Monckton's members share an insatiable appetite for exploring complex EU, competition and public law matters.
Now EU see me
As the UK prepares to leave the EU in 2019, it may leave some wondering: what do you do if one of your set's core specialities is European law? “Friends said to me 'that's you done for then',” a barrister at EU law specialist Monckton Chambers told us, "but that couldn't be further from the truth. Brexit has generated and will continue to generate a lot of work, even after we leave the EU. Not only that, but the European Union is the world's biggest trading block, and businesses wanting to trade into Europe will always have to comply with EU rules.”
And if that isn't enough to settle your worries, clerk Steven Duffett reiterates: "Instructions will not cease because of the UK's divorce from the EU. Certainly Brexit is likely to have an impact on our EU law practice but not necessarily an adverse one. A huge amount of uncertainty will be left behind by Brexit that government and business will have to contend with. That’s fertile territory for lawyers! The nature of the EU work we did ten years ago was different to what we do now, and I imagine in five to ten years we'll be doing something different again. We adapt with the times."
One recent EU law case saw members represent British American Tobacco in a dispute with the UK government over the first ever fine for the smuggling of hand-rolled tobacco into Belgium, which raised issues related to the EU's free movement of goods and domestic tax laws.
“Not everything will end because of the UK's divorce from the EU."
Although EU law makes up a large part of what Monckton does, it's not everything. Competition law is another significant area, followed by public law (with a commercial edge), procurement and tax. All of these areas, plus telecoms, sports and data protection, gain high rankings in Chambers UK. Recently, competition barristers were instructed by Google to defend it against a claim brought by map website Streetmap that the search engine was abusing its dominant market position.
In another case, a Monckton barrister acted for a woman in the witness protection programme who claimed that the Metropolitan Police and Ministry of Justice breached her data protection rights and ECHR Article 8 privacy rights by accidentally disclosing data which placed her at risk and forced her to move house several times.
A Monck's habit
Pupillage at Monckton is divided into four three-month seats, with a different supervisor for each. However, pupils are also given the option of staying with their third supervisor for the fourth seat. “Pupillage is designed so you see as much of chambers' work as possible,” one source explained. Pupils usually sit with supervisors with quite different practice areas. One interviewee told us: “I started with someone who did tax and procurement, then sat with someone who did competition work, and my third supervisor did more public law.”
As well as working for their supervisors, pupils must work “for as many members of chambers as possible.” Though you're not dropped onto a demanding, fierce QC on day one. A source explained: “In my first seat I was pretty sheltered from the rest of chambers. Before I started working for everyone, my supervisor made sure I'd practised certain skills and experienced certain areas of law. She made sure I'd done things like draft an opinion, a defence and particulars of claim. She guided me quite closely. After the first seat, the amount of work you do for others starts to increase.”
"Nothing rides on a particular piece of work."
“Pupillage here is seen more as a learning experience which allows you to get a taste of all our areas,” so pupils don't have a practising second six. However, they get a taste of advocacy through training exercises. “I did a mock judicial review in my third seat, which wasn't assessed, but it was an opportunity to get on my feet and get feedback,” one interviewee reported. Sources understood that “at any set practising at this level, you're not going to get a huge amount of advocacy experience straight away.”
The work itself is often on live cases, with the only exception being “if there's a senior member who the pupil hasn't worked for and that member hasn't got any suitable live work. Then the supervisor might agree to the pupil working on something historic, but that would be an exception” says Laura John, a member of the pupillage committee. One live matter saw a pupil “go to Luxembourg for an ECJ case in which we were acting for the government, which was really exciting! I got to help with writing written observations, and I found that quite a lot of my work made it into the final draft.” Other tasks include writing opinions, skeleton arguments and pleadings.
Monckton has no formal assessment but rather has “a system of ongoing assessment” so "nothing rides on a particular piece of work." At the end of each seat, each supervisor completes an extended form of feedback, which is accompanied by forms from each of the members pupils have done work for.
For the tenancy decision, “all members have a pack in front of them with written feedback on every piece of work done by the pupils throughout the year as an evidence base for the decision,” Laura John explains. So is there a grace period for mistakes? “Everyone makes mistakes, potentially several, and it's not the end of the world," says John. "If we can see that everything else they've produced is brilliant, we'd conclude it might just have been a bad day.” In 2017, the set kept on it single pupil.
Bright, glittering and golden
Before even considering tenancy, you have to gain a much sought-after pupillage. After a paper sift through CVs, around 40 candidates are selected for interviews. There are two stages of interview that follow – the first is more informal, with some discussion of your CV as well as discussion “on a topic of current interest of the kind you might discuss with fellow law students.” Laura John stresses that the discussion “is not intended to test prior knowledge, but rather to see how you think.” A pupil confirmed that the topic they were asked to discuss “wasn't something I knew anything about before the interview. They try to pick an issue you don't need full legal knowledge to understand.”
The second-round interview is more formal and takes place in front of a panel usually chaired by the head of the pupillage committee. Interviewees are given 30 minutes in advance to read through a legal problem question, which may mean "applying legislation to the facts you've been given." A pupil recalled: “I had to provide advice in a mock conference set up with the panel acting as the client. A silk was pretending to be very difficult and really got into character.”
"Everyone here is really intelligent with CVs to die for."
One interviewees proclaimed: “It goes without saying that everyone here is really intelligent with CVs to die for, but chambers is interested in your individual life experiences too.” Most of Monckton's juniors under ten years call went to Oxford or Cambridge (though there are graduates of Trinity Dublin, Edinburgh, UCL and King's College London too) and nearly all hold Firsts. Furthermore, among the juniors several previously worked in business or the public sector, including at the European Commission, Goldman Sachs, the House of the Lords and the WTO. It's clear why this type of experience will help you. “You have to be able to think quickly on your feet to cope with the interview process," says Laura John. "People who shine are those who can hold their own in front of five barristers.”
Monckton's working culture was generally described as “very unstuffy, informal and friendly.” Many found it sociable too. One interviewee said: “People leave their doors open, and QCs are happy for juniors to pop by to say hi and ask questions.” Pupils also mentioned regular trips to the pub or lunch outings. And it's “not always just barristers: members and clerks socialise together too.”
During pupillage, hours are mostly 9am to 6pm, and pupils are "always encouraged to leave if they're here too late."
1 & 2 Raymond Buildings,
- No of silks 17
- No of juniors 43
- No of pupils 2
- Contact Claire Bowers, (020) 7405 7211
- Method of application Pupillage Gateway
- Pupillages (pa) Two 12 month pupillages
Monckton does not, however, expect candidates to have any experience or expertise in the specialised areas in which the chambers practices, merely an interest and enthusiasm for the work that is done. The chambers welcomes applications from candidates who have degrees in subjects other than law and are taking (or have taken) the GDL.
It is not only intellectual skills that Monckton is looking for: the chambers is seeking candidates with the personal skills to win the trust of clients and judges alike. Monckton Chambers is a dynamic place to work. Members actively engage in speaking at conferences and seminars, in London and internationally, and in contributing to a variety of publications, ranging from Monckton’s own marketing materials, to specialist journals and practitioner texts. Monckton is looking for junior tenants who will bring real energy to Chambers.