The pupils' views
12 month pupil - Joined September 2015
Pupillage is a bizarre year by any standards. Amidst the frenzied competition to enter one of the only remaining professions where the number of vacancies is effectively rationed, it is easy for aspiring barristers to lose sight of what exactly it is they’re striving for. The short answer is of course, pupillage, but the better one is entry into a hugely rewarding way of life. I do not say ‘way of life’ lightly, for one soon learns that this is not your typical 9 to 5, five-day-a-week sort of job. Sure it is about the law—the cases and voluminous statute-books you had to read as a student—but also so very much more. Pupillage is the first opportunity to learn exactly what that ‘more’ consists of.
Hardwicke structures the pupillage year so as to ensure that pupils are provided the fullest possible exposure to learning from their supervisors before being allowed to handle their own cases during the second six-month period. In order to ease the transition into appearing in Court in one’s own right—and unlike many chambers—pupils are not expected to begin practising and start with a new supervisor simultaneously. Rather, each pupil will be supervised by three (as opposed to the more common four) supervisors, each for a period of four months. Not only does this avoid the needless stress of being introduced to what is usually a new area of law at the same time as learning to manage your own cases, but it allows each of your supervisors an additional month to scrutinise your work and assess your progress.
I benefited enormously from this careful structuring of the pupillage year. My first supervisor specialises in general commercial, construction and insurance matters, and gradually exposed me to these areas by way of predominantly written and advisory work. I found this approach particularly helpful in learning the substantive law of these specialist areas while also acting as a comfortable bridge between my more academically-focused student days and then how to practically apply such knowledge. This latter element involved giving a presentation to chambers on a recent legal topic of practical importance within just a few weeks of starting as a pupil.
My second stage of pupillage introduced me to an entirely new practice area (insolvency), which overlapped with being instructed in my own right in a wide variety of commercial and property-related cases. In the lead-up to this period, my co-pupil and I were required to participate in mock proceedings, after each of which we were provided detailed feedback. I was also encouraged to shadow more junior members of chambers to Court who had, until recently, handled the sort of matters now before me. This first-hand learning was invaluable and emphasised the collegiate approach taken by chambers in ensuring that everyone—from highly-experienced pupil supervisors to the most junior tenants—have a role in training its future members.
As perhaps to be expected, the third and final chapter of pupillage was both the most challenging and intense. In addition to handling a full caseload of my own, I was still expected to complete assignments for my final supervisor and other members of chambers on time. Not only did meeting these high expectations require strict time management, but also a certain intellectual and social flexibility—being able to conference with a client facing eviction in some far-flung county court in the morning only to draft an advice or sit in on a conference involving a multi-million pound contractual dispute in the afternoon. Add to that the pressures of a looming tenancy decision…
And yet, the rigorous training, thoughtful feedback and nurturing support—from the silks right the way through to every member of the practice team—ensured that I now look back on this formative year as a genuine privilege. Hardwicke is an inviting and truly special chambers, filled with highly-talented practitioners eager to share their knowledge with pupils. From being encouraged to attend every networking and professional development opportunity to going out to the pub after work with colleagues, I was always made to feel welcome from day one. As I now start life out as a tenant, I am grateful for the strong foundations laid at the place I am now delighted to call my professional home.
12 month pupil - Joined September 2015
Identifying as LGBT+, my biggest fear of pupillage was that I wouldn’t be accepted in a set of chambers or that I wouldn’t feel comfortable being myself around other members. However, from day one I was made to feel welcome and I never once felt that I couldn’t be myself whilst at work. In fact, throughout the course of my pupillage I became very involved in Freebar, an LGBT+ forum established by Hardwicke and other leading sets to promote inclusion at the Bar and Freehold, an LGBT+ network for individuals working within property.
Hardwicke has a strong support network in place for pupils and I knew throughout the year that there was always someone I could turn to if I needed to talk. There is no denying that pupillage is an incredibly tough year and having that support network in place made a huge difference to my experience.
In terms of work, Hardwicke were very sensitive to the fact that I wished to develop a practice primarily in property and went to great effort to cater for this by placing me with property supervisors. However, to ensure that I experienced different areas of practice in chambers, I was assigned wingers who practiced in both commercial and personal injury work.
Then, on the run up to starting ‘on my feet,’ I was given lots of opportunities to go along to court with junior members of chambers to get a feel for the type of work that I would be instructed on in the early years of practice. Hardwicke ensure that you are comfortable with being on your feet before starting second six, with various opportunities to develop your skills through advocacy exercises and presentations.
During second six I balanced a busy practice, appearing in court multiple times per week, in addition to completing paperwork for my supervisor, wingers and other members of chambers in preparation for the tenancy decision. The practice team are very aware of the impending tenancy decision and were always willing to help re-arrange my diary to ensure that I had sufficient time to complete paperwork to put me in the best possible position come decision time.
Despite the steep learning curve, my pupillage has been a brilliant year which has provided me with a solid foundation for my first year of tenancy.
3rd six pupil - Joined October 2015
Hardwicke offers an excellent experience for pupils.
A very forward-looking set, Hardwicke’s attitude is that pupils are an investment in the future and therefore the emphasis is on training and development suited to the pupil’s needs - conducted proactively, transparently and flexibly.
I came to Hardwicke as a third six pupil. In my twelve-month pupillage elsewhere, I had not been given conduct of any cases and had never been on my feet. During pupillage at Hardwicke, I was in court regularly, handling my own cases from beginning to end, as well as assisting as a junior on more complex matters. I got every bit of help I needed, and lots of feedback at every stage – not just on legal points, but on how to think through a case strategically, and how to be useful to a client.
Hardwicke creates a genuinely welcoming and supportive environment for pupils. On any view, pupillage is a tough process, but through true collegiality, Hardwicke makes it as easy as possible.
12 month pupil - Joined September 2014
Pupillage is undoubtedly a difficult and stressful year, but everyone at Hardwicke did their utmost to make it as enjoyable as possible. Even before starting pupillage, I was struck by how friendly the set is – the positive atmosphere shone through even as early as the interview stage. Throughout the year, it was obviously important to impress with my work, but members of chambers were also eager to get to know the pupils, whether through working together, networking with solicitors, or at chambers social events.
In terms of the work itself, a real effort was made to accommodate my interests, and I was very fortunate with the supervisors I was placed with and the cases I saw. The bulk of the work done for my supervisors was on ‘live’ cases. I often found myself preparing several different pieces of work for one individual case as it progressed, and was given the opportunity to provide real input. Sitting alongside my supervisors while they worked gave valuable insight into the skills needed for successful practice: building client relationships, managing workload, and thinking tactically about litigation.
For each supervisor, I was also assigned to two ‘wingers’, for whom I completed a number of pieces of written work. This was predominantly based on cases which had already concluded, or which had advanced beyond the stage at which I was asked to consider a particular issue. Being able to compare and contrast the work of a member of chambers with my own was immensely helpful and instructive, and I was always struck by the generosity of the wingers in the time and effort they put into helping me learn.
Throughout the year, there was an emphasis on feedback being transparent and thorough. I was never in any doubt as to what area to focus on trying to improve, and was given an enormous amount of help to achieve that improvement. It always felt like the emphasis was more on training than assessment: a preparation to succeed in the tenancy decision.
This approach followed through into my second six and tenancy. My own caseload built up slowly at first, but I found myself being progressively busier in the run up to the tenancy decision. Members of chambers went out of their way to support me with my own work during second six – from strategic advice and offers to check over pieces of work, down to small practical points. That support is still very much a feature of life as a junior tenant, and I’m very glad to have received such a good preparation for practice in such a welcoming environment.
12 month pupil - joined September 2014
I began my pupillage at Hardwicke in September 2014 and was made to feel very welcome from my first day. There is a genuine ‘open-door’ policy and a friendly atmosphere, which was a great help in settling in. I was particularly grateful for the support and encouragement of the junior members of chambers during the year. Their advice was invaluable when I was negotiating the steep learning curve of pupillage.
Over the course of the year, I had three supervisors who practised in different areas – commercial, property and construction law. All three had successful, interesting practices with high quality work. I had the opportunity to see a variety of styles and approaches to working as a barrister, which was valuable as a pupil. Through observing and working for my supervisors, I learned an enormous amount during the year. I was struck by how generous all three were with their time. Despite being busy, they were always willing to take time to explain things to me and to ensure I was learning from what they were doing.
Additionally, I was assigned two members of chambers as ‘wingers’ to supplement each supervisor. They practised in different areas to my supervisors to enable me to gain a broad experience of the work done by different members of chambers. I did a number of pieces of assessed work for each winger which formed part of the final tenancy decision.
One thing that I particularly appreciated over the year was the excellent system of feedback and support that Hardwicke operates. I felt that the pupillage process was transparent and I was always fully aware of what was required of me. The feedback took the form of ongoing discussions with my supervisors, feedback on each piece of work I did and quarterly review sessions with the Head of the Pupillage Committee. I was grateful for this modern approach to pupillage which helped me to learn a huge amount and perform at my best during the year.
3rd six pupil - joined October 2013
I joined Hardwicke as a ‘third six’ pupil in October 2013. I came from a commercial chancery chambers where I hadn’t had the opportunity to do my own work during my second six, so my third six was a steep learning curve. As well as getting to grips with an area of law that was largely new to me (property law), I quickly had to get used to going to court, working with solicitors and clients, and managing my own workload alongside assessed work for my supervisor and other members of chambers. However, I found everyone in chambers to be very supportive and keen to help me out. There is definitely an ‘open door’ policy in chambers; I soon realised that when I was struggling with something there would always be someone around to chat it through.
The thing which I found most striking about pupillage at Hardwicke is the inclusive atmosphere. From day one I was encouraged by members of chambers and by the practice team to get involved in the life of chambers, to attend networking events and to begin building relationships with solicitors. The Bar Standards Board doesn’t regulate third six pupillages in the same way as twelve-month pupillages, but I never felt in any way overlooked or less important. In these chambers, third six is an established route to tenancy, and I don’t think I could have found a more welcoming place to complete it.
12 month pupil - joined October 2013
I joined Hardwicke as a 12-month pupil expecting the year to be difficult. While this was accurate, ultimately I found the challenge and the learning experience very rewarding.
During the year I sat with three supervisors, all of whom were ready to share their time and knowledge and took the role of supervisor very seriously. I would be encouraged to ask questions about, for example, tactics or cross-examination and found discussing these matters highly instructive. I felt that I was involved in my supervisors’ day-to-day practice and that the work I was set had specific objectives for my development. While the work was demanding at times, the hours were relatively comfortable and I was never set administrative tasks that had no benefit for me.
Different supervisors take different approaches. One benefit of spending four months sitting with a supervisor was that it allowed me to see various styles of practice working successfully. I could then focus on what approach suited me best and attempt to incorporate that into my own work.
Pupils also do work for other members of chambers throughout the year both as winger-supervisors and informally. I had the opportunity to experience a wide range of practice areas and to focus on developing the core paperwork skills: research, advising, drafting pleadings, preparing skeletons arguments etc. Feedback is taken seriously and is generally constructive and detailed. This is extremely useful coming from a wide range of barristers. There are also a number of reviews throughout the year leading up to the tenancy decision which point out the areas where work needs improvement. Overall, my pupillage was well-structured and I felt that I always knew what was expected of me.
The second six months were a welcome change of pace from working in chambers. After all the advocacy training with the Inns, at chambers and on the BPTC I was very keen to start court work. I was in court on average three times per week, starting slowly and then more frequently as the six months progressed. The chambers environment is extremely supportive and members are always ready to help out and advise on procedure, law and the approach to take to advocacy. While there will always be an element of the unknown when pupils start on their feet, I never felt completely out of my depth.
I joined with three third six pupils from sets with excellent reputations and so was naturally concerned that there was an element of competition for places, particularly after all three were taken on before my decision. It is reassuring to know that there is sufficient work and space in chambers that the tenancy decision is taken on merit and that fellow pupils are not being pitched against one another.
On the social side, I was pleased that the atmosphere in chambers was friendly and far removed from a stereotypically hierarchical and stuffy chambers.
3rd six pupil - joined April 2012
When I received the phone call offering me a third six with Hardwicke’s property team my first feeling was excitement. Then I felt terrified. My pupillage had been in public law and I had very limited knowledge of property law. Hardwicke therefore offered me the opportunity of completing my pupillage with them (I had done 10 months at my old set) to allow me to get additional training. And then it started. Early mornings and late nights. Most weekends. There I was with my title deeds, plans and property books trying to get my head around this new, and extremely complex, area of practice. It was a steep learning curve – but I had the whole of chambers supporting me. Everyone took time to answer my often basic, and sometime outright daft, questions without ever making me feel stupid. One member even took time to give me tutorials covering principles of ownership of land, trusts, mortgages etc. The barristers and Practice Management Team were very supportive and I felt that they really wanted me to succeed - and, with extremely hard work, I did.
12 month pupil - joined October 2011
It was apparent to me from the outset that Hardwicke takes pupillage very seriously. Members of chambers invest an incredible amount of their time and effort into training, guiding and giving feedback. This is particularly true of the advocacy exercises. In my year there were three of these for the twelve-month pupils, one application before a district judge and two mock civil trials. Every attempt was made to ensure the experience was as realistic as possible, from taking instructions from the client in the 10 minutes before the hearing to the judge delivering an ex tempore judgment.
The mock trials certainly bring out the inner thespian in the members of chambers who play the role of client or witness. They seemed to relish making sure we experienced every potential professional difficulty all at once in one small claims trial! The whole experience was nerve-racking but great practice for when I got on my feet in the second six.
In addition to all the training and support, for me pupillage at Hardwicke was made easier by the well-structured and transparent pupillage assessment process. For each seat I knew who I had to work for (both pupil supervisors and wingers) and how many pieces of work I had to complete for each. Feedback was then discussed with each person for whom I had worked, together with a review session with my main supervisor after each seat. This was important because it allowed me to relax (so far as one can as a pupil!) and concentrate on my work. Having wingers enabled me to make the most of the expertise within chambers and work for a whole range of members across my areas of interest, gaining a broad range of experience and building up links within chambers which have stood me in good stead for my first year of tenancy.
12 month pupil - joined October 2009
I was a pupil at Hardwicke in 2009. It was a fantastic year and I learnt more than I ever thought possible. I had not decided which area of law I was interested in at that time, so I was able to work across a broad range of practice areas.
I received a huge amount of support. What really makes the difference at Hardwicke is that everyone is so friendly and they want you to do well. My supervisors were supportive both professionally and personally. I was invited along to seminars and business development opportunities right from the start of pupillage. For example I attended the Insurance Division’s client party held at the Gherkin and many other drinks events with solicitors. This enabled me to hit the ground running as soon as I became a tenant, as I had already made good contacts within the industry.
My first six months were spent with two different Pupil Supervisors. I was given sets of papers and told to approach them like I was the counsel in charge of the case and then I would be given a copy from the supervisor to compare my work to theirs at the end. I also did work for a number of other people in chambers which was really helpful for me to get to know members. You are not expected from the start of pupillage to produce an amazing piece of work on a par with your supervisor; it is natural to make mistakes and the whole point of being a pupil is that you are there to learn and develop.
In my second six months I was in court almost daily doing possession hearings, small claims and infant settlements. The work built really quickly and, before I knew it, I had moved on to bigger trials and applications.
It is a collegiate set and there is always someone to talk to and have a cup of coffee with when you need support or just fancy a chat. I have been to jazz evenings, pizza and quiz nights and parties all held in chambers. Hardwicke is ambitious and modern, and there are many opportunities for those that want them.