Pupils get “a broad grounding in the craft” at this common law set, which has a particular proclivity for all things crime.
All hands to the pump!
Old-fashioned: today this is a veritable swearword in the legal community, denoting being out of touch, immovable and blah blah blah. But what people fail to realise is that it also signifies pedigree and stability, and it's the title of a delicious whiskey-based cocktail – the perfect invigorating tipple. And that's exactly what Six Pump Court is: traditional yet refreshing. In the words of one junior: “You could call us old-fashioned, but not in a bad way. It means we've found a way of doing things well that really works.”
The latest batch of Chambers UK rankings show that this common law set is good at all things crime, health and safety, and environment. Senior clerk Richard Constable explains: “We are surrounded by specialist sets in the Temple, but here we like to have a breadth of practice, which we think gives pupils a better basis for training.”
In addition to its London digs, 6PC has two other outposts, in Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells. All the set's work is handled by London, but the vast majority of criminal law work is undertaken in Magistrates' and Crown Courts in Kent, as 6PC has historical links with that county and longstanding relationships with local solicitors and public authorities.
Richard Constable told us why the set has a presence on the ground in Kent: “It's because of how the South Eastern Circuit works. You might be in court in the morning and then do three other cases while you're there.” So prospective pupils better get ready to battle Southeastern trains, as head of pupillage Mark Beard reveals that "approximately 75% of the work undertaken by our second six pupils is in Kent."
A recent high-profile criminal case saw Oliver Saxby QC successfully prosecute Michael Danaher, who was convicted of murdering antiquarian book dealer Adrian Greenwood and stealing a rare first edition of The Wind in the Willows worth £50,000. The case was nicknamed 'The Wind in the Willows Murder' by the tabloids and was the subject of a Channel 4 documentary. Barristers also defended West London company Martinisation against corporate manslaughter charges after two employees fell to their deaths when lifting a sofa into a building. The case resulted in £1.2 million in fines and a prison sentence for the former director of the company.
Six Pump Court is a market leader in environmental work, and this, too, comes with a heavy dose of criminal proceedings. One recent highlight was the set’s representation of four companies including United Utilities against the Environment Agency over a water pollution incident. The set’s cases involve acting both for and against the prosecuting agencies.
I just Kent control my feet
Pupillage is divided into three four-month stints with different supervisors, and pupils are encouraged to do work for all members of chambers. 6PC tries to maximise the criminal exposure that pupils get before they hop up on their feet in the second, though “if people have specific interests there's flexibility."
First-sixers mostly spend their time “being a sponge in court, watching supervisors and other members in action.” Pupils are treated to a grizzly cornucopia of murder, rape, GBH, sexual assault and ABH cases and try their hands at “the first draft of submissions, case summaries, sentencing notes, questions for cross-examination and skeleton arguments.” Those who had more of a civil-orientated first six dabble in planning, health and safety and employment cases. “I helped draft pre-action protocol letters and shadowed a barrister on a judicial review and an Environmental Agency prosecution,” one source told us.
The second six is when the real action starts as pupils are packed off to court, juggling their own cases with their supervisor's and bits and bobs for other members. Pupils sink their gnashers into a rag-tag mix of sentencing hearings in the Crown Court, antisocial behaviour injunctions, first appearances in POCA cases, and even full criminal trials in the Magistrates' Courts (for instance, theft, criminal damage, ABH and battery cases). Civil matters crop up too, including road traffic accidents and claims for unpaid PPI premiums.
“I helped draft pre-action protocol letters and shadowed a barrister on a judicial review."
Fear not, 6PC doesn't throw newbies into the courtroom then hold the door shut so they can’t escape. Instead, pupils do a tasty assortment of advocacy exercises first, usually pleas in mitigation, cross-examinations or bail applications. “You get the papers way in advance, and whoever is free comes in to give you feedback,” we heard. Pupils are assessed from the get-go, and given feedback on work throughout, "taking appropriate account of their development and improvement over time," according to Mark Beard.
Each supervisor's appraisal is passed down to the next and the final supervisor compiles all reviews, which are put to a meeting of all members who make the tenancy decision. This comes a little later than at most sets, so they have longer to show they'll make a good new tenant. As a result, the 2017 tenancy decision is not confirmed until later than at other sets; we'll publish it here as soon as it's known.
As for getting a pupillage in the first place: after taking two years off from recruiting 6PC is back with a vengeance. Around 80 usually apply through the Gateway and they are judged on criteria including academics, “interests and achievements beyond academic studies, an ability to express ideas clearly and persuasively in writing and orally, and likelihood to succeed at the independent Bar.” (A full list of criteria can be found on the set's website.)
A lucky 30 are invited to a first-round interview “which is 15 minutes in front of a panel of three who each ask you a question.” Questions may be aimed at testing your reasoning ability or seeing if you take a stance on a topical issue. For example, one pupil told us: “My interview was just after the EU referendum, so I was asked what impact Brexit might have on our laws.”
If you manage to answer questions like that, you may be one of around ten candidates who make it to the second round, a 30-minute interview. Candidates are given a practical written exercise 15 minutes in advance, about which they're asked questions by the interview panel. "They were keen to see what my thinking was rather than the right answer," a pupil commented. "Plus the questions don't require a great amount of legal knowledge.”
“My interview was just after the EU referendum, so I was asked what impact Brexit might have on our laws.”
Junior members said 6PC is “less elitist than many sets – you don’t necessarily have to have a First from Oxbridge to join us.” Among the set's most junior members are graduates of Warwick, Sheffield, UEA, Edinburgh, York, Nottingham and the University of Greenwich; the group have a couple of Master's degrees and prizes between them and quite a few have a First. In addition, one 2016/17 pupil previously trained as a solicitor while another spent two years as a paralegal.
Because of the more “chilled out approach” to selection, insiders felt the general atmosphere was “professional yet relaxed,” which translates into the social scene. There are “ad hoc drinks and we’ll go for lunch in Hall quite a bit too.” A pupil told us: "On Thursdays and Fridays there's usually a core of people who'll go to the pub at some point." There are also client events and training seminars throughout the year and a Christmas party which is a good chance to "meet people who don't regularly come into chambers."
Pupils at Six Pump Court have an active practising second six. One interviewee said: "The transition is made less harrowing as you stay with the same supervisor for the first two months."
Six Pump Court
6 Pump Court,
- No of silks 5
- No of juniors 50
- No of pupils 2
- Contact Head of Pupillage, [email protected]
- Method of application Pupillage Gateway
- Pupillages (pa) Up to two 12-month pupillages
Type of work undertaken
We expect our pupils to be genuinely interested in a number of our key practice areas and committed to developing a broad practice as junior tenants at Six Pump Court.
Our twelve-months pupils spend between three to four months with three different pupil supervisors who practise in different areas of specialisation. We are committed to providing our pupils with an interesting, challenging and enjoyable experience during pupillage. Wherever possible, we will attempt to accommodate our pupils’ interests, without compromising our overarching aim of providing a broad and varied professional training experience.