We want to hear from exceptional candidates committed to establishing a successful practice within Chambers.
Our pupils are selected from applicants from a broad range of backgrounds and experience, whether recent university graduates or those seeking a second career as a barrister. We are not currently recruiting third six pupils.
5 Essex Court’s commitment to training was recognised in the Legal Cheek awards when Chambers won the inaugural ‘Best Chambers for Training’ Award 2018. In 2020, 5 Essex Court was delighted to be awarded 'Best Chambers for Colleague Support'. The awards are the result of a survey carried out by Legal Cheek of more than 500 junior barristers, including pupils, at over 60 leading sets about their experience of training at the Bar. For more information see the Legal Cheek website. Chambers is delighted to be featured in Chambers Student 2021, where 5 Essex Court is described as having "an impressive commitment to diversity and lots of female QCs."
Pupils benefit from a well-established pupillage programme which aims to develop the key skills required to succeed at the Bar. This includes Chambers’ in-house advocacy training and a comprehensive talks programme designed to introduce pupils to our areas of work as well as life at the Bar. Pupils have three supervisors during their pupillage encompassing different areas of Chambers’ practice and are on their feet during their second six. Our commitment to pupils is reflected both in the structure of pupillage and in the excellent retention rate of our pupils as tenants.
Chambers offers pupils a friendly, collaborative and constructive environment in which to learn and begin their practices.
5 Essex Court looks to recruit up to two pupils each year. Applicants should be able to demonstrate impressive intellectual ability combined with a genuine interest in Chambers and our core practice areas.
The 2020 Pupillage Brochure can be found here.
Since 2012, 5 Essex Court has published a detailed report on its process for selecting pupils. Each year, the report covers the whole process, from applications to final interviews. It offers an insight into our Pupillage Committee’s deliberations and contains information on the questions we ask and the answers that impress us. It provides, we hope, a useful guide for anyone seeking pupillage, whether at 5 Essex Court or elsewhere.
The 2020 Pupillage Selection Process Report can be found here.
For ongoing useful tips and updates, follow us on Twitter @pupillages and our Instagram account @5essexcourt_pupillages which aims to capture a slice of life at the Bar and give students and future barristers a unique insight into our working lives.
The Application Process
5 Essex Court recruits up to two pupils a year via the Pupillage Gateway, the Bar Council’s online pupillage application scheme.
Potential applicants who do not fall within the Pupillage Gateway criteria should contact the Pupillage Committee for further information.
Your application will be considered by members of the Pupillage Committee. When looking at your application form, the Committee will consider the following factors:
- Academic record (normally a degree at 2(i) level or above)
- Experience – both legal and non-legal
- Clarity and quality of presentation of the application
- Other special / interesting features.
- Mini-pupillages in chambers will also be taken into account when selecting candidates for interview and pupillage.
We typically invite around 30 applicants to our first round interviews which are held in mid-May at which candidates will be asked to analyse and discuss a number of legal and/or ethical issues. We aim to shortlist around 10 applicants for second round interviews. All interviewees are assessed by reference to:
- Legal knowledge
- Communication and interpersonal skills.
Offers of pupillage will then be made in accordance with the Pupillage Gateway procedure.
The selection criteria for any Gateway-exempt applicants will be the same as for Gateway applicants.
5 Essex Court is proud of our tradition of retaining pupils as tenants. We therefore only offer pupillage to those whom we consider have the potential to become tenants in chambers. Chambers strives to develop all pupils so that they will become tenants in chambers at the end of their pupillage year.
5 Essex Court is committed to increasing the diversity of its members of chambers. To that end it particularly encourages applications from black and minority ethnic candidates, and from those with non-traditional backgrounds. Chambers has a firm policy against any form of discrimination and adheres to the Bar Council’s Equality and Diversity Code.
Chambers is also committed to treating applicants fairly and transparently which is why we explain our process in detail in advance. We ensure that all candidates are informed of the progress of their applications at the same time (so those who are not selected for first or second round interview are told at the same time as those who are selected), and we provide general feedback to all applicants at the point a decision is made on their application. We have, since 2012, published an annual report setting out in detail our approach to pupillage recruitment. The reports can be found here.
Unsolicited feedback from applicants has included:
"I have been incredibly impressed with the 5 Essex Court pupillage recruitment process. It has been by far the best that I have gone through in terms of transparency, quick response and the degree of effort given to providing candidates with feedback. If only the rest of the Bar were to follow your example!"
"The approach in the interviews was both professional and friendly. I was left with an excellent impression of chambers".
"I thoroughly enjoyed my mini-pupillage at 5 Essex Court and found the people I met in Chambers to be among the most down to earth and supportive barristers I have encountered at the Bar".
"Your interviewing process was one of the most friendly, well-organised and positive experiences that I had during my pupillage search".
5 Essex Court offers pupils a minimum of £55,000 during their pupillage year, comprising a £30,000 award and £25,000 guaranteed earnings (subject to a 10% chambers’ levy).
In addition to the award, Chambers funds the pupils’ Inns Advocacy courses, the Forensic Accountancy Course and any travel outside London with a pupil supervisor.
A Day in the Life of a Pupil
Remi Reichhold was a pupil in 2016 and was offered tenancy in 2017.
There is no such thing as a typical day in the life of a pupil at 5 Essex Court!
By offering only one or two pupillages each year, Chambers is able to tailor the programme to ensure that all pupils develop according to their particular needs and interests. The events of a day will depend on who your supervisor is, what cases they are working on, what practice areas they specialise in and the style they adopt to teach you. Normally, you will have three “seats” during pupillage with a different supervisor specialising in one or more of Chambers’ main practice areas.
I found pupillage both challenging and rewarding. It entails first learning and then gradually demonstrating your abilities, putting into practice what you have researched, observed and been taught. I was never in any doubt that I would be tested, but it was clear that everyone in Chambers wanted me to succeed, and no-one was out to trip me up or catch me out. Members of Chambers were eager to provide support and encouragement to enable me to succeed. The variety of work that I was exposed to was far greater than I expected, and pupillage was made enjoyable by the genuinely friendly people and the unstuffy atmosphere.
Your work will depend on what stage you are at in the twelve months of your pupillage. You will begin by predominantly shadowing and completing paperwork for your supervisor. You can expect plenty of constructive feedback on written work. As you gain a degree of independence in second six, you will do more paperwork for other members of chambers and begin to build your own practice, comprising both advisory work and increasingly being instructed to appear in court. From the very beginning of second six, you can expect to be in court two or three times a week on your own account. The clerks and your supervisor will help you manage the workload and ensure you have enough time to prepare for hearings.
What follows is an account of a day towards the end of the first six. The cases I mention have been anonymised but should provide a flavour of the sort of work we do.
I arrive at Chambers at 9am, popping into the clerks’ room to say good morning before going to find the junior tenant I will be shadowing for the day. She has been instructed by a police force to make an application for forfeiture of £138,000 under s.298 of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. I have read the papers and discussed the legal test and factual issues with the barrister. She will need to satisfy the court that the cash, which was seized by the police following a search under s.23 of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, was obtained through unlawful conduct or is intended for use in unlawful conduct.
Before we go into court, we have a brief conference with the officers who update the barrister, informing her that the Defendant has just been charged with possession of a class A drug with intent to supply. This is further relevant evidence that the barrister may now use in her application, and I am reminded of the importance of being prepared to deal with unexpected new developments as they arise.
I sit behind the barrister and watch the case unfold. The Defendant is unrepresented and has unexpectedly brought several witnesses to give evidence on his behalf. The barrister establishes what relevance they have to the application, and cross-examines each accordingly. Forfeiture is ordered, and on the way back to chambers we chat about the morning’s hearing, and I bombard her with questions. The barrister is at the junior end of chambers and my first day on my feet is fast approaching, so I am eager to absorb as many tips and pieces of advice as possible. We arrive in chambers just in time for a late lunch, and join several members of Chambers who have gathered in one of the larger rooms where they are exchanging stories of recent victories, comic or dramatic developments in the cases they are involved in, and canvassing opinion or seeking advice from those with more experience. They all ask me how I am doing, what I am working on, and pass on helpful tips.
One of the juniors I speak to has just got back from working in-house at the legal services department of a police force outside London. Whilst there, he has acted on behalf of the police force in a disciplinary hearing and has provided advice on a wide variety of legal issues. These ranged from whether officers from the public protection unit had enough evidence to apply for a Sexual Harm Prevention Order against a local man with a previous conviction for a sexual offence who has recently been exhibiting concerning behaviour, to a procedural point about whether it would be possible to seek retrospective High Court leave to bring proceedings pursuant to s.139(2) of the Mental Health Act 1983. As is often the way in chambers’ areas of work, in researching the case law into the latter question he discovered that a QC in chambers acted in the leading House of Lords case on that particular section. After considering the papers he called the QC for a brief chat to discuss his conclusions before finalising the advice. He emphasises that whether in chambers, in court or elsewhere, there will always be a number of junior and senior members of chambers contactable who will be happy to assist with queries.
When I return to my desk in my supervisor’s room and check my email this point is underlined: I see that a senior member of chambers has just sent a question by email to all members of chambers. She has come across an unusual legal point and wants to know whether anyone else has encountered it before. There are already a couple of responses which I read before returning to my own papers. I am preparing a first draft advice for a member of chambers about a search warrant which has allegedly been unlawfully issued and executed.
As I research the law online, there is a steady stream of members of chambers who all, one after the other, visit my supervisor. They have come to ask about problems they are encountering in their own cases: “How does that work?” “Have you encountered this issue before?” “What would you say in this situation?” “I am thinking of saying… Does that sound reasonable to you?” Each time, my supervisor puts down whatever he was doing and helps deal with the issue. When my supervisor’s own work is not being interrupted by other members of chambers, it is being interrupted by my questions! This is a place where it is second nature for those with more experience to help and support others without hesitation.
At about 6pm, my supervisor having ensured that I know what I am doing tomorrow (shadowing a senior member of chambers in an employment case in the Employment Appeals Tribunal), I pack up for the day. If I am still working away at something, and my supervisor leaves first, I am left with strict instructions not to stay much longer.
Life as a Junior Tenant
Alice Meredith is a junior member of Chambers. She was called in 2013 and was taken on in 2014.
Having now been a tenant at 5 Essex Court for several years, the first thing to tell prospective applicants is that there is no typical day. The work of a junior tenant is varied as Chambers covers a broad range of work, from police law, public and human rights law to employment law.
As a junior tenant of under 5 years’ call, I will usually be in court for at least half of the week, and will spend the rest of the week in Chambers doing paperwork or in conference.
At the start of practice, many of my hearings were in the Magistrates’ Courts or Crown Court. This included making applications for civil orders such as Sexual Harm Prevention Orders, forfeiture orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act, or defending appeals against firearms or taxi licensing decisions.
I also appear in the County Court or High Court, including sometimes in the family court. This is often to act in personal injury or civil claims, many with a police and human rights law aspect, such as claims for false imprisonment or assault, and under the Human Rights Act. When in the family court, I am usually making or responding to applications for disclosure, or seeking civil orders such as Forced Marriage Protection Orders or Female Genital Mutilation Protection Orders.
I also appear in disciplinary proceedings involving police officers, and inquests, usually those where a public authority has had some involvement with a person before their death. As I have a particular interest in employment and discrimination law, I am often in the Employment Tribunal or Employment Appeal Tribunal, acting both for police forces and private clients.
Since more senior members of Chambers are often involved in significant, high profile cases or public inquiries, there are frequent opportunities to work as a junior. This provides a brilliant opportunity to learn from the approach of more senior colleagues, and to be involved in some of the most important cases in our areas of law. We often provide talks and training for our clients on new developments in our areas of law. These are usually given by a mix of senior and junior members, which provides a further opportunity to benefit from the expertise of other members of Chambers.
When in Chambers, I will be drafting pleadings or advising clients. The advisory work is fascinating and if anything, provides an even greater variety of work, with advice ranging from the wording of a collaboration agreement between police forces to how to obtain material required for a criminal investigation. Advice is usually required both on the legal position and on a practical approach moving forward.
Whether in Chambers or in court, I am able to draw on the wealth of expertise held by other members of Chambers, who are always willing to put aside their own work to talk through any particularly difficult point I encounter. On Fridays our Head of Chambers welcomes all members for tea and cake, which gives everyone a chance to catch up and hear about what others have been working on that week.
Aside from work for specific clients, all members of Chambers contribute to our publications, which include police and employment law updates. Internally, we arrange a programme of talks for our own pupils, which all members are invited to attend, and which are invariably useful. As a member of our Management Committee from when I was a very junior member of Chambers, I have also been able to contribute to the direction and development of Chambers as a whole. Chambers is aware of the importance of continuing to support the development of a diverse and talented profession and, under the guidance of our pupillage committee, I have also spent time giving talks for potential pupillage candidates and hosting younger students in Chambers.
Through my exposure to Chambers’ broad areas of work, I have increasingly found my own interests and preferences, and have been supported by the clerks to develop my practice in those areas. I have benefitted from the ambitious, motivating and supportive ethos in Chambers, and have thoroughly enjoyed my time working here so far. It is a great place to work to build a varied and successful practice at the Bar.