The advocacy training at 2 Bedford Row is so good, it’s criminal.
2 Bedford Row pupillage review 2024
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that the criminal justice system in the UK is under enormous pressure, prompting barristers to take strike action in protest over low pay and legal aid funding. For students with a passion for criminal law, the question is how to balance the need for a decent salary with their desire to work in crime? The answer for one junior barrister was 2 Bedford Row, and its “focus on high-end, serious crime.”
This set has been top-ranked in crime by Chambers UK Bar for many years, and is also highly regarded for its financial crime offering. It’s not the end of the story. 2BR is also ranked highly for its health and safety work, and gains respectable rankings in sport and professional discipline. Some of 2BR’s members have expertise in niche areas including military, cybersecurity and environmental law. A pupil pointed out that 2BR “provided the opportunity to carve out a niche alongside crime. That was important to me.”
“A focus on high-end, serious crime.”
All that said, crimes is at the core of the chambers. Allan Compton KC is a member of the pupillage committee: “We want recruits who are looking for a career in crime and regulatory law,” he tells us, adding that candidates who stand out manage to convey that they are prepared for “the difficulties of the Criminal Bar, and how they’ll cope with it.” In other words, the set “wants people coming in with eyes wide open.” Indeed, anyone with a desire to work at the Criminal Bar needs to be ready and willing to work on highly sensitive cases that often feature heavily in the public eye. One example is the murder trial for Sarah Everard, in which two of the set’s members, Jim Sturman KC and Shauna Ritchie, represented the then-serving police officer Wayne Couzens.
A pupil who “wanted to be able to defend and prosecute” liked that “this set does both.” In an example of the latter, Brian Altman KC acted for the prosecution in the case of PC Andrew Harper, who was killed on duty after being dragged by a car that was driven by three youths who were fleeing a burglary. The set’s work spans the range of criminal law – Kieran Vaughan KC recently represented Sergejs Auzins who was accused of laundering more than £5 million, and in another case he acted for a former BBC producer who was found to have downloaded indecent images of children.
On the health and safety side, Christine Agnew, led by Richard Matthews KC, acted for the prosecution in a matter related to the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, where the jury found that the 96 people who died in the crush had been unlawfully killed. Meanwhile, in one high-profile example of the set’s financial crime work, Simon Baker KC represented the Post Office in the appeals coming out of the Horizon Scandal, in which hundreds of Post Office employees were wrongfully charged with fraud and theft due to a faulty computer system that caused money to disappear from accounts.
One of the set’s biggest USPs is that it runs three sixes. Explaining the unusual set-up, chambers manager Lisa Pavlovsky points out that “we like to see pupils on their feet for more than six months before making a decision.” Compton adds that “we’ve rejected applicants in the past who became very good barristers at other sets, and so we wanted to give people more opportunity to prove themselves.” Happily, “since we moved it to 18 months, our retention rate has gone up significantly.” Juniors acknowledged that “courtroom advocacy takes time to learn.”
The Pupillage Experience
Incoming pupils need two things: a notepad and comfortable shoes. During “the first six, you literally shadow your supervisor day-in and day-out,” explained one junior. “You’re assigned a barrister and follow them around, doing all their cases. Sometimes you have more written work, sometimes less.” Juniors and pupils are assigned one supervisor per six, and while a lot of work will be done for your supervisor, “you do work for other members of chambers too.” One pupil told us “I was shadowing my supervisor for a significant portion, doing crime work,” but “I also did some regulatory cases. My supervisor made efforts to get me to do small pieces of work,” and “when my supervisor wasn’t in court, I was sent to watch the juniors in the Magistrates’ Court.”
“It’s trial after trial after trial...”
For the second six, you’re on your feet “on day one! It’s trial after trial after trial, from the get-go,” reminisced one junior. Of course, “that’s one of the draws.” The cases pupils get assigned will be “what’s called ‘high street’ crimes – harassment, driving offences, public disorder, violent offences, animal cruelty, stalking…” As such, “you’re doing 95% Magistrates’ Court, then some straightforward Crown Court cases” – the latter are likely to fall into the violent assault bucket, rather than anything more serious.
Moving forward, “the third six is effectively the same as the second one,” butwith the benefit of a bit of experience “you’ll have better relationships with solicitors, and you’ll have more complicated work.” Reflecting on the array of advocacy opportunities, sources said “it’s exciting, but you have to learn very quickly.” If this sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. But our interviewees didn’t feel unsupported. “The set really puts a lot of work into its pupils. There’s a real investment in the future.” They highlighted weekly advocacy training, “which is utterly invaluable,” and provided pupils with the chance to come into the office to socialise.
One thing future criminal barristers should know is that “we work long hours,” pupils and juniors admitted. “You can expect to work late into the night, and you’ll probably have to do work over the weekends.” They added, “pupillage is essentially an interview for 18 months, so you have to make sacrifices.” But even so, said one junior, “your life doesn’t end! I still enjoy a social life now – you learn to manage your time.” And on the plus side, interviewees found flexibility in how they structured their days: “You can do your exercise in the middle of the day if you want, so long as the job gets done.”
Pupils can apply for tenancy after 12 months, but as Compton says, “it’s very much the exception.” Ahead of the decision, pupils submit a one-page written application, complete with references. As Compton explains, “pupils are responsible for gathering about ten external references from judges, clients, and so on,andan unlimited number of internal references.”
About two or three weeks before the final decision, they then prepare for a mock trial, which “forms a significant part of the marking scheme.” All members of chambers are invited to attend, but “the jury will be the members of the tenancy committee and the judge is one of the heads of chambers,” Compton tells us. The whole event usually runs for two or three hours, providing pupils with a chance to “showcase their skills.”
About two weeks later, pupils undergo interviews with the tenancy committee, and after that “the committee makes a decision on whether the person has reached the required standard.” If so, the decision is then sent to the management committee for final approval.
The Application Process
If that’s you and 2BR sounds like a good fit, the initial application is on the Gateway. Aside from the usual Gateway questions, there are “a few questions that are focused on chambers,” explains Compton. “After that,” he continues, “we interview in the region of 50 applicants.”
In the first interview, candidates face a panel of three and deliver “a short one-minute advocacy exercise” in which they “argue a question for or against,” Compton tells us. Such as? “Should TV cameras be allowed in court?” says Compton, while one junior recalled theirs as: “Do you think defendants should be given credit for a guilty plea?” Whatever it is, it’s bound to be something thought-provoking. The aim, says Compton, is to get a “flavour of their ability to argue.” There are also “three standard questions we ask all applicants, which change year on year,” Compton explains.
“If someone says something daft or wrong, we’ll tackle them on that as gently as we can.”
The top 20 to 25 applicants are then invited for a second-round interview, which “we try to do over the weekend.” This time candidates face a panel of five members, and must complete “a formal advocacy exercise, like a bail application, which is sent the day before.” Candidates have “no time limit on that,” continues Compton, but take heed that the set is in no mood to sugar-coat. The interview contains “deliberate interventions from the panel to see how they cope with that.” It sounds quite challenging? “It’s moderately friendly,” muses Compton. “If someone says something daft or wrong, we’ll tackle them on that as gently as we can."
Criminally good fun:“The criminal bar is a sociable place,” so pupils “aren’t short of opportunities to socialise.”
2 Bedford Row
2 Bedford Row,
Type of work undertaken
Chambers both prosecutes and defends and is committed to all aspects of criminal and regulatory. Its members have extensive expertise in areas including crime, fraud, regulatory work (for GMC, GDC and the NMC), health and safety, inquests and public inquiries (including the Hillsborough football stadium disaster and the Grenfell Tower fire).
Chambers offers up to four 12-month pupillages each year but will require a 3rd six to be successfully completed before inviting applications for tenancy. Pupils will have a different supervisor in each of the three six-month periods. This ensures that pupils are provided with a thorough grounding in all aspects of Chambers’ practice. Chambers also provides structured advocacy training throughout the pupillage year and will pay for pupils’ text books and all appropriate courses including attendance to the ‘Forensic Accountancy’ courses.
Chambers looks to recruit pupils who display the following qualities:
• Commitment to criminal law
• Sound academic background
• Persuasiveness in both written and oral argument
• Passion and flair for advocacy
Applications should be made through the Pupillage Gateway
We offer mini-pupillages of one week duration. We encourage applications from students who are in their second or third year at University; postgraduates; and to those who are considering applying to us for pupillage in the next Pupillage Gateway cycle. Due to the confidential nature of our work and restrictions at some courts, we are unable to offer mini-pupillages to anyone under the age of 18.
Assessment for mini-pupillage will be based upon three criteria:
• Commitment/dedication to the criminal bar
• Insight into the areas of practice within chambers
Applications should be made using the form found on the website: www.2bedfordrow.co.uk/pupillage
Pupils will receive a minimum of £30,000 over the course of their 18 months in chambers. This is made up of a grant of £15,000, payable during the first six and guaranteed earnings of £15,000 during the remainder of the pupillage. In recent years, pupils have billed far in excess of the minimum £30,000 guaranteed by chambers.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Bar, 2023
- Crime (Band 1)
- Financial Crime (Band 2)
- Health & Safety (Band 2)
- Professional Discipline (Band 3)
- Sport (Band 3)