A Junior Tenant’s Perspective
By Paige Mason-Thom
Pupillage Year: 2018/19
I started pupillage at 2TG in October 2018, along with my two co-pupils. I was drawn to 2TG for a number of reasons, chief among them the quality and breadth of training that 2TG offered and the collegiate nature of Chambers’ life.
Pupillage at 2TG is structured so as to prepare pupils for a thriving and wide-ranging junior practice. The year is split into three seats, the first two lasting three months each and the final seat comprising the whole of the second six. All three of my pupil supervisors were extremely talented teachers as well as barristers, which made learning from them a pleasure. Between them, their practices covered the vast majority of Chambers’ specialities, allowing me to get involved in a wide range of cases during pupillage. This included a multi-day clinical negligence trial, an employment claim relating to alleged bullying and harassment at an NHS Trust and a multi-million pound commercial dispute (in which I was later instructed in my own right). Unlike many Chambers, pupils at 2TG are closely involved in their supervisors’ work – instead of simply undertaking research or working on old papers, I would be tasked with providing first drafts of pleadings, Advices and skeleton arguments for my supervisors’ ongoing cases, which was immensely satisfying.
Alongside day-to-day work with pupil supervisors, 2TG also provides structured training to help pupils hone their skills ready for practice. Our pupillage programme starts with 2-3 days of intensive induction covering key skills and Chambers’ main areas of practice. Throughout the year, pupils also undertake a number of advocacy sessions run by members of Chambers to prepare them for taking on their own cases, as well as a variety of masterclasses in specific areas of practice.
The training provided during pupillage undoubtedly equips pupils well for making the transition into independent practice. Building your own practice starts early – pupils at 2TG are regularly instructed in their own name and tend to appear in Court around 2 to 3 times a week throughout their second six. From the beginning, pupils and new tenants are encouraged to start shaping their practice in line with their own interests. This is supported by an excellent clerking team, who work hard to ensure that junior members are kept busy with a varied diet of paperwork and hearings.
In the 18 months since I became a tenant, I have acted alongside another member of Chambers in a multi-million-pound arbitration and have been instructed as a junior in a high-value claim arising from water damage to a recently renovated luxury home. In addition, I have been instructed as sole counsel in a wide range of smaller disputes – including acting for a landlord facing a claim for neurological injury sustained in a rented flat, defending a claim for psychological injury following allegedly botched cosmetic treatment and advising NHS Trusts on claims ranging from allegedly negligent bladder surgery to a patient’s premature death. I am in Court frequently, often against opponents of a significantly higher call, which means that I can continue to develop my skills as a confident and effective advocate.
While the quality of the training on offer was an important factor in my decision to undertake pupillage at 2TG, it was not the only one. In my view, one of 2TG’s most distinguishing features is its supportiveness and collegiality – something which is evident both during pupillage and beyond. It is futile to suggest that pupillage – the fabled ‘year-long interview’ – can ever be entirely stress-free, but 2TG works hard to mitigate the pressure on pupils as far as possible. Crucially, pupillage at 2TG is non-competitive – we don’t accept more pupils than we genuinely want to take on as new tenants. This makes a huge difference and means that your co-pupils are your closest allies, rather than potential competition. Each pupil is also assigned a mentor – a junior barrister that they can go to for advice or reassurance in complete confidence. Finally, 2TG is scrupulously transparent in terms of feedback and progress, so that pupils know where they stand at each step along the way. In my experience, these measures go a long way to ensuring that the pupillage process is enjoyable, as well as effective. This sense of collegiality continues into tenancy – Chambers has a strong ‘open door’ culture, so there is always someone willing to act as a sounding board when you are working through a knotty legal problem.
I have never once regretted my choice to undertake pupillage at 2TG. The training it gave me has allowed me to build a thriving, wide-ranging practice and approach any case that might cross my desk with confidence. At the time of writing, the Covid-19 pandemic continues to affect the lives and practices of everyone at the Bar. However, it is a testament to the strength of 2TG’s reputation, its ability to bring in reliable and good-quality work and the ceaseless efforts of its clerking team that even the most junior tenants like me have emerged with practices (and finances) intact.