However, by the end of the year I was actually starting to enjoy them. I became a barrister, in part, because I wanted to get on my feet and make submissions. Chambers’ advocacy assessments proved more valuable than anything else I did, throughout my legal training, as a preparation for my first appearances before real tribunals.
Overall, the year was intellectually stretching. The level of legal analysis required was a big step up from anything I had done before. I also had to express myself with a new level of precision and to think quickly on my feet.
By the end of pupillage I had an overwhelming sense that it had been fair. I had been through three different seats, and produced multiple written and advocacy assessments. There were plenty of opportunities to succeed, fail and succeed again.
My year as a pupil also confirmed what I had observed as a mini-pupil. Members of Brick Court work hard and are very friendly. People’s doors were always open for a chat and they were often interested in what I was working on. My working hours were from 9 till 6.30ish. If I was still in Chambers much after that, I was sometimes told to ‘go home and see my children!’ I didn’t work at the weekends during the year, though some of the other pupils occasionally did. By the end of pupillage I was certain that Brick Court was the kind of stimulating and dynamic environment that I wanted to be a part of.
Please download our application form to apply for a mini pupillage, pupillage or tenancy.
Please email the completed form to Lyana Peniston at PupillageApplications@Brickcourt.co.uk or contact Lyana if you experience any problems with the form.