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Pupillage policy

These are the criteria applied by 20 Essex Street when selecting mini-pupils and pupils. We look for people likely in due course to become successful barristers practising from these chambers. To that end, we look for candidates with the qualities set out below.

1. Intellect.

  • Outstanding intellectual ability, typically evidenced by an excellent academic record.
  • A sound knowledge and understanding of legal principles or, where appropriate, a real potential to develop such knowledge and understanding.
  • The ability efficiently to research and assimilate unfamiliar areas of knowledge, including unfamiliar fields of law.
  • The ability to absorb and analyse a set of facts, so as to identify the relevant factual and legal issues.
  • The ability to apply principles intelligently, incisively and with good judgment.

2. Advocacy and Communication Skills.

  • The ability to present and argue a case either on paper or orally in a calm, engaging and persuasive manner.
  • The ability to produce clear, well expressed and structured written work.
  • Articulacy and clarity in oral communication.

3. Motivation and Independence.

  • An interest in our fields of work and a commitment to a career at the Commercial Bar, preferably at these Chambers.
  • The qualities needed by the self-employed: self-reliance, self-confidence, stamina and organisational skills.

4. Teamwork and Inter-Personal Skills.

  • The ability to work effectively as part of a team, taking a leadership role within the team where appropriate.
  • The ability to engage and impress other lawyers and clients.

5. Honesty and Integrity.

Selection of Pupils

All applications made through the Pupillage Gateway are considered by members of the Pupillage Committee in order to select a short list of applicants for interview. Decisions are based on the selection criteria and take account of mini-pupillage, the pupillage portal application and academic references (if available – although more commonly these are provided once applicants are invited to interview). The shortlisted applicants are given an interview which will last about half an hour and will typically include analysis of a legal problem provided shortly before the interview begins. Our policy that pupilliage applicants must have completed or arranged a mini-pupillage before being eligible for a pupillage interview has been temporally suspended for the Pupillage Gateway recruitment process in 2017.

In addition, we also receive applications for a second or third six months and from those who are exempt from application via the pupillage gateway and/or candidates who do not intend to practise at the English bar. All these applications are initially considered individually by at least two members of the Pupillage Committee.

Such candidates are not always required to spend time in chambers before an offer is made to them. 
All decisions about pupillage and tenancy are taken on merit and without regard to race, colour, ethnic or national origin, nationality, citizenship, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, disability, religion or political persuasion.

Pupillage in General

Each pupil normally sits with four pupil supervisors during the year, moving at Christmas, Easter and Whitsun. During the first period the pupil will work almost exclusively for his or her supervisor. After Christmas, and increasingly as the year goes on, the pupil will also work for other members of chambers of all levels of seniority. Sometimes there are opportunities for pupils to be instructed in their own right during the second six months. Pupils are not required to pay clerks’ fees on earnings from such work or to contribute to chambers expenses. Pupils work for other members of chambers should be arranged by the supervisor. It is the supervisor’s responsibility to ensure both that pupils do work for other members of chambers, but also that pupils are not given more work to do than they can reasonably cope with during the normal working week. Pupils are not generally permitted to work in chambers at weekends and are not issued with keys to the building. Any exception should be for a specific purpose, arranged with the pupil’s supervisor, in circumstances where the supervisor or other member of chambers for whom the pupil is working also has to come in or stay late. A pupil's working hours and holidays are arranged with his or her supervisor and should be consistent with the Bar Council’s recommendation that pupils should work a minimum of 35 hours per week and have a minimum of 20 days holiday per year. Pupils are encouraged to raise any concerns they may have, if appropriate in confidence, with their supervisor or alternatively with nominated members of chambers who do not take pupils. There is also a formal chambers complaints procedure. Pupils will take part in a programme of advocacy exercises in chambers as well as attending the advocacy training organised by their Inn. Pupils are also encouraged to work for FRU and undertake at least two FRU cases before starting pupillage. Chambers pays the costs of the compulsory courses for pupils required by the Bar Council. When accompanying a member of chambers to court or arbitration involves travel expenses, the pupil’s expenses are paid by the member of chambers concerned. Pupils should provide their own laptop computer.

Feedback and Tenancy

Feedback will be provided to the pupil on all pieces of work done. Assessment forms are provided for individual pieces of work, advocacy exercises and overall reviews every 3 months by the pupil’s supervisor. The performance of pupils during the first six months will be reviewed at a chambers meeting towards the end of that period. Following that meeting, the pupil’s prospects of being offered a tenancy will be discussed between the pupil and his or her supervisor. Pupils are welcome to complete their twelve month pupillages whatever indication is given, but some pupils may prefer to complete their pupillage elsewhere, where tenancy prospects may be better. We aim to recruit tenants of the highest calibre. The availability of space in chambers is not a consideration. If a pupil is good enough, he or she will be offered a tenancy. The selection criteria applied are set out above. Tenancy decisions are taken by a chambers meeting which all members of chambers are entitled to attend, which is held not later than early July. If it is practicable to reach a decision earlier in the pupillage year, we will do so.