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Pupillage account from Douglas James

Douglas successfully completed pupillage at Crown Office Chambers and accepted our offer of tenancy beginning October 2016. Read Douglas’ pupil experience below.

“Pupillage at Crown Office started on a merry note: in the summer before the 3 of us new pupils started, chambers put on some drinks in a Temple pub. It was a relaxed way to get to know some of the baby-juniors, start putting faces to website profiles, and generally calm nerves.

Pupillage started in greater earnest in September. My first supervisor was away on a 3-week arbitration in the Middle East, so his roommate, a personal injury senior junior, quickly loaded my desk with pleadings and medical reports. Each pupil has 3 supervisors over the year – 2 supervisors for 3 months each and a third supervisor for 6 months. I saw their work (both past and present) as well as the work of their roommates and next door neighbours. Later in the second six I was encouraged to do work for other members of chambers – hopefully a chance to impress as well as to steal another barrister’s pleading style. One of the great attractions of pupillage at Crown Office was getting to switch between the mindsets and styles of vastly different practice areas – now construction, now professional indemnity, now insurance, now property damage, now personal injury, now health and safety.

The trajectory of pupillage was steep. The first 3 months to Christmas were an easing-in period – a genuine time to learn and make mistakes. Expectations cranked up in the January, but feedback was always constructive and support always there. Chambers takes pains to ensure that pupils are assessed fairly. There is genuinely no competition for places. Pupils are judged by how they fare in 4 written exercises and 3 advocacy exercises as well as their supervisors’ feedback. One of the written exercises has been set to every pupil since the early 90s.

The second six at Crown Office gets you into court almost straight away. I shivered as the first fixture went in my diary – a small road traffic trial in Uxbridge (I’ll never forget). Court outings served 2 great purposes. First, they are obviously a priceless opportunity to test your advocacy in real but relatively low-risk settings. Second, they offer some time away from your desk: when the pressure is on, having a 2-hour train journey back to London when all you can do is have a cup of tea and read something non-legal is priceless.

The decision comes in June – early enough to find a tenancy or 3rd six elsewhere if need be, and early enough to make the last few months of pupillage really feel like the first few months of your fledgling practice.

Pupillage can feel like a 9 month interview. Of course, it is. But Crown Office is a very attractive place to have it. Everyone is friendly. The work is interesting. The atmosphere is unstuffy. The building is peaceful and the pupillage award is very generous.”

For more details about pupillage at Crown Office Chambers, please see here.

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