Marrying children work with matrimonial finance, 1KBW possesses a breadth of family law prowess.
They say the first impression is the best impression, and that was certainly the case for Chris Gittins, 1KBW’s senior clerk, who upon entering the set, found the atmosphere to be “a great mix actually - really impressive and polished but also very welcoming! It was a place I wanted to be a part of.” Pupillage committee member Katherine Kelsey KC was equally philosophical in her assessment of the set’s collegiality: “Everyone’s always supportive of each other.” Addressing the difficulty in overcoming the legal industry’s reputational hurdle, Kelsey explained: “everyone will tell you not to do this job and give you 20 reasons why you should do something else.” But you shouldn’t worry just yet. “If you can get through that, it’s a brilliant job!” Kelsey added, hinting at the rewards of sticking things out.
Family law forms the bread and butter of the chambers' work, but despite the family focus, 1KBW prides itself on not specialising too much. Kelsey explained, “working across different areas gives you the opportunity to grow and develop, so you can realise what you want to do over time, and then specialise if you want to.”
James Roberts KC, head of chambers, couldn’t agree more, “we have an organic model. Many people may come here with very set ideas of what they want to do, but then they try something else, get a taste of it, and opt for that instead!” To illustrate the scope the set provides, Chris Gittins provided a breakdown of the work the set undertakes: “I think you’re probably looking at 50% finance, 50% children, with a little variation year to year.” With the set seeing an upward trend in alternative dispute resolution work too, Gittins revealed the set aims to remain “ahead of the curve.” Strategically speaking though, Gittins told us that ultimately “we want to be perceived as the number one family set out there! And the way we do that is by showcasing our different areas of work.” Case in point, Richard Harrison KC acted on behalf of a father seeking to return their child to Ukraine. On the matrimonial finance side, Max Turnell and Charles Howard KC represented Sir Frederick Barclay, the surviving ‘Barclay Brother’ in a case concerning the enforcement of his former wife’s £100 million award. Such work has seen 1KBW rewarded with a robust set of rankings as per the Chambers UK Barguide in family: children and family: matrimonial finance.
The Pupillage Experience
Pupillage consists of different seats with different supervisors. One junior explained that “the set tends to make sure that you see chambers’ main areas of practice.” For instance, “I did both financial remedies and private law (children) just in my first six months.” Kelsey clarified that during the first six, “the emphasis is on teaching” as “we need to train people properly to be a barrister, and to give them the best opportunity to succeed and showcase their skills." This is because “we’re making a big investment in them financially, so we want to try and help them extract as much they can so they’re able to hit the ground running and be an asset to chambers if taken on!”
“Pupils will be taught by a silk, but that they also have input from other people, which creates a safe space where questions can be asked.”
Pupils will split their time between a range of supervisors throughout the year in order to provide “the best cross section of people in chambers insofar as practice profiles and level of call” are concerned. Pupils can thus gain exposure to different supervisors, particularly “if we identify a particular area of strength or weakness in a pupil.” This can then either be worked on or developed by the relevant member of chambers to best calibrate pupils and create more well-rounded barristers, which Kelsey describes as a “very structured approach” to training and progress monitoring. Unique to 1KBW, the set also hosts masterclasses, of which pupils will complete two in finance, two in private children, two in public law, and two in child abduction. “It’s a senior member – normally a silk – conducting a seminar,” Kelsey explains, with “the four most junior members of chambers” also present too.The idea is that “pupils will be taught by a silk about the procedure in a private law case, but that they also have input from other people in the session, which creates a safe space where questions can be asked.”
Pupils can expect to be in court “several days a week” noted one pupil, engaging in children and finance work “of the best kind of quality.” Typical tasks include “attending live cases and conferences, private FDR work, drafting court orders, and undertaking research for other members of chambers.” Once into the second six, “we will take on our own work” characterised by an array of opportunities to get on one’s feet, with supervisors remaining present “as a point of contact for questions and advice.”
There are a mixture of formal assessments throughout pupillage – “we have advocacy exercises that start after Christmas, which are based on live cases we would normally be doing in our second six.” Seconded by a junior, “we had quite a structured advocacy programme. We had about five or six exercises, effectively getting you used to being in front of judges.” This helps pupils going into the second six “as you won’t be going in completely blind!” Kelsey explains that the advocacy exercises are about “teaching and constructive assessment” whilst pupils are also assessed against supervisor reports, submitted after each seat. These note what pupils did well and what can be improved upon, giving them the space to take on board feedback.
A decision on tenancy will then be made at the AGM in the summer (either at the end of June or early July), with a filtering committee making a recommendation based upon the supervisor reports. Written information gathered from those who’ve had contact with the pupil – including from clients and the clerking room – also factor in. The committee is traditionally made up of a silk and four or five other members of chambers, who will make a subsequent recommendation put before a vote. Although by no means a guarantee, the set retains a strong pupil to tenant conversion record. “Our recruitment process is very rigorous” explains Roberts, with a junior agreeing that “much of the leg work” in discovering potential tenants is conducted at this stage.
The Application Process
“Of course we’re looking for stellar candidates in terms of good academics, but we also want personality!”
1KBW notably does not operate within the Pupillage Gateway portal, instead providing their own application form which can be accessed on the set’s website or by contacting the chambers. It “asks for the standard information like academic qualifications and work experience” but one pupil remembered the “nice mix between legal and personality questions, as they really want to understand who you are and give you the opportunity to bring your personality across.” Kelsey confirmed this: “of course we’re looking for stellar candidates in terms of good academics, commitment to the bar, and a real understanding of who we are as a set – but we also want personality!”
The committee will then sift through candidates’ initial online applications in addition to a paper exercise undertaken at the same stage, before 20 or so candidates will be invited into Chambers for the first round of interviews. This stage will consist of an advocacy exercise on top of general interview questions which will take about 30 minutes. The second round of interviews, of which roughly 10 of the original 20 will make it, follows a very similar process, but the interview will instead take 45 minutes.
There’s also an additional advocacy exercise, though a pupil reassured us that this does not have to be done on the spot, with the set instead giving applicants about a week to prepare. Regarding the criteria, Kelsey explains, “we put ourselves on the position of our clients. Does this person inspire confidence? Or do they come across as a rabbit in the headlights?” The committee will then decipher who the two available pupillage offers will be sent out to. “It’s important to remain resilient and positive!” advised one pupil, before noting that the set is there to help and reassure you throughout the application process, “chambers keeps you updated regularly.”
“People really care about how comfortable I am.”
It’s fair to say the sources we spoke to couldn’t speak more highly of the set’s culture. “I’m sure a lot of places will say that the culture’s the attractive bit, but the culture was noticeably different here!” noted one junior, whilst a pupil mentioned the friendly and approachable nature about the place. “I wouldn’t have any nerves walking in to a senior member of chambers’ room, people are so approachable and welcoming here even if you feel like you don’t fit in. Nobody’s ever made me feel otherwise and I can say that very genuinely!” expressed one pupil. They added, “I think it’s a very open-door kind of culture. It’s truly friendly and I liked the progressive nature of the set. People really care about how comfortable I am.”
1KBW was one of the founding partners of the Bridging the Bar programme – an academy scheme designed to give students from under-represented groups access to internships, mini-pupillages, and mentoring, described by one pupil as “a scheme close to the values I hold for myself in that they’re trying to improve and progress diversity and inclusion at the bar.”
Pizza Fridays and regular after work drinks mean “people are not just colleagues, but genuinely friends.”
1 King’s Bench Walk
1KBW has a distinguished reputation in family law, both nationally and internationally, and is among the top tiers of the leading sets in family law. We are unique in the depth of our experience and our successes in both financial remedy law and law relating to children. The breadth of work we offer enables our members to tailor their own practice to suit their personality and interests in a way that other sets, with a narrower focus, cannot.
Our London-based barristers work at the cutting edge of family law development; we have been involved in most of the ground-breaking cases in the last two decades. We also house many of the most innovative and experienced alternative dispute resolution evaluators and umpires in the country.
Former members of chambers include Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division, and Baroness Hale of Richmond, until recently, President of the Supreme Court.
Described as “a magic circle of family sets”, we are home to many of the leading Silks and Juniors at the Family Bar and are pleased to have more barrister rankings in the leading legal directories, Chambers and Partners and Legal 500, than any other family set.Pupil profile
Our goal at 1KBW is to attract, support, lead and inspire the future stars of the family bar. We believe that, to achieve this, chambers has to be more than just a place of work for our members.
We are well known for having one of the most welcoming and collegiate cultures in the sector and are proud of the strong relationships that exist between members. As a friendly and cohesive set, we provide a huge amount of assistance and guidance to pupils and junior members as they set out and forge ahead with their careers. We offer a formal mentoring scheme for all members up to seven years call, although the culture of support runs far beyond this to the very top of chambers.Our members are also dedicated to the broader profession, and we are leading contributors to the Family Law Bar Association and the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators. Our members include authors of seminal works and are routine contributors to family law journals.We take the role we have to play in setting high standards and advancing the sector for changing times very seriously, with particular attention to diversity and inclusion, technological innovation, growth, internal engagement and exceptional client service.
At 1KBW we have a good record of taking on our pupils as tenants in Chambers. We seek to recruit the most talented candidates as pupils and only offer pupillage to those we think have genuine potential to continue their journey at 1KBW.Our twelve-month pupillages are divided between different supervisors. Pupils are encouraged to attend court with members of chambers to gain first-hand experience at all levels of court.
The work ranges from matrimonial finance, including high-profile, substantial asset claims; private law children cases, including leave to remove and intractable contact disputes; public law children cases and child abduction work. Pupils are assessed on a regular basis, provided with regular feedback from pupil supervisors and are expected to undertake written work including skeleton arguments, opinions and schedules of assets. To help build confidence as an advocate, chambers provides regular in-house advocacy training, including mock hearings in front of the members of chambers who sit part-time as judges and in-house seminars known as ‘Masterclasses’ at which Silks and senior members of chambers speak on practice and procedure in the main areas of chambers work.
The Application Process - 1KBW is not in the Pupillage Gateway system. However, we follow the Pupillage Gateway timetable and make offers in accordance with that timetable.
Who Should Apply? - We are looking for pupils who have the ability, motivation and temperament to succeed at the Family Bar. Candidates should be articulate, persuasive and have good academic qualifications (a 2:1 honours degree or above), as well as demonstrating an interest in family law.
The Interview - Applications for pupillage are initially considered on paper, after which a number of candidates will be invited to attend an initial interview. Following this first round interview a shortlist of candidates will be invited to attend a second-round interview, after which the successful candidates will be notified on the same date as offers are made in the Pupillage Gateway.
Candidates are assessed for evidence of intellectual ability, advocacy skills, relevant experience and potential. Above all, we seek pupils who will maintain and contribute to our commitment to excellence.
Funding - We offer each pupil a tax-free grant of £42,500 plus expenses which is paid during the first six months. In addition, pupils retain the income earned during their second six. Second six earnings are typically between £10,000 and £30,000 although these figures are not guaranteed. Due to the reputation of chambers, pupils can expect to be regularly briefed when they have found their feet.
While undertaking a mini-pupillage at 1KBW is not a prerequisite for an application for pupillage, we do encourage potential applicants to experience life at the Bar through a mini-pupillage (either at 1KBW or elsewhere).The Application Process - Mini-pupillages at 1KBW are always heavily subscribed and places are limited. We are only able to consider university graduates or undergraduates.We consider applications three times a year – in April, September and December - made using the application form on our website.
Mini-pupils are chosen on the strength of their paper applications using the following criteria:
• Academic achievement
• Extra-curricular activities and work experience
• A proven interest in family law
• The overall impact created
Applications are also weighted in favour of candidates who are closer to making an application for pupillage.
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
We were a founding partner of Bridging the Bar and are signed up to the 10,000 Black Intern Project.
As well as this, we have devised specific initiatives, such as our Essay writing competition, to provide opportunities and experiences without boundaries.
Many of our barristers undertake pro bono work on behalf of the charity, some being recognised with awards for their dedication to increasing opportunities for fair access to justice. Members and staff contribute to a wide range of charities and events on a personal level, as well as collectively throughout the year.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Bar, 2023
- Family: Children (Band 3)
- Family: Matrimonial Finance (Band 2)