Combining a plethora of commercial practices with “unstuffy excellence,” this particular square is surprisingly well-rounded.
4 New Square pupillage review 2023
Variety is the spice of life, they say. 4 New Square is a set that adheres to this philosophy: pupillage is peppered with different practice areas. Known historically for its professional negligence and costs offering, the last ten years has seen commercial work develop into a bigger portion of the practice at 4 New Square: “We are a set who specialise in commercial disputes,” senior clerk and CEO Lizzy Stewart explains, “and the majority of our key areas fall under that broad discipline." Accounting for the remainder of the set's practice,professional liability work "accounts for about 30% of the instructions coming into chambers.”
As Lizzy Stewart emphasizes however, this is painting the set in broad stokes: “Under the commercial 'umbrella', we would consider international arbitration, professional liability, insurance, civil fraud, offshore, construction as well as several others." International arbitration too has been something of a focus for the set in recent months: “We have a particular recruitment drive at present in international arbitration and commercial law where we are seeing real growth in the volume of work we are receiving."
Our sister guide, Chambers UK Bar, recognises 4 New Square for its professional negligence; insurance, construction, product liability, professional discipline and commercial dispute resolution work, in addition to more niche areas like property damage, costs litigation and sport: “Sports law isn’t something you would expect to come across when you’re studying, but it’s one of the areas of commercial law that 4 New Square excels in.” The set alsoreceives top-tier rankings in professional negligence and costs litigation.
In terms of specific cases, Graeme McPherson KC defended former England rugby captain Chris Robshaw against three charges brought against him and other players selected for the Barbarians over alleged COVID-19 breaches that led to the abandonment of the scheduled England vs Barbarians match in October 2020. Where construction is concerned, Paul Cowan has been retained by the government’s legal department to address claims made by bereaved relatives and survivors of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
The Pupillage Experience
Pupillage at 4 New Square is split into three seats: “You sit with your first two supervisors for three months, and then your final supervisor for six months,” one pupil told us. The idea is for pupils to get exposure to a little bit of everything: “You’ll have a different focus each based on your supervisor’s main practice area,” a former pupil explained, “you might start in professional liability, before moving onto some straight up commercial stuff, followed by insurance, or something like that.” For Miles Harris, who sits on the pupillage committee at 4 New Square, selecting supervisors is a carefully thought-out process: “We try to make sure that they’re relatively junior, but with busy practices where they're doing some lead work,” Miles Harris tells us. “The most important thing is that they get a broad spread of chambers’ work through three people. That's the bedrock of training and assessment with the supervisor.”
“…you get a chance to work on things as they're happening.”
As you might expect, tasks in your first six will depend on what your supervisor is working on at the time: “It will be a mix of live work, so you get a chance to work on things as they're happening,” one pupil told us,“or you may do some drafting for an older case.” Bread and butter drafting ranges from defences to particulars of claims. But work in your first six isn’t restricted to this alone, as one pupil was quick to add: “If for example you have a trial coming up, there may be an opportunity to practice drafting cross examination notes.”
The second six at 4 New Square is practicing, and both current and former pupils at the set were keen to flaunt the opportunities they had to get on their feet: “Probably once a week, or once every two weeks, I’d do something like a small claims hearing,” one former pupil recalled, “I also spent quite a long time in the county court doing road traffic accident claims. They might only be worth a few hundred pounds, but you get to do some proper cross-examination.”
By way of formal assessments, there are four written exercises and two moots – mock hearings where participants argue against one another to test their advocacy skills. “The written assessments are spaced throughout the year, and chambers tries to make sure that all of the assessments are done by April or May,” one pupil explained, “In other words, most of it is front-loaded in your first six. That gives chambers an opportunity to have that information about how you’re doing as early as possible.” For the written portion, pupils receive papers and are given two days to produce a piece of advice, for example, which is then assessed by a member of chambers. They are judged by former members of 4 New Square who now sit in the Court of Appeal or High Court. As intimidating as it might sound, the current crop were more positive than you might expect: “When you first hear about it, you might think that it's going to be challenging, and it is challenging,” one pupil recalled, “but it's also fun, and it's a chance to actually put into practice all of the things that you've been learning about in the day-to-day.”
Pupils go through an informal review process with their supervisors halfway through each seat, before a more formal review at the end of the seat where they are given a grade: “Almost every piece of work a pupil does is graded,” Miles Harris tells us. “During those review stages, pupils clearly know where they're going and if they're satisfying the objective marking criteria of those assessments.” The final end-of-seat review carries the greatest weighting, but is also the most demanding: “What gets an A grade in week eight won't get an A grade in month eight.” Come the final assessment at month nine, “if they've met the standard, then the pupillage committee will inevitably recommend we offer tenancy,” saysMiles Harris, “It’s still formally something which chambers votes on, but in practice, it's something that’s simply dealt with by the way pupils perform.” In 2023, the set's pupil didn't gain tenancy.
The Application Process
Like most sets, 4 New Square asks candidates to apply for pupillage at 4 New Square via Pupillage Gateway, which is followed by a paper sift of applications. As one pupil put it: “In broad terms, you've got two rounds, an informal interview and a more formal assessment day.” The first round comprises 15 minutes of general questioning about why the candidate is interested in the bar, and 4 New Square I particular: “We’re not just testing aptitude.”
Successful candidates are then invited to a more formal interview, with 45 minutes dedicated to three or four set questions (often with an ethical dimension): “The questions form a platform for debate,” Miles Harris tells us, “There's no requirement for any legal knowledge, it's about giving the candidate the room to adopt a position and argue persuasively on that. It’s about testing out analysis, and presentation.” The final component of the second stage is a piece of written work, marked anonymously: “The written exercise is simply a test of written advocacy. We include a set of instructions with a letter of claim or something of that sort,” says Miles Harris. While greater weight is given to the interview, a candidate’s performance in these two components is combined before a decision is made.
The main advice from our interviewees was to tailor your application: “Really get to know the sets that you're applying to,” one pupil advised, “Obviously there are lots of commercial sets out there, but many sets have got a slightly different flavour to the practice areas that they cover, so be as specific as possible in your application. A generic application just isn't as persuasive.”
“…it's a relationship where both parties are respected for what they're bringing.”
So, for those trying their hand at a coveted pupillage at 4 New Square, what is it that you’re buying into? “The larger the set is, the harder it is to say that there’s one thing that links us all,” Miles Harris remarks, “but one thing we all like to say describes our environment is unstuffy excellence. We want to be doing the best work, but without any pomposity.” Indeed, as Lizzy Stewart puts it: “We very much see our operation as a joint endeavour. When you're a clerk, you're the agent. You're supporting members to be as successful as they can be. But it's a relationship where both parties are respected for what they're bringing.” For pupils at the set, this translates to an environment that immediately puts you at ease: “Even in the conference rooms and reception, it feels more modern in both its outlook and its layout.”
Be there or be square: Annual Christmas and summer bashes are highlights of the social calendar: “Chambers throws a good party!”
4 New Square Chambers
4 New Square,
4 New Square is a leading commercial and civil set of barristers comprising 85 members, of whom 32 are KCs. Its members are recognised as leading practitioners in a wide range of fields including commercial law, professional liability, international arbitration, insurance and reinsurance, commercial chancery, construction and engineering, public law, financial services, costs, public international law and sports law.
In recent years individual members of 4 New Square have consistently been included as leading practitioners in the two main legal directories (Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners) and 4 New Square has been regularly named as the top set for professional negligence work at the Chambers UK Bar Awards. Jackson & Powell on Professional Liability (the main text in this area) is written and edited by current and former members of chambers.
Chambers attracts a large amount of junior advocacy work in a wide range of fields and are regularly involved in high profile cases, which reflects the emphasis on developing pupils and junior tenants into experienced advocates to equip them for a successful career at the Bar.
Banking and financial services, civil fraud, commercial, commercial chancery, company and insolvency, construction, contentious trusts and probate, costs and litigation funding, disciplinary, energy, IT, insurance and reinsurance, international arbitration, offshore, product liability, professional liability, property damage, public international law, public law and human rights, real property and sports.
Our aim is to recruit two new tenants each year and it is our express intention, wherever possible, to source those tenants from our own 12-month pupils. As it is our hope and ambition that each of our pupils should reach the required objective standard for tenancy, it follows that our general recruitment practice is to select two 12-month pupils each year. We do not stream our pupils and each has an equal prospect of securing a tenancy.
Considering prospective candidates for pupillage or mini-pupillage, we concentrate on four criteria:
• Evidence of the requisite intellectual ability, as distinct from pure legal knowledge. At this stage intellectual ability is usually measured by performance in university and school examinations and at interview and other experience. We may also require applicants to complete a piece of written work during the course of the selection process
• Potential as an advocate both in oral and written advocacy
• Personal qualities such as self-reliance, independence, integrity, reliability and the capacity to work effectively with clients, colleagues and Chambers’ staff
• Motivation to succeed in a career at the Bar, including the steps taken to acquire the personal qualities required of a barrister
The first six months: You will go to court and attend conferences with your pupil supervisor. You will also assist them with their written work: carrying out written advisory and drafting work on their current papers and undertaking detailed research on the law.
The second six months: As well as continuing with work for your pupil supervisor, you will take on an increasing amount of your own court work. Chambers places a strong emphasis on advocacy and supports its pupils in gaining valuable practical experience. You can expect to be in court on your own about once a week up to the tenancy decision and potentially on a more regular basis thereafter. You will be expected to complete three assessed pieces of work for other members of Chambers.
Mini-pupillages generally last for two days and, save in exceptional circumstances, take place in specific weeks in June, July, November and December of each year. Mini-pupillages do not involve formal assessment but we do record feedback on your likely suitability for pupillage in Chambers. They are not a pre-requisite for a pupillage application. However, we encourage applicants to do a mini-pupillage in Chambers. We believe they provide a fantastic opportunity to get an understanding of the work we do and, perhaps even more importantly, an opportunity to meet members of Chambers and get a feel for the working environment.
Applications must be made on Chambers’ own mini-pupillage application form, from our website.
Chambers observes a policy of equal opportunity. All mini-pupils, pupils, tenants and staff are selected on merit alone, irrespective of race, gender, age, sexuality, religious or political belief, disability, marital status or background.
As members of chambers are self-employed individuals, many charitable and other good causes are supported on an individual rather than a collective basis. An area which has drawn particularly strong support from chambers over the years has been the promotion of social mobility in the legal profession. Chambers support many social mobility initiatives, such as:
• Social Mobility Foundation - The Foundation provides support for students wishing to consider careers in different areas
• Sutton Trust Pathways to Law – The programme supports Year 12 and 13 students from non-privileged backgrounds interested in a career in law
• Inner Temple Pegasus Access Scheme – The scheme’s aim is to improve access to the profession and to support high achieving students from under-represented backgrounds by providing the experiences they need to be able to thrive at the Bar
• Chambers consistently participate in schemes through The Bar Council, The Chancery Bar, COMBAR and The Law Society - these schemes assist lawyers from various countries understand the British legal system
• Open evening focusing on Diversity at the Bar – Over the past few years Chambers have hosted an open evening for graduate students to encourage a wider and more diverse range of applicants to the Bar
• Podcasts – Chambers has launched a series of podcasts entitled ‘Analysis – Commercial Dispute Resolution and Life at the Bar’ which cover a range of topics including pupillage at 4 New Square, life at the Bar and diversity at the Bar
• Bridging the Bar – Chambers are one of the Founding Partners and support their Mini-Pupillage scheme. The schemes aim is to increase diversity at the Bar
• RARE Contextual Recruitment System – Chambers use this system which in conjunction with their interview system to allow them to see students’ achievements in context by using various indices.
Chambers has also been a big supporter of Wellbeing at the Bar. Signing up to various initiatives such as:
• Mindful Business Charter
• Wellbeing at the Bar
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Bar, 2023
- Costs Litigation (Band 1)
- Commercial Dispute Resolution (Band 3)
- Construction (Band 3)
- Fraud: Civil (Band 3)
- Insurance (Band 2)
- Product Liability (Band 3)
- Professional Discipline (Band 2)
- Professional Negligence (Band 1)
- Professional Negligence: Technology & Construction (Band 2)
- Property Damage (Band 2)
- Sport (Band 2)