Pupillage at Twenty Essex offers the opportunity to train with barristers at the top of their profession in a highly successful, international and friendly set at the cutting edge of commercial and public international law.
The key features of pupillage at Twenty Essex:
- We are a leading commercial and public international law set.
- We seek outstanding applicants.
- Diversity and inclusivity are very important to us. We were the first chambers to adopt Rare’s CSR.
- High retention rate: over 80% of our pupils taken on as tenants in the last five years.
- A detailed, structured training programme. We do not just test: we teach.
- Friendly and supportive atmosphere in chambers.
- Generous award of £75,000, with drawdown and other benefits.
- An emphasis on work/life balance for pupils.
- No numbers limits: if you achieve tenancy standard you will be offered tenancy.
Pupillage is our chance to teach you to excel as a junior barrister. We are proud of our bespoke training programme and its fantastic results: in recent years over 80% of our pupils have been offered tenancy at the end of their pupillage.
We continue to offer mini-pupillages, so please apply for these via our form. The deadlines for mini-pupillage applications are the end of December and June each year. We only interview pupillage candidates who have completed, or been offered, a mini-pupillage in Chambers.
If you have any questions about pupillage or mini-pupillage do please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.
👀 Watch our Q&A session, January 2023
What we offer
We look after our pupils, providing a generous award and a superb training programme. We do not just test: we teach. For example, before pupils take part in our assessed advocacy exercises, we run unassessed advocacy training sessions, together with a briefing from a junior tenant to explain the format of the assessed exercises and good strategies for dealing with the material.
Experts in chambers provide specialised training for our pupils, including sessions on advocacy at remote hearings, negotiation, document presentation, cyber security and ethics. We also provide focused training sessions on key areas of law and other tailored learning.
In addition, our pupils benefit hugely from a number of meetings with our CEO, Practice Management and Marketing Teams, spread throughout the year, to teach crucial practice management and business development skills.
We also place a high value on maintaining a positive work/ life balance: see What to expect from pupillage.
As to the financial side, our pupillage award currently stands at £75,000, of which up to £25,000 can be drawn down during the year before pupillage. The balance of the award is paid monthly, with 2/3rds paid in the first six months (non-taxable) and 1/3 in the second six months. Pupils have 23 days holiday per year. During pupillage we also provide a desktop computer to each pupil, pay for our pupils’ compulsory courses and pay travel expenses to court or arbitration.
Chambers’ generous parental leave code applies on an equivalent basis to our pupils, permitting pupillages to be postponed or interrupted by two years, or longer. We make reasonable adjustments for candidates at both mini pupillage and pupillage.
What we look for
Our aim is to recruit pupils of exceptional ability who are interested in our fields of work and will stand an excellent chance of being offered tenancy.
We are looking not only for intellectual ability but also the other attributes that make for a successful barrister, such as strong interpersonal and communication skills, and an ability to collaborate and deliver consistently excellent client service. We are equally receptive to applicants with law and non-law degrees, and those moving career. Further details are set out in our selection criteria.
Pupillage offers are made on the basis of the candidate’s application form, assessment during any mini-pupillage with chambers, contextual recruitment data, a standardised piece of assessed written work and performance at interview. We work hard to ensure that our application process gives all candidates, whatever their circumstances, the opportunity to shine.
Twenty Essex is proactive and engaged in promoting equal and fair treatment for all. We are proud that in 2018 we were the first chambers to adopt Rare’s Contextual Recruitment System, something which many other top sets have recently begun to use. Efforts to improve recruitment processes in terms of fairness, objectivity and awareness are just one piece of the jigsaw that will lead to a more diverse Bar and this is why a long-term commitment to diversity is one of our strategic objectives. We not only meet, but go further than, the BSB Equality and Diversity Rules, and constantly strive to reduce the risk of unconscious bias and remove any factor that may lead to particular groups being underrepresented within chambers.
We are a founding partner of Aspire to the Bar, an event for candidates with Black heritage, which was established as a result of Twenty Essex’s proposal. We are a signatory to the Women in Law Pledge, a partner set of Bridging the Bar’s mini-pupillage programme, of Combar’s Mentoring Scheme For Underrepresented Groups and of 10,000 Black Interns. Members of chambers devote significant time to mentoring individuals from underrepresented groups at all stages, including those at school, university, training for the Bar, and practising barristers. Mentoring schemes we participate in include Bridging the Bar, the Combar Mentoring Scheme, all four Inns of Court schemes and the Social Mobility Foundation.
How to apply
- The application
Chambers recruits via the Pupillage Gateway. Pupillage applications normally open in January and close at the start of February. Applications from law undergraduates are normally made during their final year, non-law graduates apply, at the earliest, whilst studying for the GDL and we welcome applications from those at later educational and career stages.
Applications are reviewed by at least two members of chambers, take into account performance during any mini-pupillage, and are scored against our selection criteria.
The results of the Rare Contextual Recruitment system are applied to these scores. Each year, this has a real impact, both on our ranking of applicants and on the final interview shortlist. We normally invite 20-25 candidates to interview.
We ask shortlisted candidates to do a written exercise in the week before their interview. There is a strict four-page limit and it has to be completed within one working day. No caselaw should be referred to, it is not a test of legal knowledge. The answers are anonymised and are marked by all panel members before the interviews.
- The interview
The next pupillage interviews will be on 12 and 13 April 2024. They lasted 30 minutes and involved a discussion of a written problem, together with questions designed to cover each of our selection criteria.
The problem discussed at interview is intended to test your ability to analyse and explore the issues raised and justify your conclusions. It is not a test of your legal knowledge and you are not expected to be able to name specific cases during the discussion.
The panel for the 2023 pupillage interviews were Michael Coburn KC, Susannah Jones, Julian Kenny KC, Maria Kennedy and Jemma Tagg (our CEO). We offer up to £100 for the expenses of travelling to interview and provide feedback to candidates on request.
What to expect from pupillage
We aim to give our pupils the best possible training to succeed at the Bar. Alongside our bespoke programme of training sessions (see What we offer) we work hard to ensure that our pupils’ day-to-day experience is rewarding and beneficial, and to give detailed constructive feedback on every aspect of their work.
Pupils are also welcomed into sociable life within chambers, with weekly casual chambers’ Thursday night drinks, and regular junior tenant gatherings.
Every piece of written work is scored against our selection criteria, with in depth written comments and a grade for each criterion tested. The process is run via our bespoke system, which gives supervisors a very useful tool to check when feedback is given, see the details of each assessment and ensure that pupils have covered the necessary parts of our bespoke checklist.
Alongside the detailed feedback, the assessor identifies for the pupil the single most important suggestion as to how the piece of work could have been improved. We find this an invaluable tool to ensure that the pupil comes away from the task with a clear, constructive way to refine their skills.
Pupillage is not a feat of endurance, but an opportunity for pupils to show their best during productive working hours. We expect our pupils to work hard during the normal working week, but do not expect them to work late hours in chambers or at weekends, or to take work home. It is each supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that their pupil is not given more work to do than they can reasonably cope with during the working week. We foster a supportive environment, aided by the fact our pupils are not competing with each other for limited places. We have a mentor/buddy system, with two friendly juniors offering informal support, in confidence if needed, to each pupil.
The structure of pupillage
Our pupils sit with four supervisors over the year, sitting with each for around three months. At the end of each seat, the pupil is given a detailed appraisal by their supervisor and targets are set for the next three months.
Pupils begin by working mainly for their supervisor and many of our key training sessions take place during these first three months. As the year progresses, the assessed advocacy training takes place. Given the increase in remote hearings, we provide specific training for virtual hearings. Pupils also work for other barristers at varying levels of seniority. There is a list of core assessors and it is the responsibility of supervisors to make sure that their pupil has worked with as many of those barristers as possible.
In March the progress of pupils is reviewed at a meeting of all members, following which the pupil’s prospects of being offered a tenancy are discussed between the pupil and their supervisor. Whatever indication is given at this meeting, pupils are welcome to complete their pupillage with us, and almost always do.
The tenancy decision and beyond
We hope that all our pupils will become junior tenants. There are no pre-determined numbers and if a pupil is good enough, they will be offered tenancy.
Tenancy decisions are taken at a Chambers meeting in early July. The Pupillage Committee makes a non-binding recommendation, but all members vote. In recent years, over 80% of our pupils have been offered tenancy at the end of their pupillage.
New tenants will have a busy and wide-ranging commercial practice offering an outstanding level of practice support from our dynamic and experienced practice management team.
The financial rewards are significant. New tenants’ earnings soon match and exceed those of contemporaries at the Bar or at City solicitors’ firms. In addition, new tenants enjoy generous concessions in their first year of practice, with interest free loans available and no room rent to pay for the first twelve months.
As an international practice, right from the start of tenancy there are options to travel worldwide, including to our chambers in Singapore and the opportunity of secondments overseas and in the UK. Chambers has an inclusive, friendly and responsible culture, with many members who work part-time or flexibly, or who have taken career breaks.
Our barristers: reflections
I came to the Bar after five years at an international commercial law firm. At Twenty Essex I found that there were plenty of other transferring solicitors who provided helpful advice and support. I also found that the extensive advocacy training that I received from experienced barristers during my pupillage year and through the Inns of Court made the transition relatively stress-free.
The aim of pupillage at Twenty Essex is to give you exposure to as much written and oral advocacy as possible; during pupillage I attended or participated in (through the advocacy exercises) a wide range of applications, trials and appeals. This approach ensures that you can hit the ground running as a commercial barrister upon taking tenancy.
If you are currently practising as a commercial solicitor and are considering a career at the Bar, Twenty Essex is a great place to train and practise. The work is intellectually challenging and often genuinely exciting, and the atmosphere is friendly and collegiate.
Having initially trained as a Venezuelan lawyer, my path to the Bar was a bit strange. As most people practising law in Venezuelan in the early twenty-tens, I was basically an expropriation lawyer. This led me down the well-trodden expropriation-to-international-arbitration path, which in turn allowed me to work as a judge’s assistant at the International Court of Justice, and then to practise international law and arbitration at a law firm in London.
Yet despite having worked in London for several years, I still had a (relatively important) problem: I knew no English law. That’s not an understatement.
Luckily, pupillage at Twenty Essex was the way to fix that.
To be honest, I was sceptical at first. I thought all the emphasis on training were just empty words (which organisation boasts about not training you?). But little did I know. People take training seriously. They care that you learn. And they give you the tools to do so, including by taking the time to provide very detailed and helpful feedback. Pupillage is learning by doing at its best.
Finally, I should say something about Chambers’ atmosphere. I’d heard Twenty Essex was supposed to be a “friendly set.” Again, I was sceptical. The Bar is often perceived as stuffy. And again, I was wrong. People are actually nice, helpful, and, dare I say, fun?
There is no need to have studied an undergraduate law degree to become a barrister. I took the ‘law conversion’ route, which means that I undertook the Graduate Diploma in Law after first studying History for my undergraduate degree and International Relations for my Masters. Whatever experience you have had beforehand, pupillage will be an invaluable part of your legal education. At Twenty Essex there is a real focus on learning and your development as a practitioner. Each piece of work receives detailed feedback, and there is an opportunity to discuss these comments and any questions with the person that set the work. There is also a real emphasis on live work, and an opportunity to get involved in exciting matters across chambers’ wide range of practice areas.
I would definitely encourage those that have studied subjects other than law to think about a career at the Bar, and would highly recommend pupillage at Twenty Essex. It is a genuinely friendly and welcoming environment, and a great place from which to practise at the Bar.