11KBW - True Picture

A “rigorous” and “highly structured” pupillage awaits at 11KBW, whose employment and public law practices reign supreme.

11KBW pupillage review 2022

The Chambers

"We're often working on the big flagship challenges to government policy," a pupil at 11KBW proudly told us. "Our public law and employment practices are really excellent." Joint senior clerk Mark Dann points out that “a broad estimation of the work here is a 50:50 split between public and employment cases,” with the former covering practices such as procurement, community and social care, education, and government. “Really anything where a judicial review can be brought against a public sector body,” says Dann. As such, “many of the matters covered in the news are cases that we’ve been involved with.” 

“Many of the matters covered in the news are cases that we’ve been involved with.” 

Chambers UK Bar ranks the firm as sector-leading in community care, data protection, education, employment, local government, and public procurement. The set also bags strong commendations in administrative and public law, as well as civil liberties and human rights. “The work you do here is exceptionally high-quality,” one pupil said. 11KBW members are also dab hands in commercial, media, and human rights cases.

On the public side, several members acting for the Good Law Project in challenges to the government’s awarding of public contracts across the pandemic. On the community care side, Andrew Sharland is acting in a public inquiry into child sexual exploitation by organised networks before the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. High-profile employment claims have seen Richard Leiper QC acting in a case in which two men claim to have been discriminated against on the grounds of being middle-aged, straight, white British men. Members have also appeared for both sides of the case centred around the claim that Deliveroo’s riders are ‘workers’. In media and privacy, Anya Proops QC is acting for CBS Interactive in relation to a privacy claim brought by leading boxer Dillan Whyte, regarding information on a drugs test being published.

The Application Process

A preliminary interview siphons off initial applicants. Before attaining pupillage, candidates must first complete an assessed mini-pupillage. Richard Leiper QC tells us this has been shortened from five to three days. “It was becoming unreasonable,” he tells us. “Taking a week is a heck of a lot of time so we shortened it.” Sources commended the experience, suggesting it mirrors “exactly how pupillage works and follows the same structure.” The “centrepiece of the process is a piece of written work,” whereby candidates are given papers to write a piece of advice that will be assessed by two members of chambers. Written feedback accompanies an in-person discussion where “questions are asked to test understanding and how you respond to challenges.” Prior to the pandemic, mini-pupils had shadowed members at court and employment tribunals.

“You’re not asked about what your favourite biscuit is, which can be off-putting. You’re talking about law and doing real advocacy.”

Candidates then apply through the Pupillage Gateway and successful applicants will be invited to a final interview, consisting of two stages. The first involves presenting a case based on papers received an hour before. The second requires greater preparation, with papers sent to candidates a week in advance. “That’s usually on a recent interesting case,” tells Leiper. “Candidates are asked questions about that case while we’re assessing their oral advocacy ability.” One source praised the “fair and objective” process, with another commending it because “it’s focused on the job you’ll actually be doing. You’re not asked about what your favourite biscuit is, which can be off-putting. You’re talking about law and doing real advocacy.”

Leiper says: “We’re looking for good strong legal abilities but also the practical side, which includes how they would get on with clients, their skills in court, and how they would get on with judges. We’re looking for the whole package.”

The Pupillage Experience

Pupillage is split into two three-month seats and another lasting six months. The first seat sees pupils predominantly working for one supervisor and “is regarded as a settling-in period as everyone knows Bar school doesn’t give the greatest preparation for this job.” Post-Christmas sees pupils working for other members of chambers on a “decent cross-section of practices so pupils see as wide a range as possible of the work that comes up in chambers,” according to Leiper. This means pupils work on a broad range of matters in employment and public law, as well as other areas such as data protection, education, and commercial.

“…it is fair to characterise pupillage as rigorous but transparent.”

We’re told pupillage covers “quite a range of written work” and the “basic diet” is advices, skeletons, and pleadings. All work is live. For example, sources reported having worked on the judicial review of the appointment of Kate Bingham and Dido Harding for senior government roles and the Court of Appeal case for Deliveroo drivers. Pupils had also drafted written submissions on legal points relating to the termination of a stockbroker; conducted research on specific rules concerning disclosure on civil proceedings;and worked on cases involving breach of confidence and business protection. “It’s all really good high-level stuff,” one source shared with us. “All the written pieces reflect what you’d actually do in practice.”

All work is assessed and marked against “objective and transparent” criteria including: analytical ability; oral articulacy and presentation; clarity of writing; judgement; legal research; and practical skills. Akin to the mini-pupillage, work for other members is double-marked and pupils are given an opportunity to discuss feedback afterwards. “The aim of the assessed pieces is to get to tenancy standard,” one source told us. “It’s quite fair and doing lots of pieces gives you a chance to make the right impression and consistently do work of the right quality.” Coupling these written pieces, pupils do three advocacy assessments across each seat in public law, employment, and another of either practice. “You have to make an application in front of two members of chambers, for which you have three days to prepare,” one source noted.

Tenancy is then decided based on the feedback from all the assessed pieces, supervisor reports, and advocacy exercises. “There’s also a six-month review where we take on board the assessments done to date and see if people are on target to get tenancy,” says Leiper. One source dubbed the decision-making process “very fair,” with Leiper saying that “it is fair to characterise pupillage as rigorous but transparent.” We’re told post-tenancy decision, things are “largely unsupervised and if you get taken on, you are treated as a tenant from then.”

“I’ve consistently seen people take 20 minutes out of their day to talk about points they’re having difficulty with.”

As well as the set's prestige, our interviewees were also keen to highlight that “11 KBW is a really nice place to practise. It's not a place full of big egos or where people are high and mighty.” Instead, joint senior clerk Lucy Barbet tells us it’s “hugely inclusive and friendly. People get along with each other here. Everyone’s helpful, welcoming and supportive of pupils.” As one pupil attested: “I’ve consistently seen people take 20 minutes out of their day to talk about points they’re having difficulty with.” Another added: “I feel I’ve really landed on my feet here. People are incredibly friendly and if I’ve ever got a query, there’s always someone to ask.” Leiper finds the same: “You can ask questions of anyone. People are very supportive and always have time for you.”

On the subject of hours, one pupil highlighted that “one of the really pleasant surprises about pupillage is how eminently reasonable the hours have been.” Being “shooed out the door at 6.45pm is nice,” they said, adding that “there's also a willingness to give you more time if you don’t finish a piece of work.”

Walk this way…

While pupils aren’t on their feet during pupillage, junior tenants told us that “you get a great balance of being on your feet early while also doing high-quality led work once you gain tenancy.”

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This Firm's Rankings in
UK Bar, 2021

Ranked Departments

    • Administrative & Public Law (Band 2)
    • Civil Liberties & Human Rights (Band 3)
    • Community Care (Band 1)
    • Data Protection (Band 1)
    • Defamation/Privacy (Band 3)
    • Education (Band 1)
    • Employment (Band 1)
    • Local Government (Band 1)
    • Public Procurement (Band 1)