A pupil barrister’s perspective of pupillage at the employed barPepperells
At the beginning of 2018, Pepperells in house chambers department were successful in receiving approval from the Bar Standards Board (BSB) to train pupil barristers. I was lucky enough to be offered pupillage at Pepperells in April 2018 and we have another pupil due to start her pupillage in January 2019.
In October in-house pupillages hit the headlines when DWF announced that they were looking to recruit their first pupil barristers. Since this announcement there has been a noticeable interest amongst prospective barristers around in-house pupillages. The employed bar was not an option that was explored in depth during careers talks at university despite around 18% of practicing barristers being at the employed bar. I am using this blog to address some of the questions I have been asked about my experience of pupillage at the employed bar.
The question that I am asked the most is what is the difference between the employed bar and the self-employed bar. The main difference is obviously that I receive a regular monthly salary. The financial stability is a huge advantage if you are looking to secure a mortgage in the near future. Further, I work closely alongside my instructing solicitors which means that I am much more involved in the progression of our cases. For example, I was recently involved in a case where I completed a site visit with my supervisor, professional client and lay client so that we could visualise the layout of the crime scene. As I working so closely with my instructing solicitors they have been able to observe my progression which has resulted in me being instructed in more serious cases at an earlier stage in my pupillage.
I am also regularly asked whether I have the same amount of exposure to advocacy as other pupils. There seems to be a common consensus that employed barristers don’t undertake as much advocacy as at the self-employed bar. From my experience this is simply not true. At Pepperells there are three other barristers who are in court daily accepting instructions in criminal, family, immigration and civil matters. In my first six, I shadowed my pupil supervisor in countless criminal prosecution and defence trials across the circuit involving charges of rape, GBH and murder. I also observed the firm’s solicitor advocates in family and immigration hearings. I believe that I have been exposed to a large variety of advocacy at the same level as my fellow pupils at the independent bar.
There is also a misconception that progression at the employed bar is limited. I can only speak from my observations but it appears that this is something that is changing. I am currently in my second six and I have already been instructed in Crown Court trials, family proceedings and I have spent weeks prosecuting in the Magistrates court. I am applying to become a level one prosecutor and I hope to apply for my level two in 2019. I feel that my progression has been actively encouraged at Pepperells and I don’t feel in any way restricted by my place at the employed bar.
The change in the progression of employed barristers is demonstrated by the fact that in 2018 the first employed barristers took silk. This clearly signifies the changing attitudes towards the level of advocacy and professional development available at the employed bar.