Charlotte Noddings

The process of obtaining pupillage is a daunting one. During the application process, every candidate is aware that there are thousands of others, just like them, applying for the same role. In that cloud of anxiety and stress it is easier to apply for a pupillage at a chambers that is not necessarily right for you. However, while you are battling to be the perfect fit, it is equally important that you join a chambers which is right for you.

So what is important to you? For us, it was the opportunity to work in an environment where we would be supported, not pitted against each other. At Exchange Chambers, every single pupil is taken on with a view to tenancy. The decision as to whether you become a tenant is entirely down to your own work, achievements and progress. Not only does this relieve unnecessary pressure that you’re being outperformed by your peers, it means that you are able to build supportive relationships with your fellow pupils.

Emily and I moved to Leeds to start pupillage with no local friends, no family nearby and no knowledge of the city. Having each other’s support during our pupillage was an invaluable asset.

Undoubtedly, the removal of that unnecessary pressure of not knowing whether there is a job in the end, allowed us to be better barristers. It also elevates the pupillage experience, because it allows you to focus on your job without worrying if there is even a seat at the table.

Emily Hassell

I couldn’t agree with Charlotte more.

I started pupillage six months after her and therefore went into my first six as she moved into her second. The best thing about my experience of pupillage at Exchange is the relationships I formed with others. While Exchange is a large set spread across three major cities, there is real camaraderie amongst both junior and senior members, which extends to pupils.

You are informed when you undertake pupillage that everyone is taken on with a view to tenancy. Not only is this an extremely fortunate position but it fosters a sense of true investment in development. It allows you to demonstrate how well you perform with support, opportunity, and encouragement, rather than testing whether you will crumble under the pressure.

I am sure that pupils in other chambers make great relationships, and I am sure that I would have made and sustained great relationships with those around me, even if we were in competition with each other. But I am also sure that the very fact you are not in direct competition brings a different quality to the dynamic.

I was so fortunate to spend the first six months of my time at Chambers side by side with Charlotte. The knowledge, experience, skill and support that was so freely shared and gratefully received was a breath of fresh air in otherwise unchartered territory.


Bramble Badenach-Nicolson

Advocacy exercises elevated my pupillage experience at Hailsham.

Having secured tenancy at a criminal set and moved to a civil set as a probationary tenant, I appreciate that some junior barristers will be on their feet more frequently than others. However, whether you are a chancery or criminal, tax or family pupil, advocacy training gives you a head start for life at the Bar.

I have had days in court where I have drawn from the confidence I gained during my advocacy exercises; reminding myself that I had undertaken cross-examination exercises and made complex submissions in front of senior members of Chambers was instantly reassuring. All the more so when the role of the witness, for example, is played by a member of Chambers whose task it is to make cross-examination as challenging as possible! That is especially true of the first day of second six (and my first day in the County Court) when you do not know what to expect and must project confidence in front of your client and your opponent.

Advocacy training, much like mooting, encourages you to pre-empt questions from a judge or come-backs from a tricky witness and is helpful preparation for the unexpected reality of ‘real’ court. At least during the first six months of pupillage, it is easy to read, watch and absorb what is going on around you without actively engaging with the issues and thinking independently of your supervisor. Advocacy exercises force you to think differently and to be able to summarise key points concisely while on your feet. This is such an important skill, be it when drafting pleadings, explaining an issue to a client or simply asking someone for help in Chambers.

Of course, the feedback you receive is just as helpful as doing the exercise itself. While daunting, to receive three or four-to-one coaching from barristers at the top of their game is invaluable. I regularly re-use phrases members of Chambers have used in feedback in my own hearings. It is also fulfilling as a pupil to be able to show that you have reflected on the feedback and improved between exercises. While this is hopefully achievable in written assessments, as a pupil, improvement is more tangible when you feel more confident with each advocacy session.

Advocacy exercises are also an opportunity to prove oneself with regards to the tenancy decision. While the same can be said for written assessments, just like a written pupillage application compared with a pupillage interview, when the tenancy decision is made, it is reassuring to know that members of Chambers have experienced your advocacy first-hand and have seen how you react to feedback.

Moreover, as a future applicant and/or pupil, I think it says a lot about a Chambers if members (including silks) are prepared to give up their time to help you grow as a junior advocate with a rigorous advocacy programme.


Charlotte Wilk

It is genuinely difficult to pick a stand-out aspect of Gatehouse Chambers’ pupillage. There were so many things that enhanced my training during my third six (from the twice-weekly CPR quiz to the countless shadowing opportunities with supervisors). The environment in Chambers was incredibly supportive from day one, in every respect. I remember meeting the practice managers on my first day and discussing the roadmap for my practice; I recall tenants being very clear from the outset that we could always call them if we needed to speak with someone about an issue. I had so many conversations with members of Chambers in nerve-wracking moments before hearings. I therefore consider that the best aspect of Chambers’ training was the authentic open-door policy, and pastoral support. Without fail, there would be someone on hand in Chambers, from a junior to a silk, who would be willing to speak at length about a legal or ethical issue. The practice team and staff were similarly willing to help with anything that we might need.

The open-door policy was also very much reflected in the welcoming social atmosphere in Chambers. I have lost count of the number of opportunities there have been to socialise throughout pupillage, which fostered a legitimate collegiate atmosphere whereby members, pupils, and staff at all levels of seniority are valued. After around two weeks into pupillage, I had already been to lunch with members of Chambers around five or six times. Playing Jenga with the QCs and having a curry night with the PI/Clinical Negligence Team has equipped me with the confidence to approach anyone about conundrums arising in my work. For me, the team mentality in Chambers has been a much-needed antidote to the strange and oftentimes isolating experience of a pandemic pupillage. As I had studied and trained for the Bar in the time of COVID, Chambers made a concerted effort to expose me to a range of work; above all, the frequent contact with my three supervisors also made learning by osmosis especially effective. I start life as a tenant equipped with the skills I need to build my practice, but also with an embarrassing track-record of pub quiz blunders.


Carola Binney and Will Cook

In common with many other sets of Chambers, pupillage at 4 New Square consists of three ‘seats’ across a period of 12 months. In each seat, we sat with a different member of Chambers as our pupil supervisor. We undertook written work for our supervisors, shadowed them in their own work (including in court hearings) and generally gained experience of their areas of practice. In addition, throughout the year, were set four written assignments by members of Chambers other than our supervisors. These were formally assessed, including by way of a one-on-one meeting with the member of Chambers in question, where we would be asked to explain and justify the conclusions we had reached.

One thing that set Chambers apart, however, was the regularity and detail of the feedback we were given. That was true not only in respect of our written work (both that undertaken each week for our supervisors and in formal assessments) but also of our progress generally, throughout the pupillage year. Review meetings with the head of the Pupillage Committee, both formal and informal, were scheduled at regular intervals. These took place on the basis of a written progress report received from our supervisors. The result was that there was always complete transparency about how the year was progressing, and – from our perspective – never any sense of being kept in the dark prior to receiving the decision on whether we would be offered tenancy. That was helpful in itself, but also meant that we received targeted and clear feedback on exactly what needed to be done to improve at each stage of the year.

The other aspect of pupillage which stood out to us was the focus within Chambers on developing the pupils’ oral advocacy skills, in preparation for full-time practice. Throughout the year, in addition to the written assignments, we took part in two moots against our fellow pupils. These moots were judged either by senior members of Chambers, or former members of Chambers who now sit as judges in either the High Court or Court of Appeal. The opportunity to practise advocacy in front of, and receive feedback from, people of such seniority was invaluable. We also, during the second six months of pupillage, were able to accept instructions and appear in our own right as advocates in court hearings. There is ultimately no substitute for practising oral advocacy in real cases before real judges. The experience of having done so while still a pupil allowed us to build confidence and made the transition to tenancy much smoother. 

Nineteen chambers made it into Legal Cheek’s Revealed: The best chambers for training 2022. The full list and details of the survey can be found here.