Pupillage

The application for pupils to commence pupillage in September 2024 is now closed.

We will be offering up to three 12 month pupillages. Each pupil will sit with four different supervisors, completing “seats” in public law, environment and planning, commercial and construction and personal injury and clinical negligence. 

Our pupillage award is £70,000 of which £5,000 will be by way of guaranteed earnings in the second six months. The pupillage award is payable in equal instalments across the 12-month pupillage. During the second six month period in which pupils are “on their feet” they may earn more than the £5,000 guaranteed earnings, taking their income above £70,000: the focus, however remains on training rather than earning during the pupillage year.  Up to £15,000 of the £70,000 award may be drawn down in advance over the Bar Professional Training Course year and/or for relevant postgraduate study in the year before the commencement of pupillage (with pro rata reductions in instalments during the pupillage year). This can be discussed as necessary with us at the relevant time. Deferred pupillages are not something we seek to offer but may be granted in exceptional circumstances.

Pupils at 39 are not assessed in competition with one another. Each is marked against a set of objective criteria and is provided with clear feedback throughout the year.  We have a high conversion and retention rate of pupils to tenants. We make our final tenancy decision based on the strengths of each individual pupil.

On Wednesday 11th January 2023 we held a pupillage application webinar. Those who were unable to attend are encouraged to view the recording here.

Pupillage Applications

39 Essex Chambers is a member of the Pupillage Gateway.

The Pupillage Gateway application window typically opens in early January and closes in early February. The full timetable is published on the Pupillage Gateway website.

We strongly recommend that applicants for pupillage undertake an assessed mini-pupillage with us before completing the Pupillage Gateway application form. However, we will consider pupillage applications from, and do not discriminate against, those who have not done a mini-pupillage. Further information in regard to mini-pupillage can be found on the Mini-pupillage page.

Equal Opportunities

Chambers is committed to equal opportunity and to diversity among our staff and members, including supporting flexible working.

We encourage and welcome applications from women, people of minority ethnic origin, people living with a disability and those who identify as LGBT+, as well as candidates from other groups underrepresented in the legal sector. We will make reasonable adjustments to enable candidates living with a disability to demonstrate their suitability for the role.

First round interviews will be conducted remotely; second round interviews will be in person in chambers. Chambers is fully accessible. 

Feedback

Due to the volume of applications we receive for pupillage, we are unable to provide feedback at the paper sift stage or at first round interview stage, but we endeavour to provide feedback for those invited to second round interview on request.

FAQs

-- What does pupillage at 39 Essex Chambers involve?

During the 12 months, each pupil will sit with four successive pupillage supervisors in public law, environment and planning, commercial and construction and personal injury and clinical negligence. Each seat lasts around two months and involves shadowing the work undertaken by supervisors as well as carrying out work under the supervisor’s direction. This is marked by the supervisor and discussed thoroughly with clear feedback provided at the mid-point and completion of each seat.

Chambers provides pupils with all necessary IT equipment and support for the pupillage year and the pupillage award is paid on a monthly basis to assist with the management of finances. In addition to this, chambers operates a careful policy encouraging a healthy work-life balance. Pupils are not expected to carry out work for other members of chambers and a strict 9am-6pm rule is enforced. 

The tenancy decision is usually taken in July. After the tenancy decision is taken, pupils usually remain with their final supervisor until the completion of the pupillage year.  

Pupillage supervisors

One of our greatest strengths is the range of areas in which we practice. We structure pupillage and select our pupillage supervisors to reflect that range. As a broad indication, pupils can expect to sit with two sets of supervisors working in the public law arena and two sets of supervisors working in the private law field. Pupils can therefore expect to see a wide variety of work, both public and private law, during their pupillage, though each individual’s pupillage experience will be different.

Pupils shadow their supervisors in court, conferences and their professional lives in chambers. They get the chance to prepare written submissions, pleadings, advices and other paperwork in the cases in which their pupillage supervisors are involved. They will have the chance to compare their work with their supervisor’s.

As a general rule, we do not permit our pupils to work for members of chambers other than their current pupillage supervisors, except for work for the shadow pupillage panel. We believe pupils learn most from following one person for a sustained period to experience the practicalities of life at the Bar, gain invaluable experience of different styles of advocacy and drafting, and last but not least, build up a rapport with that supervisor.

Second six months

39 Essex Chambers prides itself on the strength of the advocacy of its junior tenants. Pupils are encouraged to develop as advocates early in their careers and should expect to be in court on small claims cases or interim applications in larger matters in the second six months of their pupillage. The exact nature and volume of work will vary from year to year and pupil to pupil but as a rule of thumb, pupils can expect to be in court once or twice a week toward the end of their second six months of pupillage. They may also have the opportunity to do written work – drafting pleadings, advising on matters – and to join larger teams of barristers in the superior courts. Pupils keep all earnings from work undertaken during the second six and do not pay any contribution to chambers on those earnings.

As part of the training requirements laid down by the Bar Council, pupils must also attend the advocacy training course provided by their Inn of Court and an “Advice to Counsel Course” provided by the Bar Council. Pupils also usually complete a forensic accountancy course during the second six months (it must, in any event, be completed by the end of the third year in practice). Chambers pays for all these courses.

Life in chambers

Our pupils work hard, but they are also fully integrated into the life of chambers. We have a reputation as one of the most approachable sets of chambers at the Bar, and we aim to ensure that our pupils share that experience.

We have beautiful, modern, fully-accessible premises in the heart of legal London and we try to make the most of them. Chambers has weekly drinks on a Friday in the clerks’ room and every other Thursday members take it in turn (in groups: we are legion) to buy lunch for the rest of chambers. We have balconies and beautiful views over Lincoln’s Inn to enjoy in the summer and a table football and games room to blow off steam in the winter.

You can see a snapshot of the experiences of one recent pupil below.

Tenancy

Tenancy decisions are usually taken in July. The pupillage supervisors play an important role in recommending pupils for chambers approval, but pupils are also asked to carry out assessed pieces of written work for members of the shadow pupillage panel. This panel consists of between four and six members of chambers, including at least one silk. This allows a broader range of members of chambers to have direct experience of pupils’ work. We do not have a chambers-wide vote. Tenancy decisions are based on how pupils perform in the work carried out for their supervisors and for the assessment panels. 

As part of the decision-making process, we also ask our pupils to undergo an advocacy assessment, full details of which will be provided during pupillage.

We select our tenants using the same criteria we use for selecting our pupils and mini-pupils. Wherever possible, we aim to recruit junior tenants from our own pupils and pride ourselves on the fairness and rigour of our selection procedures. We have no limit on the number of tenants we can take from the pupils: each is assessed on their own merits against objective criteria.

We have a strong tradition of providing effective assistance in finding third six pupillages or tenancies for those who are not successful in obtaining tenancy with us and who wish to pursue a career at the Bar.

-- Why should I apply for pupillage at 39 Essex Chambers?

39 Essex Chambers is one of the biggest and brightest sets at the bar. We have over 60 KCs including 16 female silks; we have over 30 barristers on the Attorney General’s panel of counsel; we also have a large number of barristers who specialise in acting for claimants. We are listed in directories in over x categories and we have offices in London, Kuala Lumpur, Dubai and Singapore. It is a challenging and rewarding place to do pupillage.

Practice areas

We offer a unique mix of public and private law expertise. As the legal directories have often commented, this is one of our greatest strengths. We structure pupillage so that our pupils gain experience of both public and private law during their time with us.

Our pupillage supervisors are drawn from across the range of practice areas. The opportunity to sit with four sets of supervisors in public law, commercial and construction, environment and planning and personal injury and clinical negligence in the course of a 12-month pupillage gives our pupils exposure to a broad range of legal practice in addition to a number of different personalities.

Second six months

We also ensure that our pupils are given the opportunity not just to experience the professional life of a barrister vicariously but also practise in their own right in their second six months. We value and encourage the opportunity for our pupils to develop as advocates. To that end, they are briefed in their own name on County Court matters and interim applications in their second six months, keeping any earnings they make along the way. This work is valuable advocacy experience but remains secondary to the real focus of pupillage: learning from supervisors. Pupils do not generally attend court more than once or twice a week during second six and continue with their supervised work throughout.

Pupillage award

We expect a great deal from our pupils. In return, we expect them to be suitably compensated and offer a generous pupillage award. currently set at £70,000 to include £5,000 guaranteed earnings. Pupils may earn in excess of this sum during their second six.

Life in chambers

We pride ourselves on our friendliness and approachability and believe this attitude is reflected in the experience of our pupils. Moreover, while our pupils work hard during the day, we do not expect them to work late into the night or at weekends.

Tenancy

We understand that the tenancy selection procedure is stressful. We go to great lengths to keep our pupils informed of each stage of the procedure and ensure they are prepared as fully as possible for the selection process.

We are proud of our ability to help those pupils who have not been successful in obtaining tenancy and wish to practice at the Bar obtain either tenancy or third six pupillages in good sets elsewhere.

-- Who are we looking for?

We want to recruit the strongest candidates for pupillage, regardless of their background. We do not discriminate between those with law degrees and those with non-law degrees. We encourage applications from those coming to the Bar later in their careers.

Selection criteria

We apply the same criteria when selecting mini-pupils, pupils and tenants, namely:

  • 1.    Intellectual Ability (incorporates the legal knowledge, skills and attributes element of the BSB threshold competencies.)
    2.    Expressive Ability (both written and oral) (incorporates the practical knowledge, skills attributes and advocacy attributes of the BSB threshold competencies.)
    3.    Interpersonal skills (incorporates the practical knowledge, skills attributes and advocacy attributes of the BSB threshold competencies)
    4.    Commitment, Resilience and Efficiency and the related skills necessary to become a barrister, pursue a successful career at the Bar and to further the interests of Chambers (incorporates the working with others and management of practice elements of the BSB threshold competencies)
    5.    Interests in one or more areas of law in which chambers specialises

We are aware of companies that offer pupillage interview coaching and advice at a high cost. We do not consider purchasing such services as necessary. All four Inns of Court offer advice free of charge. Please see the links below:

Gray’s Inn: https://www.graysinn.org.uk/education/students/career-services
Inner Temple: https://www.innertemple.org.uk/education
Middle Temple: https://www.middletemple.org.uk/education-and-training
Lincoln’s Inn: https://www.lincolnsinn.org.uk/student-members/pupillage-advice/

-- How do I apply for pupillage?

39 Essex Chambers is a member of Pupillage Gateway for applications for pupillage commencing in September 2024.

Key dates: 

4 Jan 2023 applications open on gateway

8 Feb 2023 gateway closes. Candidates are encouraged to submit their applications as early as possible within the window. 

Monday 20 – Thursday 30 March 2023 first round interviews conducted remotely. Candidates for first round are selected on the basis of their gateway applications and in light of our criteria set out above. 

Monday 17 April – Friday 21 April 2023 second round interviews held in person in chambers. Chambers are fully accessible and we are happy to make any reasonable adjustments to accommodate applicants or to discuss any issues that may arise. We do, however, expect applicants to attend chambers for their final round interview.

9am Friday 5 May 2023 offers sent out

Our pupillage procedure has been tailored to fit with the Pupillage Gateway timetabling and the Bar Council’s requirements.
 

Application procedure

The procedure is as follows:

  1. Complete your Pupillage Gateway application and submit it via the Pupillage Gateway website (www.pupillagegateway.com) within the applications window. The submissions window for Pupillage Gateway applications opens on 4 January 2023 and closes on 8 February 2023 at 14:00. Try to submit your application as early as possible within the applications window.
  2. We draw up a shortlist of candidates for interview based on the Gateway applications. We will conduct interviews in the period between February and May. The exact date has not yet been fixed, but we will try to let you know well in advance. Offers for pupillage for 2023 will be made on 5 May 2023, in line with the Pupillage Gateway timetable.

Mini-pupillage

We strongly encourage applicants for pupillage to undertake an assessed mini-pupillage with us. The pupillage process, including the applications process, is viewed by us as a two-way learning experience. While the interview is an important part of the selection procedure, it is not the best environment to assess the atmosphere in chambers on a day-to-day basis. As important as the high quality of the work done in chambers is the nature of the working environment. It is this aspect of chambers life that candidates are best placed to appreciate while spending time here as a mini-pupil.

-- Where can I find out more?

See Legal Cheek’s assessment of chambers here.

See Chambers & Partners Student Guide review of 39 Essex Chambers.

We encourage you to explore our website to find out more about the areas of law in which we practise and about the members of chambers.

If you have questions about pupillage, they should be addressed to the Pupillage Committee and emailed to pupillage@39essex.com.

If you have questions about mini-pupillage not covered on our website, please email minipupillage@39essex.com

For more information about the Pupillage Portal system and the Bar, including a guide called “Steps to the Bar,” and a brochure called “A Career as a Practising Barrister,” contact the General Council of the Bar:

The General Council of the Bar
Education & Training Department,
2/3 Cursitor Street,
London EC4A 1NE
T: 020 7440 400
W: www.barcouncil.org.uk
W: www.pupillages.com

The Inns of Court are an important resource for students and can be reached at the following addresses:

Middle Temple
Students’ Department,
Treasury Office,
Middle Temple
London EC4Y 9AT
T: 020 7427 4800
W: www.middletemple.org.uk

Inner Temple
Education & Training Department
Treasurer’s Office
Inner Temple
London EC4Y 7HL
T: 020 7797 8421
W: www.innertemple.org.uk

Gray’s Inn
Education Department
8 South Square
Gray’s Inn
London WC1R 5EU
T: 020 7458 7900
W: www.graysinn.org.uk

Lincoln’s Inn
Students’ Department
Treasury Office
Lincoln’s Inn
London WC2R 3TL
T: 020 7406 1393
W: www.lincolnsinn.org.uk

Other potential sources of information about chambers and about life at the Bar more generally are:

Chambers & Partners
W: www.chambersandpartners.com

The Legal 500
W: www.icclaw.com

Lawyer2B Magazine (from The Lawyer)
W: www.lawyer2b.co.uk

-- Life as a pupil

"Having recently finished pupillage at 39 Essex Chambers, what is clear is that the Pupillage Committee genuinely cares about giving pupils the best training and making the year as stress-free as possible. That’s not to say it’s completely without stress, of course – the very nature of the process is stressful. But I found that because chambers is so forward-thinking and objective in its approach, if I hadn’t been taken on at least I would know that I had had a fair assessment.

“Pupillage at 39 is organised like a training contract. We have four seats throughout the year covering four different practice areas: (1) construction and commercial law; (2) personal injury and clinical negligence; (3) public law; and (4) planning and environmental law. For each seat, you have a different supervisor(s) (some seats have two supervisors).

“The supervisors give pupils a range of work, from set research tasks to drafting pleadings and opinions. Given the seniority of the supervisors, a lot of work is very challenging, but you get involved in some fascinating cases. The supervisors are also very fair in giving pupils enough time to complete the work, and ensuring that pupils ask questions they may have – pupillage isn’t just a year-long test/interview, it is also a training programme. They don’t expect pupils who are starting a completely new area of law, like planning, to immediately understand the legal framework. We are also not expected to spend hours photocopying, making bundles, and doing tea rounds. Although of course, I was more than happy to help when my supervisor was putting together authorities’ bundles.

“We got regular feedback: halfway through each seat and at the end. The halfway feedback consisted of comments, and the final feedback included a grade for each competency. There were also assessments, but these were very carefully managed, and my view is that they were fair – there was no attempt to trick us or catch us out. Plus, there is the added bonus that pupillage is not competitive – each pupil is marked against an objective standard.

“Second six is a practising one, so pupils can expect to get into court maybe once or twice a week enjoying the delights of road traffic accidents, and similar low-value civil claims but ensuring that we get some advocacy practice. The practising six is, however, carefully managed by supervisors who want to ensure pupils still have enough time to do work for them.

“Getting into court is preceded by a couple of sessions with the most junior tenants to share all their top tips and precedents. We also received invaluable (and completely unassessed) advocacy training from a few more senior members of chambers, which allowed us to practise our witness handling skills and closing speeches.

“Chambers operates a strict 9am-6pm rule to make sure that pupils can still do other things with their time and to ensure fairness between pupils, some of whom may have other, for example, caring responsibilities. In that sense, pupillage in chambers is perhaps less like a training contract!

“My overall impression is that the Pupillage Committee (and chambers more broadly) want us to succeed.”

By Stephanie David

Life as a new tenant

“My first year as a tenant at 39 Essex Chambers has been extremely enjoyable, challenging and rewarding. 39 Essex has been a supportive and encouraging environment in which to start tenancy and begin to build a practice. I have been involved a wide variety of stimulating work, both independently as sole counsel, and led as junior counsel.

“Since starting my second six, I have appeared in court regularly in an array of hearings in personal injury, commercial, construction and property disputes, gaining valuable advocacy experience. For example, I have had the opportunity, in civil liability trials, to experience the thrill of cross-examining witnesses, as well as making legal submissions in application hearings. A particularly interesting case was acting on behalf of the Civil Aviation Authority in a strike out application of a claim brought in relation to a decision to provisionally suspend a pilot’s medical certificate. Appearing in County Courts and before High Court Masters has enabled me to become comfortable on my feet.

“I have also had the opportunity to undertake drafting work from all of chambers’ practice areas, such as pleadings, written advice, and questions to experts. Chambers’ breadth of expertise means I have worked on a stimulating range of cases. For example, I drafted a defence in respect of a breach of contract claim in the High Court in which £2m had been claimed, advised a developer as to the prospects of successfully appealing a refusal of planning permission to build within the green belt and advised a local authority on electoral and information law issues, concerning data held pursuant to the electoral register. Recently, I was instructed to draft a quality assurance report in relation the Windrush

Lessons Learned Review.

"Senior members of 39 Essex Chambers strive to involve junior members in high-profile work, and I have had fantastic opportunities to be led in fascinating cases. I am currently instructed as junior counsel on behalf of a core participant to the Infected Blood Inquiry, and I recently attended hearings in Edinburgh, Cardiff, Leeds and Belfast. I was also led in a four-week environmental inquiry concerning conservation of salmon and sea trout stocks in Welsh rivers, which I found immensely interesting and rewarding. I have also been instructed as a ‘junior junior’ as part of counsel teams in larger judicial reviews on behalf of the Government Legal Department, such as in the challenge to the Heathrow third runway.

“39 Essex’s breadth of expertise has enabled me to begin to build a broad and rewarding practice. There is a clerking team for each of 39 Essex’s four main areas of practice: (1) civil liability, (2) commercial and construction, (3) planning and environment and (4) public. The clerks across all four teams ensure that junior tenants practices develop at an exciting pace, and they have been very supportive in helping me to establish my practice.

“Starting tenancy can be a challenging experience, but 39 Essex has been a wonderful environment in which to transition from being a pupil to a new tenant. There is a huge amount of support and guidance: junior members of chambers are formally assigned a mentor, former pupillage supervisors are always very generous with their time, and colleagues are warm, friendly and happy to answer questions. There is a genuine ‘open door’ policy. I also frequently ask my roommate for advice on the practical matters involved in being a new tenant, as well as tricky points of law and procedure. I have also continued to enjoy 39 Essex’s social life and have looked forward to the fortnightly chambers’ lunches and Friday drinks. Very recently, a new ‘games’ area has been established with a pool table, darts board and ping pong table – which I have enjoyed making use of this past week!”

By Gethin Thomas

Queries

Queries regarding pupillage should be addressed to pupillage@39essex.com.

Queries regarding mini-pupillage should be addressed to mini.pupillage@39essex.com.

Data collection

We will retain personal data you send us only for the purpose of assessing and administering your application for pupillage; we retain your diversity data to allow for statistical analysis. We will delete the application data we hold about you five years after the completion of our pupillage programme. We summarise diversity data in a redacted form that cannot be attributed to individuals. You can find a copy of our privacy policy here.