Pupillage with us...
When we opened in January 1990 our aim was to be different. That remains the same, we seek “to have our feet on the ground and our heads in the stars.”
Who are we?
We are criminal practitioners ranging from pupils and the most junior right through to a number of KCs at the other end. We all prosecute and defend. We are all there for each other with to help with advice, support and friendliness. We all treat each other with respect.
What do we stand for?
We stand for service, integrity and a passion for justice for all whoever they are. We work hard and we play hard. We are also utterly committed to each other and to our staff.
To be totally committed to each other, to develop everyone’s talent to the maximum, to give full rein to everyone’s individual ambition and to rejoice in each other’s successes.
We have put together some tips, advice and insights into pupillage to assist you with your search.
- Complete some mini-pupillages. Ideally that specialise in your desired practice area and if possible, with the Chambers that you are going to apply to. Speak to members of the Chambers about their practice and the Chambers in general to see if you will be a good fit.
- Aim to present yourself as a well-rounded candidate. This means getting some life experience outside of the law. That can include volunteering, travelling, or maybe a combination of both.
- Throw yourself into as much advocacy experience as possible. Even if you fail every time, when the time comes to stand up in a real court, it will be much less scary.
- Realise and refer to the potential value of non-legal work experience; sales (for example) frequently involves speaking persuasively to members of the public: that is advocacy.
It may sound cliché but be yourself. Authenticity is vital.
Whilst qualifications and experience help, the most important thing is what makes you unique. Don’t be afraid to talk about what you love and to show your personality. (I’m pretty sure my love of Shania Twain got me my pupillage!)
Unusual experience (as long as it’s appropriate) can help you to stand out and should often be included on applications – the panel may well want to hear more about your work abroad, unique hobbies/skills, etc.
Apply for the scholarships made available by your inn of court. Even if you aren’t successful, it will provide you with some really useful interview experience.
Prepare for/against tables for every topical issue in the news and legal reform questions, and practice using them to create structured arguments within a short time limit.
Review the gateway applications for chambers you did not apply to and made a note of every question they asked. The majority of these questions are topical or competency-based and if they are relevant to one set, they are relevant to other chambers at interview.
Practice talking about yourself and answering non-legal interview questions (every question is an opportunity to showcase your advocacy skills), such as: tell us about yourself, what is your favourite movie, book etc. This is especially valuable because in interviews the abundance of nerves means you could easily forgot your name.
Read your application again before the interview. Be prepared to discuss and answer questions about the content of your application.
Have a couple of prepared questions to ask of the panel that show a knowledge of and interest in their set.
In your first six, try and make as many ‘cheat sheets’ as possible for the different types of hearings that you see. Something as simple as note of the structure of a committal for sentence will be a useful tool early on in your second six.
Try to absorb the pace and tone in which the advocates you shadow present their submissions.
In both your first and second six, ask as many questions as possible. Everyone around you has been where you are and understands the steep learning-curve that you have ahead of you.
During pupillage, make a short note of what you do every day – it will be difficult to remember if you leave it to when you have to fill in a plan at the end.
Always be early, polite and attend social events organised by Chambers. They are a great and informal way of getting to know other members of the Chambers but remember to be on your best behaviour, no drunken ramblings!
Discretion is your friend!
1st Six: Seize the day
First lesson as a new pupil at 1HP – there is no ‘typical’ day. As a purely criminal pupil, 99% of my time is spent in court shadowing experienced advocates, learning from their individual style and taking note of inspirational quotes to borrow in my own cases.
Second lesson – get to grips with the jargon and abbreviations – PTR for a PWITS, TWOC and especially important TGIF.
Soon after I arrived in Chambers, my supervisor started to assign me drafting exercises. He reviews my work and provides honest and constructive feedback, which I note in my pupil log. He is never discouraging and has invested a great deal in me for which I am hugely grateful. There is a sense of satisfaction that the number of red annotations has decreased dramatically over the last months! As a newbie, pre-charge advices have been a great way for me to become thoroughly engaged with a case and research the law. These advices are great because once you provide advice for a client you retain conduct of the final case for trial, which is a huge bonus.
On quieter days, my supervisor sets me advocacy exercises based on cases that he had conducted. Sometimes he provides me with cryptic clues to assist.
One of the highlights of my first six was sitting in court part way through a drugs trial where a police officer had brought in an exhibit and placed it on the floor next to me. Slowly I noticed the room filling with a pungent smell. I watched as the jurors and the public gallery began to look more and more uncomfortable, looking at each other in confusion and shock as the smell became stronger and more pervasive. Fortunately during his examination the drug expert, who had also noticed the stricken faces, was able to clarify that it was not possible to get high simply from smelling the cannabis exhibits that were in the suitcase by my feet! Audible sigh of relief from all in the room. The point was powerfully made to the jury that though the defendants claimed they were unaware of the growing and storage of cannabis in a house they visited, the smell was too strong to be denied.
Chambers feels like a real community. I regularly bump into friendly and familiar faces in robing rooms across the circuit. Everyone has been so supportive and as my second six rapidly approaches I am grateful for the encouragement and the many hilarious stories shared about life as a junior. I am also very lucky to have a co-pupil who started six months before me, who has guided me through my first six.
For me it was really important to find a chambers that I could fit into and feel like part of the family especially knowing that I will be supported with the many challenges that I will face over the next six months and the years to come. I feel very lucky to have found 1HP!
2nd Six: Fortune favours the bold
It’s Tuesday. I wake up around 6am. I know what you’re thinking… I too think that it should be compulsory that no one is allowed to get out of bed before 8am at the earliest.
I push through the pain because I have a full day ahead at the Magistrates’ Court, with a brief video link interlude in the Crown Court. I want to get there early to go over my cross-examination. (It was the best bit in law school, and still is!) I jump on the train with a coffee I’ve made at home, rather than one bought from Starbucks at great expense – these moments reassure me I am finally a functioning adult.
Once I arrive, I start to go over my case again. I am defending. The defendant is accused of assaulting his girlfriend. There are two independent witnesses, neighbours, who are sure that the defendant hit his girlfriend to the head. The defendant answered no comment in his interview and there are photographs of the girlfriend covered in bruises. The case against the defendant is strong. I consider how I’m going to conduct my examinations. There’s no obvious reason this pair would make it up. Instead, I am going to have to suggest they are mistaken. However, this depends on my client’s final instructions.
So that is my next step. At 9:30am, I make my way down to the cells ready to discuss the evidence. I’m shown to a room and in comes my client. We dive right into it. I explain the evidence to him.. Our defence is that rather than punch his girlfriend, she had collapsed from an anxiety attack, and this is what the witnesses had seen.
The girlfriend is giving evidence for us. I go upstairs to speak with her. She’s also saying that she had an anxiety attack, and this caused the fall. She shows me her phone, filled with photos of various hedges and fences in front of the property. She is confident the witnesses would not have seen over this.
The real stinger though is the defendant has three convictions and these have been admitted as bad character evidence prior to my involvement in the trial.
I go and speak to the prosecutor who informs me the witnesses have attended (they often don’t), and that he was ready to proceed with the trial. We go into court and the public gallery at the back of the room is full of family members. The Crown open the case and call their first witness.
She’s certain. She was looking out of her upstairs window, directly over the fence and hedge. She watched the defendant hit his girlfriend. She didn’t just collapse. However, she’s unclear about the number of punches. Her story has changed since her statement. I question her on it, and she accepts she can’t remember. The next witness comes along. His evidence is full of errors. He can’t be sure how many times the defendant punched. His story differed from hers. Yet, he was clear on one thing. When the girlfriend fell to the floor, it was because the defendant had punched her.
We retire for lunch, and I go down to the cells. I reaffirm my instructions. I then rush back upstairs for 1:30pm. I am due to prosecute a Committal for Sentence at the Crown Court via CVP before HHJ Shaun Smith QC. The Magistrates’ have kindly given me permission to attend. My attention moves to this case, and I throw my wig and gown on. Possession of a bladed article. This is the defendant’s third offence, and he had previous for a manslaughter involving a knife. He receives custody. Wig and gown straight back off.
We’re then back in the court room for the trial. I call the defendant to give evidence. I take him through it. The Crown begin questioning him on his previous offences and he loses his temper. This is followed by the girlfriend’s evidence. She does well but then has a panic attack in court and collapses. The bench don’t look happy.
We make our closing speeches. I address the burden and standard of proof. I suggest that the witnesses couldn’t possibly have been sure, and that rather uniquely, the alleged victim in the case had given clear evidence for the defence. The bench aren’t with me and they find the defendant Guilty. They commit him to the Crown Court for sentence. The family run out of court, to upset to stay. I go down to the cells to speak to my client. He’s disappointed.
The average day at a specialist criminal set differs greatly. Prosecution lists are frequent, involving around 10 trials a day back to back. I often do defence trials and I am also in the Crown Court doing hearings ranging from Plea and Trial Preparation Hearings, Pre Trial Reviews, sentences, and appeals. The days can be tiring and stressful, but they are exciting and rewarding. I am very fortunate to be at a set like 1 High Pavement, where everyone looks after each other and there is always someone to talk with at the end of a difficult week.
Senior Clerk's point of view
Our clerks’ room is fully committed to supporting and progressing our pupils’ careers from as early as possible. We are a very friendly and welcoming team, always on hand to assist with any queries, no matter how big or small. Our aim is to make pupillage here at 1 High Pavement as rewarding as possible and help you reach your full potential.
In the second six pupils can expect to be in various Magistrates Courts in the East Midlands most days. We provide as much court experience as possible whilst ensuring sufficient time is given to prepare cases.
From the clerks’ room perspective, we are looking for an enthusiastic, hardworking and approachable pupil who will fit in well with our sociable set. Crime is very hands on and as we hope to keep pupils after completion of pupillage, it is essential that both solicitors and the CPS can build good relationships with pupils from the start as these will carry on through tenancy. It’s the perfect time to impress and will give you an insight as to which areas of crime you hope to build on.
Reviews will be undertaken to check on wellbeing and progress by the senior clerk. It can be a little daunting starting out, but we view it all as teamwork!
We follow the timetable set out by the Pupillage Gateway, although we use our own application process. We are committed to fair recruitment.
We recognise that it can be costly to come to the Bar. Therefore, we cover all compulsory course costs and pay reasonable travel expenses during first six, in addition to the pupillage award. Our pupils regularly earn in excess of the minimum award in their second six due to the volume of cases and types of work available – including some privately paid work. If you want to be in Court on a daily basis, then a set like 1HP is the place for you.
We support pupils in taking part in competitions and provide networking opportunities in the local area for pupils to meet and engage with other legal professionals such as instructing solicitors and the judiciary.
There is a strong inter-chambers pupils’ network in Nottingham organised informally by the pupils for support and social activities.
We look forward to hearing from you…