Headline government proceedings, staple employment and public law practices lead the march down 11KBW.
11KBW pupillage review 2024
Looking for a set with a glittering resume of public and employment cases? Well, 11KBW certainly fits that mould. Senior clerk, Mark Dann, tells us clients come to them for their expertise in anything related to judicial review against public sector bodies, procurement – relating to regulations around contracts for the public sector – social care, education and sports. One junior narrowed down on the set’s focus, noting that local authorities, vulnerable employees and group actions are key sectors of work for members, but that chambers is also expanding its presence on international matters. “We’ve added two practitioners of public international law this year,” Dann tells us, referencing the addition of Paul Reichler from Foley Hoag and Professor Philippe Sands KC, additions which have led to lots of cases in international tribunals. “A lot of the juniors have been getting involved in some really interesting cases on behalf of Mauritius and the British Government, and also with Fukushima nuclear plant that’s been in the news lately…” Dann continues, so it’s no surprise insiders told us that “it’s a new part that everyone is really excited about!”
“A lot of the juniors have been getting involved in some really interesting cases on behalf of Mauritius and the British Government."
Closer to home, in Chambers UK Bar there are top awards for 11KBW’s community care, data protection, education, local government and public procurement work. A quick glance at the set’s current headline cases demonstrates its penchant for hopping on matters in the press, particularly in the government space. The set worked on both sides of the Court of Appeal’s Rwanda judgement, three members instructed on the Covid-19 Public Inquiry, and one member even acted as sole counsel for the successful claimant in the infamous Boaty McBoatface legal challenge.
In terms of the strategy going forward, Dann informs us that the set will be looking to refresh their offering across media and technology: “we’re getting more and more work with the crossover between the regulatory, the media and defamation of privacy.” But also mentioning that employment and public procurement continues to be “very busy.” Nevertheless, Dann cautions the need to pay attention to legislation moving through parliament as “change in government means there will inevitably be changes in policy and legislation, so that will be something that we keep a very lose eye on down the road…”
The Pupillage Experience
Throughout the three-month seats, pupils sit with supervisors in their rooms. Although all the work is live and most of it is assessed, pupillage secretary Rupert Paines assures us that “the first period is partly just learning, so we don’t assess everything in that period – the pupil supervisor will start introducing assessed pieces of work, probably about a month in.” In the first term, pupils do work purely for their supervisor, but we heard that as you progress, more of your work comes from other members, specifically those on the pupillage committee. About two thirds come from a supervisor in the second term and in the third term, around 50% of work comes from other members.
After completion of work, pupils go through two stages of discussion with whoever they worked for. First, “you go through a grilling where they ask you why you argued a point and get you to defend your thinking,” one insider explained, “then they change face – the assessment of your work is separate from the grilling session!” After the “grilling” pupils are given feedback on their work and are given an idea of where they need to improve. Of the 20 to 25 pieces of work pupils will do over the three months, each comes with a feedback session and these are all taken into consideration for the ultimate tenancy decision.
“You get given a menu of work, like four or five matters, and they’ll ask what you would like to do.”
“Your first supervisor covers the main areas of practice,” after which, if there are gaps in your resume, “you get given a menu of work, like four or five matters, and they’ll ask what you would like to do.” Given 11KBW’s focus on employment matters, pupils get the opportunity to get on their feet through employment tribunals immediately, while also getting asked to join big cases early. One junior even told us that, “of the six juniors, three were in the Supreme Court in the first few months.” Much of pupils’ tasks involve working on advices, skeletons and pleadings, conducting research and drafting written submissions. But Paines stressed that pupils strictly don’t take on their own work before a decision on tenancy is made.
On top of assessing work, the tenancy decision is made through three advocacy exercises - one each term on old sets of papers. “They’re usually done against each other,” one pupil told us, “so one for the applicant and one for the respondent where members of the committee act as judges.” The scoring system involves six categories of analysis, judgement, legal research, articulacy, persuasiveness and practice skills, all laid out for transparency. “To hit the standard you need to be getting five or seven on each of those,” Paines explains, “so the decision isn’t based on if we like them or anything subjective like that. It’s based on how you’ve done over the period.”
The Application Process
“We’ve changed it quite a lot since last year,” pupillage secretary Rupert Paines informs us of the application process. Paines adds that “we now fit it everything inside the Gateway timetable,” to make things a little more convenient for applicants applying to several sets, “so the closing date is normally early February and then decisions are taken a few months later.”
Applications then begin through an application form on the Pupillage Gateway, where “we have some optional questions, and a mark scheme for the questions which we publish on our website” to help aid transparency in the process. At this stage, the questions are purely aimed at assessing peoples’ written reasoning capability and are marked blind by the pupillage committee to eliminate any possibility of unconscious bias.
Of the hundreds of applicants, 50 make it through to the second round written work stage. Given that many are often applying early on in their legal careers, 11KBW ensures that people don’t have to do “masses of legal research” to answer the problem. “The focus is really on giving us something which enables us to test their reasoning ability and skill at putting forward a written argument.” Last year applicants were given a Court of Appeal decision which members had been involved in and told to draft an application for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court, something that they could do in their own time either at home or in chambers –“that’s to help people fit it around their lives.” The third round is also based on the written work but takes place in the afternoon of a mini-pupillage day; “it’s to test their reasoning and the strengths of their arguments. Then, one we get to the end we give them feedback.”
The final round is cut down to ten to twelve and takes the form of interviews. The interview is split into two parts: first applicants are given a case to discuss at interview; then participants take part in an advocacy exercise. “You get the papers for the discussion case a few days before,” to prepare for, Paines explains. Adding that, “then you get the advocacy exercise an hour and a half before the interview.”
Fit for a king: Members participate in some royally fun socials, including white water rafting, ice skating and even the odd cooking class…
11 King's Bench Walk,
Types of work undertaken
11KBW is a member of the Pupillage Gateway. Applications for pupillage commencing October 2024 should be made in the new Pupillage Gateway Spring round in 2023 (although we accept deferred applications). Chambers has a four-stage process for pupillage applications (subject to reasonable adjustments):
(i) All applications for pupillage are reviewed by the Pupillage and Tenancy Committee. Applicants will be expected to have a first or good upper-second class degree (in any academic field), subject to mitigating circumstances;
(ii) Selected candidates are invited to complete a piece of assessed written work, intended to be completed in the second half of March 2023. This piece of work may be completed remotely, unless the circumstances of the applicant are such that completing the application in Chambers is preferable;
(iii) Following the assessed written work, selected candidates are invited into Chambers for an oral assessment and mini-pupillage day. It is envisaged that this will take place in mid-April 2023;
(iv) Selected candidates from the third stage will be invited for a final round interview in the first week of May 2023.
Offers to successful candidates will be made through the Gateway in May 2023.
Diversity, Inclusion and Wellbeing Statement
11KBW is deeply committed to equality and human rights in all aspects of its work. In particular, we are committed to ensuring that pupils, tenants and employees are selected without discrimination, that discriminatory considerations play no part in the allocation of work within Chambers, and that no instructions are accepted from solicitors who seek to select Counsel on a discriminatory basis. Our Equality and Diversity Statement underpins this commitment. In addition, members and staff are regularly trained in fair recruitment and unconscious bias.
Pupils and new tenants are given mentors in order to help them settle in to chambers. Chambers was one of the first sets to agree to join the Women in Law programme, with targets for representation of women in leadership roles in chambers. We have set up a Parents Forum for working parents to share their experience and support each other. This group was particularly active during the pandemic lockdown when members and staff with caring responsibilities needed support. We have a Parenting and Flexible Working Policy which helps all tenants should any want to take a career break or change the way in which they work. One member of chambers recently returned to full-time practice having had a 10-year career break. Another, Lady Justice Elisabeth Laing, having taken a 8-year career break, returned to chambers, became a High Court judge, and was recently elevated to the Court of Appeal.
Chambers has an Equality and Corporate and Social Responsibility committee that is actively involved in outreach programmes and initiatives to encourage and support people from diverse backgrounds to develop a career at the Bar. We work closely with schools and offer student placements for those interested in the legal profession. We are also members of the Pegasus Trust, a scholarship scheme offering gifted young lawyers the opportunity of work experience in a first-class set of chambers.
We take the emotional and mental wellbeing of everyone at 11KBW very seriously. We have a dedicated Wellbeing Committee which regularly “takes the wellbeing temperature” of members and staff via questionnaires and conversations, and provides access to professional help if requested. We have regular training sessions from professionals on mindfulness, how to manage stress, and how to recognise stress in others. We have an Anti-Harassment Policy which ensures that all members and staff work in a safe and healthy environment, free from bullying or harassment.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Bar, 2023
- Defamation/Privacy (Band 3)
- Group Litigation (Band 3)
- Administrative & Public Law (Band 2)
- Civil Liberties & Human Rights (Band 3)
- Community Care (Band 1)
- Data Protection (Band 1)
- Education (Band 1)
- Employment (Band 1)
- Local Government (Band 1)
- Public International Law (Band 3)
- Public Procurement (Band 1)