With the opening of the 2023 pupillage gateway upon us, this article is intended to provide an insight in to pupillage at Becket Chambers. The article will focus on the structure of pupillage at Becket Chambers, and will also cover what Becket looks for when considering applications. I am the current pupil and I am two months into my first six.
Becket Chambers are a relatively small, but well known and well regarded, set based in Canterbury. There are four broad practice areas, civil; private law children; public law children and family finance. The courts predominantly attended by the barristers in Becket are Kent; Sussex and London.
Prior to starting pupillage, I did not really know what to expect, however I did not envisage feeling so well supported by the team who have been put in place around me. Rather than the structure usually seen in pupillage whereby there are three or four pupil supervisors over the course of the year, I have one pupil supervisor who will be with me for the duration of the year. My pupil supervisor has been very supportive and approachable, she is always available for anything I need and she regularly checks on my wellbeing. I have a formal meeting with my pupil supervisor each week where we discuss how I have found the week and the cases I have observed; my diary for the next week; and she keeps an oversight of other aspects of my development.
I am also well supported by the head of pupillage, who prior to me starting pupillage was approachable and very kind. She now oversees my pupillage and meets with me each month to ensure that I am observing hearings across all areas of chambers practice, and offers help and advice if I encounter any difficulties.
In addition to my pupil supervisor and head of pupillage, I have four mentors, one for each area of practice. The mentors assist my pupil supervisor with finding learning opportunities for me in their practice area, with themselves or with other practitioners within their area. In my first six, my mentors meet with me once a month to answer any questions I have which have arisen from hearings I have observed and to discuss shadowing opportunities, and in my second six they will be available to me when I have questions or worries about my own cases. My mentors also provide support by arranging advocacy exercises, with feedback, to help prepare me for taking on my own cases in my second six.
I attend court hearings most days, and I often shadow several members of chambers in one week. The barrister I am with will talk me through how they have prepared for a case, and give me the opportunity to prepare a court document alongside their own so that I can compare and learn. I have found members of chambers all very welcoming and I am always given an opportunity to ask questions at the end of the hearing. The holistic support package I have at Becket is above and beyond what I expected from pupillage, and I really cannot think of anything more I could need.
Applications for pupillage are made through the pupillage gateway, and the applications are made for pupillage commencing the same year. When reviewing applications, Becket looks for prospective tenants following pupillage and therefore links to the Kent and Sussex area are an important factor. Demonstrating a commitment to the Bar, and to chambers’ areas of practice, are also considered to be important for prospective pupils; probably more so than achieving exemplary grades.
I was fortunate enough to have a choice of where to undertake pupillage, and I chose Becket largely because of how well managed I found the application and interview process to be, and how personable members of chambers were during my two interviews. Now that my pupillage is underway, I can see the benefits to being in a smaller set where I will get to know the members of chambers, and where pupillage can be tailored to suit my needs and experience.