Advocacy training 101: What to expect from the Middle Temple Pupils’ Course

Picture this: it’s a few weeks into your pupillage, and you’ve hit the ground running. You’ve been watching, note-taking, researching and learning, because that’s what first six is all about. But wait! There’s more to do than simply shadowing and scribbling. That’s right – there’s the compulsory advocacy training which pupils must undergo during their non-practicing period of pupillage.

Each of the four Inns of Court offers a course. Courses differ in terms of delivery style and time commitment, although all contain the core advocacy training criteria. Please find below the links to the various courses to peruse at your leisure:

Lincoln’s Inn: Pupil Training – Lincoln’s Inn (lincolnsinn.org.uk)

Gray’s Inn: Pupil Advocacy Course | ~ Gray’s Inn (graysinn.org.uk)

Middle Temple: Pupils’ Courses | Middle Temple

Inner Temple: Pupils Advocacy Course | Inner Temple

I undertook the Middle Temple Pupils’ Course. Taking place over two working weeks, it’s the longest of them all. What does it involve, you ask? Well, it gave me far more than just general courtroom tips. Here’s a quick run-down of what the course offers and what I took away from it!

  1. Dusting off the basics

The main focus of the training was of course core advocacy skills. Speakers delivered lectures on topics like narrative advocacy and case analysis, while the evening sessions focused on advocacy performances based on mock briefs. A few free hours of prep time were factored into each day before the evenings commenced. Trainers were practicing (or ex) barristers and judges, and they delivered feedback via the Hampel method. This involves one headline point being delivered after your performance, with a short replay to give you the opportunity to put it into practice. The mock cases were generally crime focused, with one civil application. Crime is advocacy-heavy by nature, meaning the course took pupils through the core elements of witness handling and a criminal trial.  The exercises re-affirmed the basics about examining witnesses, making applications, and refreshing your persuasion toolkit.

  1. Barrister logistics

Academic legal training does not generally teach pupils how to actually function as self-employed advocates at the Bar. At Middle Temple however, sessions covered specific self-employment practices such as: managing professional finances as an advocate, barristers’ insurance, and how to navigate the elusive barrister-clerk relationship. These were delivered by an accountant, a representative from insurance firm Bar Mutual, and a practicing clerk respectively. The key takeaway was that as barristers we are personally responsible for managing our own practice. Knowing what can be outsourced and to whom is an important part of making sure the self-employment jobs get done!

  1. Being judged

On one day of each week pupils spent the day shadowing a practicing judge in either civil, crime or family courts; I spent two days at the Central London Family Court. The first was pure shadowing, while the second week involved an advocacy exercise with my co-pupils in the group. The task involved reading a brief, preparing a position statement on behalf of one party, and representing that party at a mock hearing. The hearing took place before the judge in the same courtroom we had been attending to observe. Receiving feedback from a sitting judge on our written and oral advocacy was very useful, as the exercise was designed to replicate typical junior briefs.

  1. Specialised extras

Additional sessions focused on mediation, family advocacy, vulnerable witnesses, youth justice, and pro bono work. These were important in reminding pupils of the various facets of the Bar as a whole.

Speakers were long-time experienced barristers and practitioners who told a number of good horror stories about how sensitive youth work can be, and how to adapt questioning to suit vulnerable witnesses. Please find a link below to Advocate, a charity who spoke about providing pro bono legal advice from volunteer barristers:

Advocate: Finding free legal help from barristers (weareadvocate.org.uk)

A mediation talk from the Society of Mediators was particularly useful. Yes, we are all keen to stand up in court and do our thing, but alternative dispute resolution is an evolving area. Like the growth of direct access, becoming a mediator expands our workstreams as juniors. A generous plus was that the Society offered two pupils a free place on some of their otherwise fee-paying courses! No assessment or application needed.

  1. Review complete: many stars

I met some great people and had quite a bit of fun on the Pupils’ Course. The focus is far more on making mistakes and correcting them than on a hard pass or fail. Practical information about self-employment is key, and although the advocacy focus is on crime, the principles underpinning it are thoroughly transferable. Who says no to delivering a devastating cross-examination anyway?