Pupilage at KBW
The Pupillage window is about to open once again. Harriet and Eugene, our current pupils, give you a peek into what pupillage at KBW Chambers looks like.
- Both of us wanted to do common law pupillages so that we could see a variety of work and hopefully have a mixed practice when starting out. At KBW you get that breadth from predominantly crime, family and then some civil and police work.
- Location. Both of us grew up in Yorkshire and did the Bar Course in Leeds. We both applied for places in and around Leeds as we wanted to work on the North Eastern circuit. Being local is not a prerequisite to join KBW but it is why KBW was right for us.
- The size of the chambers. KBW is a good size such that you quickly get to know who everyone is. There is a great social scene with regular events and there are often people in the pub on a Friday. We have found this a good way to almost learn by osmosis as you listen to everyone discuss whatever challenges they have come up against that week. On the other hand, KBW is still large enough that there is a breadth and depth of experience in many practice areas and we have found people of all levels of seniority ready to offer advice at every opportunity.
Journey to the Bar
I graduated with a degree in Theology. Not knowing what to do next, I applied for an internship in my local county and family court to bide my time while I dabbled over career choices. However, I soon realised that a career at the Bar was for me. I interacted with barristers and judges daily, which enabled me to understand what skills were required as a barrister and learn by proxy. This was an invaluable experience.
I completed the GDL full time. I then intended to take a year out to gain experiences in the legal field. Covid however then happened so I worked in a care home for a year. I found other opportunities such as volunteering for Advocate, attending remote mini pupillage events and participating in advocacy events. The skills and characteristics that I had developed from working in the care home have become key in pursuing my journey to the Bar and so it goes to say that any experience you may have done will have taught you something that will help you at the Bar. I then did the BPC LLM with Eugene.
Having been unsuccessful obtaining pupillage on the BPC, I reflected on areas I could develop. I applied for LPC Law doing a wide range of county court advocacy. I also worked for Wildcat Law as essentially a paralegal and barrister’s assistant. Both were self-employed roles which prepared me for a career at the Bar but they also expanded my skill set of gaining advocacy and written skills. Alongside working, I volunteered for Leeds Free Legal Representation. Within a week of starting, I was doing a 5-day employment tribunal trial having never done employment law or a full trial before. It was a sink or swim situation. I then continued to do multi-day trials regularly. All of these experiences cumulatively helped me in obtaining pupillage.
Aged 17 and having no clue what I wanted to pursue as a career I ended up doing a degree in mechanical engineering; having been assured that there were plenty of other careers that I could go into with an engineering degree. I did it to keep my options open. Ultimately that paid off as aged 22 I decided that engineering wasn’t for me. I wanted something where I felt I was helping people. Something that was intellectually stimulating, affected people’s lives, and was fun. Afterall, I will likely be working for the next 40 years. It is worth trying to find a job you’ll enjoy. So, I did a law conversion from my bedroom during the Covid pandemic, the BPC in Leeds the following year and I am fortunate enough to now be doing my pupillage with KBW.
Whilst studying the GDL, I started volunteering for Leeds Free Legal Representation which was a charity offering representation in the Employment Tribunal. Whilst LFLR is not currently operating, I would highly recommend trying to find similar experience as real-life advocacy experience is the one thing that can’t be gained from the BPC. I don’t think that I would be writing this today if it weren’t for that formative experience adding to my application.
First six so far
I started my first six in the criminal courts. I have observed my supervisor being led in serious criminal trials with multiple Defendants. I spent the first few weeks on a murder trial and I am currently sitting in a ten-week trial involving the causing of really serious harm to a vulnerable adult. In amongst these longer trials I have also observed shorter trials with other members of chambers, both for the prosecution and defence. As well as trials, I have seen PTPH’s, mentions, sentences and conferences in both the Crown and Magistrates. I have also had the opportunity to do written work outside being in court from research on issues as they arise, drafting case summaries, skeleton arguments, and applications. I found that in my first month I was a sponge, absorbing the practical application of the law and reviewing my criminal litigation knowledge.
As well as crime, I have had introductions to the other areas in chambers. For family, I spent a day marshalling in the family court and attended a couple of public law hearings. I have also done police misconduct work, which is unique to KBW. I have done pleadings, an advice, research, and quantum calculations. Further, I worked on some civil papers doing pleadings and advices. I will get the opportunity to see more of these other areas over the second half of first six.
Everyone I have shadowed in chambers has been very friendly and spending days with different people is a good way to meet everyone.
Like Harriet, I have started by seeing plenty of crime. At the start, I followed my supervisor on a serious drug importation case. I have also seen trials involving serious violent and sexual offences with different members of chambers. Following different members allows you to see the range of approaches taken by different barristers and decide which approaches you will likely adopt in your own practice. By closely shadowing members of chambers you get to see all the various aspects of the job that you are not taught about on the bar course.
As well as crime, I have also observed my supervisor at a police disciplinary hearing. I have further shadowed members of Chambers representing the police in applications for Stalking Protection Orders and firearms licence appeals. Separately, I have seen aspects of both private and public cases in the family courts, including an application for a Forced Marriage Protection Order.
Outside of court, I have also found Chambers to be very social. Each Friday there is usually a few people in the pub to have a debrief with about your week, although there is absolutely no pressure to attend and I have found time in these first couple of months to maintain a life outside of pupillage. Additionally, the North Eastern Circuit host events that are well attended by Chambers and I have found them a great opportunity to meet more people practicing on circuit.
Our top tips on the application
- Start your application early!
- Identify your key skills and how you can best show them through examples (the STAR technique)
- View the application as a piece of drafting: concise, persuasive, and easy to read.
Our top tips on the interview
- Make sure you turn up early. Both of us went for a (non-alcoholic) drink in the Midnight Bell before our interview. We will be in reception to greet you before your interview so if you have any questions about Chambers, that’s a great opportunity to ask. It also helped us relax and get some headspace before going in.
- Structure your answers. Headline or signpost your answers. It will stop you from waffling and make it a much more impressive answer.
- If you need time to think about a challenging question, pause! The time you take to think is never as long as it seems and your answer will be better for it. It also shows some confidence and comfort in the situation.