Pupillage at Mountford is an exhausting but exhilarating and rewarding 18 months.
Pupillage is divided into three-month periods, with pupils being assigned a different supervisor for each. This system allows pupils to gain exposure of different styles and practices but, in an age where digital working and working from home are increasingly common, also means that pupils get to know more members and feel part of chambers.
Pupils’ first six is spent with supervisors. Pupils will be in court with their supervisors almost every day, observing very busy practices. In my first six I observed trials in respect of violent, financial, dishonesty and sexual offences, a murder at the Old Bailey and hearings in the Court of Appeal, along with countless procedural hearings, PTPHs and some sentencing hearings.
Time in first six spent not in court is often spent in chambers in conferences or drafting. Whilst pupils are encouraged to help other members of chambers where there are interesting cases or work to be done, we are expected to be involved in all aspects of our supervisors’ work – giving pupils a full picture and experience from which to draw when the fateful day comes at the beginning of April when the reins are off and we are let loose on the magistrates’ court.
Second six starts with that first foray into, for me, Ealing mags. The inevitable nerves are significantly mitigated by the extensive preparation from chambers’ advocacy training. The training runs with weekly sessions starting in your first weeks of first six. The training covers all aspects of practice in the lower courts and covers not only the obvious (bail applications, pleas in mitigation etc) but also the not-so-obvious-and-panic-inducing aspects of practice most won’t have any experience of (ranging from which forms to fill out in the Magistrates’ Court, to dealing with defendants with mental illness).
Second six pupils are in court every day, often multiple times per day. From first appearances and bail applications, we quickly graduated to summary trials and short Crown Court hearings (mentions, PTPHs, appeals), leading to Crown Court trials. The learning curve is steep and often daunting, but with chambers’ continuing advocacy training, the ever-supportive atmosphere in the pupils’ room, and a bank of supervisors and junior tenants to call in case of emergency, I always felt supported and encouraged.
With that support, training and camaraderie, pupillage at Mountford has been the most rewarding experience of my career thus far. You will love it!