A hotspot for EU, competition and public law, Monckton attracts complex, high-value work that is “fascinating, difficult and ultimately very enjoyable.”
A high-flying history...
Some 100 years ago on the battlefields of France, George Allen, founder of Allen & Overy, dragged a wounded officer out of the trenches and to safety. The officer in question was Sir Walter Monckton, a leading barrister who in the 1930s went on to lead the set that came to bear his name. During the 1936 abdication crisis, Monckton and Allen were key members of King Edward VIII’s inner circle of advisers, and their relationship was secured. Nowadays, Monckton Chambers continues to benefit from a strong working relationship with magic circle firms, but also takes instructions from other City outfits, as well as directly from government bodies, regulatory panels and major telecoms outfits.
There's an “undeniable commercial edge” to many of Monckton's public law cases. “A lot of our clients are multinational companies with legal issues across a number of jurisdictions,” explains first junior clerk John Keegan. Big-ticket EU and competition law cases are Monckton’s speciality, with both practices chalking up top rankings in Chambers UK. Meanwhile, regulatory, public procurement, indirect tax and telecoms practices attract high-paying commercial clients.
Recently, members drew on their EU and environment prowess to represent a group of low-cost airlines in judicial review proceedings following the government's proposed alterations to the EU carbon trading regime. The sky is also the limit for Monckton’s competition specialists, with members recently acting for and against British Airways in an air cargo cartel damages claim, in which there were over 64,000 claimants demanding in excess of £3 billion.
"... there is scope to earn a considerable amount of money."
For juniors, what's not to like? “As third or fourth junior on these cases, there is scope to earn a considerable amount of money," reveals John Keegan. Plus, the set has recently been working to build up a greater stock of junior-level public law work. July 2014 saw a significant boost for this area, with the addition of five new laterally hired public law barristers across a range of seniorities. This means that new tenants “can typically expect to be doing 35 hours each week as third or fourth junior on high-value cases and 15 hours of more mainstream claimant public law work, including appearing in the administrative courts and tribunals." So Monckton's baby juniors will be able to spend much more time on their feet than they previously did.
A nautical mystery...
One intrepid case saw members act for deep-sea recovery company Blue Water against the Department for Transport after the government (allegedly unfairly) awarded a rival company the salvage rights to SS 'Gairsoppa', a World War Two steamer stocked with £155 million of silver bullion. Members also act on the other side of the public coin, recently combining their procurement and tax nous to represent the Treasury: the implementation of the government's new tax-free childcare policy in 2013 saw HMRC partner with state-owned savings bank NS&I and its pre-existing delivery contractor Atos. This decision sparked fury from a competitor, whose claim the Treasury ultimately quashed in the Court of Appeal, with Monckton's help. Direct instructions also come from major telecoms companies including BT and Sky. Members recently acted for both in a head-to-head legal battle over access rights to Sky Sports 1 and 2.
The past year has seen a bit of a reshuffle for Monckton’s application process. The first round (to which 40 are invited) has taken on a more rigorous edge. A ten-minute CV chat is now followed by a question on current affairs and one along the lines of 'Should women fight on the front line?' Twelve applicants are invited to a second interview at which they are given 30 minutes to prepare the answer to a problem question. Candidates are judged on their "mental agility" rather than political or personal opinions, and the best candidates will be able to "logically debunk or competently articulate something the interviewers had not previously considered." Given the interviewers will likely be some of the finest minds in public and commercial law this is no easy task. So we weren't surprised to find that Monckton's junior members have impressive CVs: three of the 12 most recently called are Harvard grads and six went to Oxford. Among those dozen are also three former solicitors, an ex-parliamentary researcher, a physicist, an ex-banker and a former tax consultant. If you're interested in the set's core area of competition law a master's in this field is not required (though we reckon it could do no harm), but experience working in an economic policy or business role would certainly stand you in good stead.
“The steepest learning curve comes in the first three months.”
Applicants fortunate enough to land themselves a pupillage undertake four three-month seats. Throughout pupillage you can expect to get stuck into a lot of EU and competition work along with VAT, public law and regulatory matters. “The steepest learning curve comes in the first three months,” recalled a baby junior. “I worked mainly with my supervisor, doing early drafts of opinions, or having a go at pieces of work my supervisor had already completed.” In the second seat pupils begin to take on work for other members, having a crack at first drafts of skeleton arguments, opinions or conferences notes. As the tenancy decision approaches, the number of members you work for is ramped up in the third seat. “Eventually my supervisor was acting more as a booking agent," quipped one source. "He was careful not to overload me with work though.” Pupils do not spend time on their feet before the tenancy decision is made (nine months into pupillage), but in their final seat they do take on their own work.
... and cats
The large amount of EU work on offer means Monckton’s pupils “get a comprehensive picture of the structure of the courts, because by the time you’ve finished pupillage you’ll have seen advocacy in competition tribunals, the High Court, the Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court and the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.” A trip to the ECJ is a pupillage highlight. One junior recalled: “We stayed at the British ambassador’s home in Luxembourg, and one evening we ended up sat in her dining room around the big table... talking about her cats!”
At the end of each seat, supervisors write a detailed report on each pupil's performance, which is discussed in a brief meeting. A similar form is completed by members of chambers for whom the pupil has done work. After nine months all written feedback is amassed into one compendious document and the pupillage committee gives its recommendation. “No one expects you to be the finished product after nine months,” reassured one junior, “but to show potential you need to demonstrate that you have listened to the feedback you’ve received.” In 2016 Monckton granted membership to both its pupils.
One recently appointed junior expressed delight at “the queue of people who appeared outside my door to welcome me on board.” Such conviviality is common at Monckton, with another interviewee adding: “When I did my mini-pupillage I didn’t expect anyone to notice me, but a QC took me out for coffee and told me about an interesting case he was working on. That happens throughout pupillage too.”
Pupils work from 9am to 6pm here. “If that means doing one less piece of work over a two-week period then so be it."
1 & 2 Raymond Buildings,
- No of silks 15
- No of juniors 44
- No of pupils 2
- Contact Claire Bowers, (020) 7468 6345
- Method of application Pupillage Gateway
- Pupillages (pa) two 12-month pupillages
We do not, however, expect candidates to have any experience or expertise in the specialised areas in which we practice, merely an interest and enthusiasm for the work that we do. We welcome 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 we are looking for: we are 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 our own marketing materials, to specialist journals and practitioner texts. We are looking for junior tenants who will bring real energy to chambers.
Several members of chambers have come to us via a non-standard route – for example having previously worked at NGOs, as solicitors, academics or civil servants.
We offer a second interview to a shortlist of candidates. The second interview is based on a legal problem that the candidate has been given to consider immediately before the interview. Again, the problem is intended to test the candidate’s critical reasoning skills, rather than his or her knowledge of any particular area of law. Candidates will also be asked to complete a short piece of written work.
Candidates invited for a second interview who have not previously completed a mini-pupillage are offered the opportunity of spending a few days with us to learn more about what we do and to experience the atmosphere in chambers. It is not, however, a requirement of the application process that you should complete a mini-pupillage with us.
How to apply