Pupillage at 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square (by a Pupil)
‘What is the Bar really like?’ A question that never fails to crop up time and again. The thing is, you will never get quite the same answer each time you ask that question. Indeed, I do not think that most Barristers would give the same answer each and every single time they are asked the question. The words that come to mind (bearing in mind I come at this from the perspective of a Pupil) are often a miscellany of exhilarating, frustrating (at times), thought-provoking (at other moments), gruelling, exciting and above all intellectually challenging. It is a unique profession which has managed to sustain its centuries of tradition, and yet still have a very valuable place in the twenty-first century. Part of its distinctive nature is undoubtedly attributed to the fact that no two days are ever really quite the same; no two cases, no matter how disconcertingly similar they may appear to appear, are ever identical. That is one thing I have learnt – it is a profession in which practice is a constant requirement; the ability to frame-shift and turn things on their head, and to see how the law ties in with everyday problems.
So what is the Bar like for a Pupil, and more importantly, what does a Pupil do each and every day of their twelve months? At 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square, Pupillage is divided into the traditional split of a First Six (non-practising) and a Second Six (practising). My First Six was spent undertaking a range of activities by way of drafting an Opinion on whether or not planning permission could be granted (the grappling question being; is 51 storeys different to 50 storeys) to legal research on whether or not the English courts might be too supranational in relation to the recent spate of Russian cases coming through in light of the doctrine of forum non conveniens. Regular court visits are a common feature during Pupillage at 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square, and it is one of the most insightful ways to assist for the inevitable Second Six. The continued and regular pace of work in the First Six assisted me in preparing for what was to come next.
My Second Six has been a mix of work in Chambers, conducting a three day trial at the High Court on a land and trusts dispute as well as some smaller applications in the County Courts. I have also had the opportunity to go on secondment to a London Local Authority, where I sat in the Litigation team and assisted with a variety of matters including researching issues into the wording of the legislation concerning the Chief Executive’s role, repayment of water charges and the role of Registered Providers amongst other matters.
Whatever I have worked on though – be that in Tax law, Commercial or Public Law, I have been given the opportunity to immerse myself from the outset. Chambers has an open-door policy, and devilling (i.e. being able to work with other barristers in addition to your Pupil Supervisor) is very much encouraged. This has meant that not only have I been afforded the opportunity to engage with some of the best legal minds in their respective areas, but furthermore, I have been given the chance to have a real variety during the course of Pupillage. Pupils are expected to be ready for whatever is passed our way, and the friendly and approachable nature of Chambers has made that a lot easier than it may otherwise appear. I have been encouraged all throughout my time here to do a really wide spread of different work, and by the time I had started my Second Six I had seen Members of Chambers at all levels of the Court system (including the more rare appearances before the Masters and the Privy Council), and in all parts of the country.
One feature which I found pleasantly surprising is how social and supportive Chambers is. Afternoon tea is a regular favourite in which Members often discuss various anecdotes or put forward particular thoughts for wider consideration. The general collegiate atmosphere is something which really struck me about Chambers and is one of the key reasons I chose to come to 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square. The Members and Clerks of Chambers are always willing to help when Juniors (particularly Pupils) may have a difficult issue in practice, and in turn it is a pleasure being able to not only assist as part of a team in larger cases, but also watching and learning from some of the great legal minds of the profession is truly a privilege.