This commercial set and insurance dynamo brokers cases for its budding barristers, so candidates need to show they can be “comfortable in a courtroom.”
Channelling their inner Craig David, juniors told us when it comes to 2TG life, “it just depends what your flavour is.” For us it’s mint choc chip, but they’re not talking ice cream. “I was interested in a range of commercial and civil practice areas, and 2TG met all of those interests,” one interviewee told us.Senior clerk Lee Tyler explains: “Although the majority of our work is insurance-based, we also have a very strong commercial arm which covers commercial fraud, dispute resolution and banking and finance.” The set acts for large commercial organisations and high net worth individuals, but insurers account for “the majority of our clients.”
Chambers UK Bar awards 2TG no fewer than eight rankings, mostly for prowess in all things insurance: its top-ranked practices are property damage and international personal injury. In a recent property damage case, Neil Moody QC and Daniel Crowley handled a multimillion-pound claim against Sony by the BBC concerning damage to stock in Sony’s warehouse during the 2011 London riots. Under the personal injury banner, barristers often deal with cases involving serious accidents on the road, in extreme sports, or while travelling overseas.
“We’ve seen a big spike in our instructions from the Middle East in the past 18 months.”
Tyler says product liability is one growth area: “It lends itself to lots of our other practice areas, like property damage, private international law and healthcare.” In a recent case, for example, Charles Dougherty QC acted for Beko (a white goods company) in claims that a defective fridge-freezer caused a big residential fire. The set is also investing in its commercial dispute resolution practice domestically and internationally. “We’ve seen a big spike in our instructions from the Middle East in the past 18 months,” says Tyler. The set hosts an annual arbitration seminar with the Dubai International Financial Centre – for the uninitiated, the DIFC is an independent economic zone in Dubai with English-language courts. In a recent case, 2TG member Timothy Killen was part of a team representing a Middle Eastern insurer in a $36 million claim.
The Pupillage Experience
The first six is divided into two three-month seats, with one supervisor per seat. In the second six, pupils do “a lot of our own court work,” with one supervisor throughout. It was a bit different this year when lockdown came into force – pupils stuck with the supervisors they’d had in the office, and 2TG introduced two-week ‘secondments’ with other members. Our pupil interviewee spent time with members dealing with employment law and clinical negligence defence. In an example of the latter, 2TG’s Michael de Navarro QC recently defended the Royal Berkshire Hospital NHS Foundation Trust against allegations that it didn’t provide sufficient advice about prenatal screening to the mother of a baby with Down’s syndrome.
Interviewees said 2TG aims “to expose pupils to as many practice areas as possible,” because “that variety carries on in your first year of tenancy” (barristers begin to specialise around the two-year-qualified mark). One source, for example, spent the first three months of pupillage dealing with property damage and personal injury issues, and the following three months doing all things commercial, from construction and insurance cases to civil fraud and DIFC matters.
In the first six, pupils begin assisting supervisors with their cases right away – that meant drafting pleadings and skeleton arguments, writing opinions and accompanying them to court. Alongside this, “we can work with ten or more members.” It sounds heavy going, but “all assignments go through our supervisors to make sure we’re not being overworked!” Case in point, “they want you in from 9am to 6pm, but don’t ask you to work weekends.” Caveat for the second six: if you’ve got a trial on Monday morning, you’ll likely do a bit of prep on Sunday. At 2TG, “you need to be comfortable in court because this set does a lot of advocacy.” Pupils get their own cases and clients early on, and during the second six it’s common for pupils to be in court three days a week.
“You need to be comfortable in court because this set does a lot of advocacy.”
Formal assessments crop up about four times a year, which include tasks like writing opinions on personal injury matters. Pre-pandemic, pupils would also do a couple of advocacy exercises a year, but Covid-19 slowed down the smaller, lower-value claims normally assigned to pupils. Instead, 2TG “really thoughtfully” set up advocacy exercises over Zoom to make sure pupils were getting enough experience. The reviews are in: “It was brilliant because what you don’t get from court is a barrister in your own chambers telling you how you did and how you can improve.”
When it comes to the tenancy decision, members of chambers submit reports on each piece of work pupils have done to the pupillage committee. Committee member Helen Wolstenholme explains: “We have strict criteria for tenancy selection, including high intellectual ability, sound judgement, the ability to think on your feet, and motivation.” The committee gives its recommendation to the board for approval. One pupil was pleased the decision is made in July, “because now I can relax. It’s barmy that some sets don’t make the decision until the end of pupillage!” 2TG granted tenancy to both its two pupils in 2020.
Like any English set worth its salt, 2TG takes great pride in weekly chambers tea (every Wednesday) and chambers drinks (every Friday). The former is “terribly civilised,” with members taking turns to bring cake. The junior end of chambers is “very sociable” – during the pandemic members embarked on socially-distanced walks together – but camaraderie isn’t reserved for juniors. “You can genuinely talk to anyone,” we heard, “so it’s natural for eminent QCs to walk through the door and strike up a conversation with junior barristers.” And it’s similar with the clerks: “I was ringing the clerks throughout lockdown just to chat, like to tell them about my new dog, or to thank our senior clerk Lee for getting me a case that’s going to the Supreme Court.”
The Application Process
Out of around 300 applicants on Gateway, 40 or so are invited to 2TG’s first assessment day. This is a bit of a deviation from standard one-to-one interviews. Candidates are given a group debating exercise “to see how they interact with others,” and are then asked to advocate for the topic in a tribunal-like setting. “We don’t expect people to pretend they’re in court,” says Helen Wolstenholme, “but more as if they’re in front of a student body like a disciplinary panel, representing their client.”
About 20 candidates are invited back to the second stage, which begins with a written exercise (usually a precis of a recent judgment). This is followed by another advocacy exercise, where candidates get half an hour prep time before arguing the case. On a separate day, candidates also attend a “long and rigorous” one-to-one interview. Wolstenholme says it consists of “a legal problem question as well as fairly open, competency-based questions, which give applicants the opportunity to expand on their CV and sell themselves.” One example might be ‘tell me about a time you were under pressure.’
“We like to see some sort of advocacy experience like mooting or even teaching.”
“We don’t expect applicants to have had courtroom experience,” Wolstenholme assures us, but given that pupils get so many advocacy opportunities, “we like to see some sort of advocacy experience like mooting or even teaching. Leading a class, holding its attention and speaking publicly is very similar to what you need to do in court.” Interviewers also want evidence of commitment to the Bar, like volunteering at legal advice centres. 2TG doesn’t discount those who haven’t done a mini-pupillage with the set, but “alarm bells would go off if they haven’t done one in one of our practice areas.” Beyond this, Wolstenholme says the set takes pride in recruiting a variety of personalities: “There’s a lot of space for different types of people.”
Time for change
In efforts to increase social mobility, 2TG and their pals at The Times host an annual mooting competition, which is open to all students in higher education in the UK.
2 Temple Gardens
2 Temple Gardens,
- No of silks 14
- No of juniors 47
- No of pupils 2
- Contact [email protected]
- Method of application Pupillage Gateway
- Pupillages (pa) up to three 12-month pupillages
- Award 2020/21 £70,000
Please note that applicants will only be considered after their first year of a law degree or during CPE. The best time to do a mini-pupillage is in the year or so prior to applying for pupillage.
Details of mini pupillage dates after March 2021 will be set out on the 2TG website.
Applications are accepted via the website by completing the online form.
Please see www.2tg.co.uk for details of the award.