Pupillage Blog

Danae Larham

My first three months of pupillage

March 29, 2021
Written by Danae Larham

Three months into my pupillage means I am now halfway through my non-practicing six, and halfway to being on my feet. At this very moment in time, that prospect is both thrilling and terrifying in unequal measures: quantities of which I’ll leave you to decide! 

I am undertaking a common law pupillage, which before starting, I admittedly did not appreciate just what a fantastic and useful experience it would be. As someone who was mostly interested in crime, I thought this style of pupillage would enable me to ‘count out’ the other areas. It surprisingly has in fact been the opposite and I have found myself really enjoying civil work, contrary to my rather strong views on this area during Bar school.

 I was fortunate very early on to spend 6 weeks on a murder trial which again, the naïve pupil expected to be completely fascinating but not practically useful at this stage as I will not undertake that level of work for many years. Again, how wrong I was. I learnt so much about advocacy, client care and just how much work goes into running a trial in those 6 weeks than I think I have done in all of my advocacy training so far.

 I try to prepare as much as I can for each case that I shadow, however I think that the art is in dealing with the things you cannot prepare for. It’s great thinking up clever submissions, making sure you understand the procedure for each day, but what happens when your client doesn’t turn up? Or when they do, but give an entirely different account to you in conference than you were expecting from the papers? These are the lessons I have found most valuable in 1st six and what I think is really going to prepare me well for being on my feet.

 Finally, I have recently been instructed in my first noting brief, which whilst being relatively straight forward work, is a brief with my own name on. Hopefully the first of many to come in 3 months’ time

Pupillage in lockdown

June 11, 2020
Written by Shannon O’Connor

Back in November last year, I wrote a blog entry about my first few months of pupillage.  If someone had told me then that I would be wearing pink slippers during my first appearance in the Crown Court, and asking my client to stay 2 metres away from me in the Magistrates’ Court, I would have questioned their sanity, followed by my own.

I am in a privileged position as a pupil.  I have a pupillage award and am aware that the tenants in Chambers are effectively paying for me.  I am incredibly grateful for that.  This pandemic has affected people to varying degrees and the effect it has had on me pales into insignificance when compared with others.  People have lost loved ones.  NHS workers have been treating people, with inadequate PPE.  Many people, including care assistants, cleaners, and bus drivers, have all continued working.  It is also hard not to think about the thousands of at-risk children who have not been attending school, and the people on remand in prisons, spending virtually all day in a cell.

I will admit though that going into lockdown the week before I was due to go on my feet has been difficult.  At the time of writing, I have prosecuted 10 hearings in the Crown Court remotely and defended once in person at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court.  I am of course grateful for the work I have had but look forward to the time when it increases.

Appearing remotely has its own unique challenges and I find those definitely add to the nerves.  I thoroughly enjoyed appearing in person at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court and, to be honest, it felt like my first real taste of this job.  My client was initially charged with driving with excess alcohol and breach of the Coronavirus Regulations, although the latter was dropped at court.  Mitigating his sentence from a starting point of 12 weeks’ custody to a community order was very satisfying.   I was also impressed with how much effort had gone into ensuring social distancing measures were observed and left the court thinking how undervalued the court staff are.

I have had the opportunity to do some things I would not have otherwise.  I have participated in mock advocacy exercises run by the Inns of Court College of Advocacy, judged by people who have a wealth of experience, including HHJ Mukherjee.  I pick him out in particular because he sits at the Crown Court at Birmingham and I have therefore spent time sitting at the back in his courtroom.  I have also judged a bail application for BPTC students, alongside the former Chair of the Bar of England and Wales, Richard Atkins QC.  Listening to his feedback was as useful for me as it was for them!

Who knows what the position will be in a few months’ time.  The restarting of a small number of jury trials in a safe manner is clearly a positive step forwards.  Let’s hope it continues.

Olivia May

Second Six

February 18, 2020
Written by Olivia Appleby, Second Six Pupil

Although I am nearing the end of my second six, it seems as though it was only yesterday that I started on my feet, the time has gone so quickly!

I have been enjoying a mixed practice of Crime, Civil and Family, which has enabled me to perform in a variety of court settings. This has been invaluable as it is only when you start out on your own that you really get to know your Tribunal. I have also found it to be a real confidence boost when managing different Court environments – having being well versed in the Magistrates and County Courts, my first appearance in the Crown Court felt much less daunting.

There is a different dynamic from first six to second six in that whilst you have the freedom to manage your own practice, this can often mean late nights and early mornings. It took me a little bit of time to find a working style that suited me, as everyone is different.

Whilst it has been a steep learning curve, the support that I have received from other Members of Chambers has been unparalleled. Whether it’s a quick phone call to run through your opinion on a case, or something deeper, there is always someone to help.

The benefit of pupillage at Cornwall Street is just that. The sense of community and camaraderie in our common room at lunch time is like nothing else, not least because of the daily “The Times” quiz that we answer as a group!

Although being a pupil requires a lot of hard work and dedication, I have of course enjoyed the many social events that have been in the calendar of late! I have enjoyed attending both the Birmingham and Wolverhampton Law Society Dinners, and more recently our Chambers New Year’s Party. As ever, these social events are the perfect opportunity to move the gallows sense of humour that is so often heard in the robing rooms, to the dance floor.

Over the coming weeks, I will be preparing my application for tenancy at Cornwall Street. This, for many pupils, feels like the final bridge of uncertainty to cross. However, given the unfaltering support and kindness shown to me from chambers over the last year, I cannot imagine wanting to be anywhere else.

My first three months

December 12, 2019
Written by Shannon O’Connor, First Six Pupil

My first three months of pupillage have been spent predominately in the crown court with my supervisor, Jonathan Veasey-Pugh.

My supervisor defended in a trial that lasted three weeks, with seven counts on the indictment.  The presence of the jury is of course one of the many things that sets criminal law apart from other areas of practice.  There is nothing quite like the excitement when you are called back into court to hear the verdicts of those twelve men and women.  In that trial, they could not return a verdict on the count of perverting the course of justice and then there was the question of whether the process for that allegation was going to happen all over again!

There is a great sense of camaraderie at the Bar and this extends to pupils.  In Chambers, there are always a few people in the common room to have a chat with and regale with stories of the day’s events.  At court, despite HMCTS’s best efforts to divert robing rooms for daily meetings and remove dining areas (sometimes to be replaced by vending machines), this camaraderie is very much alive and well.  Some of the aspects of the gallows humour can jar a little but I appreciate that it, along with the rest of the robing room “banter” (of varying degrees of wit), is probably a necessary, and much welcome, antidote to the stresses of the career.

There have also been quite a few events to attend. I enjoyed attending the Birmingham Law Society Annual Dinner and experiencing the strong sense of community that exists in the legal profession here.  At the Annual Bar and Young Bar Conference, I had the pleasure of hearing Baroness Hale’s speech about the first 100 years of women in law, as well as what the next century might hold for us.  Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, the Secret Barrister’s appearance during a panel discussion for young barristers was via a closely guarded laptop! The Criminal Bar Association Winter Conference, as well as covering updates in crime and sentencing, featured a keynote speech from Lady Justice Macur. The overall message of this speech was that, despite the many challenges facing the profession at the moment, the future is positive.

Since commencing pupillage, I have been given two noting briefs. This is the only type of paid work a pupil can undertake in their first six.  The first one involved making notes of the evidence and outcome during a three-day trial in the magistrates’ court, for use in parallel family proceedings.  Receiving my first brief, albeit a noting brief, felt like a milestone and has increased my eagerness to be on my feet.