A recent pupil’s experience

Pupillage at 7KBW by Rebecca Jacobs

Pupillage is sometimes described as a yearlong interview, but this was not my experience: assessment is of course a central part of it, but it is equally about preparation for practice as a barrister. My supervisors worked hard to ensure that I had as well-rounded an education as possible, both in terms of the work itself and the other elements of life in practice. Despite the inevitable stress that comes with feeling like the stakes are high, I genuinely enjoyed the year: the work was consistently interesting, and I never felt overloaded.

Almost all the work I did as a pupil was on live cases: sometimes this would be a research note, but more often an opinion, pleading or skeleton which my supervisor was working on at the same time or had just completed. This meant that I was always involved in my supervisor’s practice (and it’s nice to feel you have contributed to a final piece of work, even in small ways). Of course, new issues might seem daunting at first, and take time to get to grips with. But you are not expected to go into things with any prior knowledge of complex areas of commercial law. I was always given enough time for each piece of work, and don’t remember ever feeling rushed.

The work you do during pupillage necessarily depends on what your supervisors happen to be doing at the time, but having four supervisors over the year, plus doing work for other members, means that you are sure to see a good range. Certain areas may make an appearance more than others – I probably saw more insurance than anything else – but this has its rewards: I found that the more I was exposed to a particular area, the more familiar I became with the underlying concepts and the nature of the issues that come up (and even within particular areas of Chambers’ work, there’s a lot of variety).

My first year as a tenant has been equally varied. My work has been a fairly even split between general commercial disputes, insurance and shipping. It is a mixture of larger, more factually complex commercial cases where I am junior, and smaller cases where I do everything on my own, from the pleading to the trial. Although, as with any commercial practice, I spend much of my time doing written work, I have also been in (remote) court on my own a fair amount in the past few months, including in a High Court disclosure application and a one-day trial in a shipping case. The current circumstances make it a strange time to be starting out in practice – I have missed going into Chambers every day – but I have been very fortunate that work has remained plentiful and varied.

I found Chambers a very supportive environment in which to do pupillage. Members were always available for a chat (or a pep talk), and everyone was friendly and approachable; I never felt I was being marked on things I did and said. There was no culture of needing to stay late to impress people (in many ways, pupillage may be the most regular working hours you have in a career as a barrister). It is easy, as a pupil, to feel like you are on the periphery of a set of chambers, but I was made to feel welcome and included. 7KBW is a fantastic place to undertake pupillage and to begin a practice at the Bar.

I have just finished my first year in practice (at the time of writing), having completed pupillage at 7KBW in 2019. I came to pupillage having studied the GDL, and English as my first degree.