It’s hip to be square: 4NS offers a varied commercial pupillage in a "very professional" yet "very friendly" environment.
4 New Square pupillage review 2022
“In the last 15 years, 4 New Square has developed into a strong and varied chambers with a series of specialist areas under a commercial umbrella,” senior clerk Lizzy Stewart begins. Applicants arrived in search of a pupillage with variety on their minds: “I was interested in professional negligence as well as other areas that 4 New Square was expanding into, such as international arbitration,” a source revealed. Breaking down the areas of practice that chambers covers, professional liability and commercial work make up the biggest slices; construction, insurance, international arbitration, offshore and sports law all play a role too. 4NS achieves its highest Chambers UK Bar rankings for professional negligence, but also scores highly for insurance, sport, construction, property damage, product liability, professional discipline and commercial dispute resolution.
“It’s a common misconception that our work is all professional negligence… we’re also a leading set for insurance and commercial litigation.”
Zeroing in on professional negligence, Justin Fenwick QC recently acted for PwC in a £50 million claim brought by Premier Motorauctions alleging negligence and conspiracy; fellow member Roger Stewart QC represented law firm CMS in a claim for £300 million, with the firm accused of acting in a position of conflict towards private equity transactions. Pupillage committee member Miles Harris clarifies: “I think it’s a common misconception that our work is all professional negligence. It’s there and yes, we lead in that area, but we’re also a leading set for insurance and commercial litigation.”
According to Harris, “that’s more and more the way the practice is going. Speaking to members under ten- or 12-years call, professional negligence is part of what they do, but not all.” Graham Eklund QC recently represented Zurich Insurance in a £5 million claim alleging that the non-disclosure of facts after a fire at waste management group Niramax invalidated its insurance policy. Acting for the insurer of a hotel and restaurant which was largely destroyed by fire, Ben Elkington QC represented Suffolk Life Annuities in a £3 million claim brought against the roofing contractor and their own liability insurer. In a leading commercial case, Daniel Saoul QC has been instructed by Allen & Overy and Hogan Lovells to act for the claimants in US$300million commercial fraud proceedings brought by Kazakh companies against their former directors and shareholders.
The Pupillage Experience
Pupils complete three seats with three different supervisors – two for three months each, then a final six-month stint. “Chambers has a broad scope of practice that’s reflected in individual members’ caseloads. Most pupils will see lots of different types of work,” we heard. Over the course of pupillage, multiple sources got a mix of professional liability claims, insurance and general commercial litigation on their plates, while some had also seen construction, sports and civil fraud claims. “My first supervisor was involved in some pretty chunky bits of litigation” during the first three months of one source’s pupillage. “I was doing a lot of ancillary tasks for those big cases.” Others noted that “if a case is lead by a QC, the pupil is likely to do smaller and more specific tasks.” Examples include research, document analysis and “occasionally a first attempt at draft applications.”
"When you start, dead cases are useful because there’s less time pressure.”
Interviewees eventually found themselves doing a roughly even mix of live and historic work; one reckoned “it’s probably true to say you do more live work as you go through pupillage. When you start, dead cases are useful because there’s less time pressure.” By their second seat, pupils noticed a “much stronger emphasis on drafting” and that supervisors were more likely to be “involving you on smaller, more accessible matters.” On such cases, pupils can take charge of “standard documents like advices, statements of cases and various forms of correspondence.”
The second six typically comes with chances for pupils to get on their feet, while also continuing to do work for their supervisor. Sources estimated that pupils should be in the County Court around once a week, advocating for “small matters claims suitable for someone of our level.” A junior recalled: “My first ever hearing was a road traffic accident which was very fact-heavy. I also did a small breach of contract claim stemming from failure to pay a due sum.” Sources described getting on their feet as “a learning experience: it’s quite different, going from watching your supervisors in court to being in court yourself. The parts of the brain you engage are different.” Our latest pupil interviewees sadly hadn’t yet had the opportunity to go to court as their second six coincided with the 2020 covid-19 lockdown; at the time of our research, they reckoned “things should start up again soon,” and some had already got court appearances lined up in the diary.
“It’s easier to get an A early in the year, and it gets harder closer to tenancy when work should be of a higher quality.”
Two assessed moots, “judged by either silks in chambers or retired court of appeal judges,”provide pupils with more advocacy experience. They also complete four written assessments over the year (usually advices), for which they have around 24 hours: “4NS wants to test how you respond and the quality of your written work under circumstances where time is a bit tight, and you might not have seen the relevant law before,”a pupil told us. Beyond these formal assessments, pupillage committee member Miles Harris notes that “supervisors mark virtually every piece of work their pupil does.” Everything is ‘graded’ in “accordance with where they’d expect you to be in that part of the pupillage.” A pupil explained: “It’s easier to get an A early in the year, and it gets harder closer to tenancy when work should be of a higher quality.” Supervisor reports and assessments alike are considered as part of the tenancy decision. In 2021, 4 New Square's one pupil achieved tenancy.
The Application Process
As of 2019, 4NS is back in the Pupillage Gateway. In addition to the typical Gateway questions, 4NS adds “a question asking candidates to describe a recent case they’re aware of and why they find it interesting.” 4NS selects around 50 applicants for the first interview, which is around 10 to 15 minutes long with “general questions about why they’re drawn to the Bar, and why 4 New Square in particular.” Candidates should also expect to discuss the case they picked out in their initial application: “We use that to test their potential attitude as a barrister,” Miles Harris notes.
Up to 16 candidates score spots in a second-round interview with a panel of around 4-5 members including an advocacy exercise and a brief presentation. Candidates receive “papers and a few legal resources and have to write a short letter of claim in the imagined scenario.” A pupil explained: “It was designed to test legal reasoning, rather than knowledge.” Candidates will then interview with a panel of around four members. Harris lays it out: “There are four sections, and candidates choose two to complete. Each has a number of propositions they can argue for or against, which don’t require legal knowledge – they’re intended to test a candidate’s ability to argue points and respond to questions.” Sources recalled topics like “whether there should be quotas for the judiciary, or the permissibility of using drone strikes in foreign countries.” The final part is an advocacy exercise in front of the same panel, including a brief presentation.
“We also consider their potential to be a good advocate – someone who’s able to present arguments attractively and persuasively.”
Considering what makes an applicant attractive, Harris emphasises 4NS “wants pupils who are going to be successful tenants.” What does that mean in practice? “It’s essential that they have the intellectual ability to do the most complex commercial work. Lots of candidates show that, but we also consider their potential to be a good advocate – someone who’s able to present arguments attractively and persuasively, as well as having the capacity for getting on and working with others.” Sources noticed these traits are widespread at 4NS: “I’d describe it as very professional. Everyone works pretty hard but is very friendly and welcoming at the same time. It’s so interesting to get to know other members at chambers drinks or other after work events.”
School of mock
4 New Square runs a mooting workshop for students undertaking the GDL at City University.
4 New Square
4 New Square,
- No of silks 33
- No of Juniors: 54
- No of Pupils: 3
- Contact: Ella Igbiaye, 020 7822 2000, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Method of application:
- Online at www.pupillagegateway.com
4 New Square is a leading commercial and civil set of barristers comprising 87 members, of whom 33 are QCs. 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.
Type of work undertaken
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.
Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing:
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
• Oxford 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, 2021
- Costs Litigation (Band 1)
- Commercial Dispute Resolution (Band 4)
- Construction (Band 3)
- Insurance (Band 2)
- Product Liability (Band 3)
- Professional Discipline (Band 3)
- Professional Negligence (Band 1)
- Professional Negligence: Technology & Construction (Band 2)
- Property Damage (Band 2)
- Sport (Band 2)
Life at the Bar Podcast Series