A ‘remote’ pupillage, without a controller

“Pupillage” … Three years ago, I had never heard of the word. Now here I am into the fourth week of mine. If, three years ago, someone had stopped me on the street and explained that pupillage was the final step in qualification for aspiring barristers in which they would be sat in their living (and sometimes bed) rooms waiting to be dialled into a Court hearing by a judge, I would’ve laughed and thought no more of it. But for many undertaking pupillage this year, this is how it has begun.

That pupillage is ‘remote’ this year, and the reasons for it being so, are well known. But what is likely less well known, is what pupillage is like for pupils this year. To shed some light, for those interested, this is my experience of pupillage so far…

As obvious as it may be, the first thing to say is that pupillage this year is different. Before the pandemic took hold, I thought pupillage would involve me going into chambers on a daily basis, meeting members of chambers there, discussing their cases with them, undertaking paperwork and research when it needed to be done and then jumping in their car, or on the train with them, to head to Court to attend a hearing or trial. The majority of that just isn’t possible at the moment.

But in the face of the challenges presented by the new normal, what has really stood out to me is the effort that has been made by the barristers that I have shadowed, to make the new normal as normal as possible. From calling me prior to a hearing to discuss the case and the law, to sending papers to read through in advance of hearings, to persuading judges to dial me into a hearing when the Court hasn’t received my mobile number, I have been made to feel like a valued member of chambers whose training and development members really care about.

That effort made by the members of chambers that I have shadowed has translated into me being introduced to a broad range of chambers’ practice areas. I have drafted advices in a landlord and tenant disrepair claim and a resulting trust claim, I have shadowed in private family client conferences and I have attended contested hearings in care and forfeiture of cash proceedings. One of the main reasons that I applied for pupillage at chambers was because I was drawn to the broad range of practice areas in which members undertook work. I wanted to gain first-hand experience of as many different areas of law as I could as a pupil, and so I feel fortunate to have experienced as much as I have in these, unusual, first three weeks.

Nobody really knows what the remaining months of my first six hold. But like with most things in life, pupillage, even in these uncertain times, is what you make of it. I intend on making the most of the opportunities to learn and develop, in order to best prepare myself for my second six. Like the remainder of my first six, nobody really knows what my second six will be like, either, but what I do anticipate is spending a lot more time “waiting for the conference host to join…”.