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BLOG: Pupillage

01/12/2020

Alan Kent QC, Head of Pupillage at Carmelite Chambers, gives an insight into Carmelite’s commitment to its Pupils.


As someone very famous once (nearly) sang

“ I believe the pupils are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way…..”

For decades, senior members of our profession have passed on their knowledge, experience and skills to newly qualified barristers. We are determined to ensure that good quality and properly trained barristers represent the public, in public. We are open to constant scrutiny from our peers, judges, instructing solicitors, jurors, the media but most importantly, our clients.

A barrister not only represents their client, but also is a representative of the set of chambers to which they belong. The way a barrister behaves is the best advert of the quality of a set of chambers. It is therefore in all of our interests to ensure they meet the high standards that we strive to reach.

Throughout our careers, we remember our pupil supervisors and our pupillage experience. One often hears talk in robing rooms of ‘Oh, Judge X or Y QC was my pupil supervisor’.  We should all remember with pride and affection the people who introduced us to the nuances and practicalities of life at the Independent Bar.

I am privileged to be in charge of pupillage at Carmelite Chambers. It is a vital role, and it is my responsibility to ensure that our pupils are well prepared for the future, to become members of Chambers, and to flourish in their careers, ensuring that the strong reputation of Chambers continues for future generations.

Currently, criminal courts are a long way from providing a ‘normal’ service, and many regulatory tribunals are now wholly digital forums, but we have striven to provide our current first six pupils with as close to a ‘normal’ pupillage as we can. We cannot overstate the importance of going to court, listening and observing. Fortunately, we are very busy and our junior tenants and third six pupils are physically in court every day. Our first six pupils accompany them, to gain as much experience as they can before they are ‘on their feet’ in April 2021.

We believe that Chambers can and should do more than this for their pupils. So, starting every October, as part of our broader pastoral support programme we hold weekly advocacy sessions for pupils (currently by Zoom) in which, amongst other things, our pupils practise the key skills they will need in their own practice: how to prepare cases; bail applications; cross-examination; closing speeches; and mitigation. We are very proud of our advocacy programme, to which many members of Chambers and some of our instructing solicitors contribute. More on our advocacy programme, and the make-up of our pupillage can be found in one pupil’s description on our website, here.

We are an open and approachable set of chambers who treat our pupils with respect. We do not take pupils for the sake of covering low-paid magistrates’ court work: we take pupils because we are committed to building a strong and diverse junior Bar. Following the conclusion of the formal twelve-month pupillage, we usually offer our pupils an extra six months to continue to work and develop their practices, before the end of which we invite applications for tenancy.

Pupils are our future. We must invest properly. We will continue to offer pupillages, even though some sets have decided not to. We are very lucky in that, despite the difficulties faced by many sets as a result of the pandemic, Carmelite Chambers is in a strong financial position, and its members have very busy diaries. We will always ensure that our pupillages are funded well above the minimum awards set by the Bar Standards Board, and shall continue to cover the cost of our pupils’ training courses and out-of-London travel expenses. We understand that finances can be a barrier to entry to the profession, and are committed to ensuring that no applicant or pupil is at a disadvantage by virtue of their background.  We very much encourage applications from those of ‘non-traditional’ backgrounds.

Our October 2021 pupillage selection process will resume in January 2021. All second-round interview candidates will be contacted individually to inform them of our arrangements for COVID-safe interviews.

Applications for pupillage commencing in October 2022 will open shortly. Further details will be published on our pupillage pages, and via our LinkedIn and Twitter pages.

01/12/2020

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