The pupillage year

The structure of pupillage

All our pupils are assigned a single primary pupil supervisor. This individual is typically a junior of at least ten years’ call. Pupil supervisors are selected based on the appropriateness of their practice to meet the training needs of pupils. Pupils work closely with their pupil supervisors, and share their supervisor’s room.

Pupils spend the first three or four months of their pupillage with their pupil supervisor. After that, pupils sit with each of the other supervisors and a number of other members of Chambers, of differing levels of seniority, usually spending about two or three weeks with each. This period is informally referred to as the “rota”. By the end of the rota, all the pupils will have sat with the same members of Chambers. The rota serves two purposes: first, it enables each pupil to experience and learn from the diverse work undertaken by other members of Chambers; secondly, it also allows those members of Chambers to have an opportunity to evaluate fairly the performance of the pupils. The rota usually lasts about three or four months, after which pupils return to their original supervisors. Following the tenancy decision, pupils may sit with other members of Chambers if they have a particular interest in the area of work in which that member practices.

Life as a pupil

Each pupil undertakes a real apprenticeship: the pupils shadow their pupil supervisors, reading their papers, drafting pleadings, opinions and skeleton arguments, preparing notes on the law and on evidence, assisting in preparation for trial, and attending at conferences and at hearings. The workload is demanding but rewarding. During their pupillage, pupils are expected to work diligently and with commitment, and at all times to respect the confidentiality of any matters on which they work. (Full details of the roles and duties of pupils appear in the annual BSB Pupillage Handbook.)

We view the second six as primarily being a further period of training, and for that reason second six pupils usually do not take on their own work. The generous level of award we grant our pupils is intended in part to remove concerns about income during this period. If work is made available to pupils, it is allocated fairly.

Our pupils are fully involved in all aspects of life in Chambers. For example, they are encouraged to get to know the clerks from an early stage and are encouraged to attend social events hosted by Chambers.

Pupils required to travel during pupillage have their reasonable expenses refunded, and we will also pay for attendance at any compulsory courses.

Training and development

Pupillage is about training. Its main purpose is to equip pupils with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience needed to become successful practitioners at the commercial bar. Each pupil supervisor is responsible for assisting their pupil to achieve this goal. To that end, pupils can expect to receive frequent feedback from their pupil supervisor, as well as periodic formal appraisals as to their progress.

We use the BSB General and Commercial Checklists and pupils are required to keep a work diary.

Over the year, we run an in-house education programme for pupils, including advocacy and conference skills training. The practical exercises are typically led by members of Chambers who are accredited advocacy trainers. The limited number of pupils in Chambers means that each pupil is afforded an opportunity to receive closer and more personalised tuition and feedback than they are likely to receive at the training sessions offered by the Inns of Court. In addition, because our exercises are tailored specifically to commercial practice, we offer training in areas not typically covered by the Inns’ education programmes, such as arbitration advocacy.

We recognise that certain areas of Chambers’ expertise may be new or unfamiliar to our pupils, hence why we offer introductory in-house lectures in those areas to assist our pupils to familiarise themselves with these new topics. In addition, our pupils are encouraged to attend our extensive in-house continuing professional development seminar and lecture programme and relevant lectures given outside of Chambers, such as those given by COMBAR.

We also recognise the importance to our pupils of being afforded sufficient time to prepare for the compulsory training courses run by their Inns and ensure that such time is made available.