Pumped at the thought of commercial and construction law? Then pay court to 4 Pump Court.
4 Pump Court pupillage review 2024
“We’re different to other sets, because our barristers have such a huge range of law to train in and practice,” explained joint senior clerk Carl Wall. For example? “Shipping lawyers at other sets that do shipbuilding might not have the same grounding in shipping and construction that our barristers have. We understand and practice the nuances of both." As a whole, 40% of the set’s work is construction and energy: "Transport is a newly defined area for us which includes vast experience in infrastructure and technology disputes arising out of airports, cars, rail, new transport systems and PFI road projects," explained Wall. Commercial disputes makes up another 40% of the set’s practice, covering IT disputes, shipping insurance, banking and pure commercial disputes for a range of clients, including household names like NatWest, Esso and Virgin. Regulatory, fraud and other non-construction professional negligence forms the last 20%.
It won’t come as a surprise, then, that the set is ranked by Chambers UK Bar for a veritable cornucopia of practices, including IT, professional negligence, property damage, financial services and insurance. 4 Pump Court is so highly regarded for its international construction, energy, shipping and commercial dispute resolution work that it’s earned rankings in Chambers Global. If you like commercial and contentious work, then 4PC has a lot to offer. To give you a sense of its work and how the set goes about its business, it has leveraged its technology and banking expertise to develop a thriving crypto practice. This is not a set that rests on its laurels, but rather one that’s at forefront of changes in the legal market. A team of 4 Pump Court barristers recently defended a cryptocurrency development organisation against allegations made by a computer scientist who claims to have invented bitcoin.
On the professional negligence side, another group of 4PC lawyers are defending construction company Rydon against a £130 million damages claim launched by the London Borough of Camden, concerning cladding materials. From land to sea, Sean O’Sullivan KC and James Hatt have been involved in a long-running dispute regarding a vessel trapped in Venezuela, in a case that involved corruption allegations and war risks. “We describe ourselves as a silver circle set and receive instructions from silver and magic circle firms,” muses Wall, “the firms that instruct us tend to be the top firms in each of our practice areas both domestically and internationally." It’s this sort of work that attracted juniors to 4PC, in addition to the fact that the second six is practising, “which isn’t common at heavyweight sets like ours. Here, you’re able to hone your advocacy skills in a way that’s not possible at other chambers,” explained one insider.
The Pupillage Experience
Somewhat unusually, 4PC splits the first six into two three-month seats, working with one supervisor in each seat. At this stage, “the emphasis is on working for your supervisor and getting to know their practice,” though pupils do also work for other members. Pupils told us the 4PC give its pupils a mix of supervisors, meaning by the end of pupillage “you’re exposed to a range of chambers’ areas. I spend my first seat working on IT and tech, whilst my second was focused on construction,” recalled one.
Drafting pleadings, advice and skeleton arguments are typically first-six tasks: “Those are mainly for live cases that your supervisor has, so you’ll do the first draft and then get feedback.” It's worth noting pupils don't get written feedback. Pupils do two oral advocacy assessments and two written assessments during the first six – one set in the first seat, and one set in the second. The written part is blind-marked by members of chambers, whilst the oral portion – an application and a mock hearing – is conducted in front of a panel of three members.
“You have total control over your time come second six – you can decide what work to take on and when."
For the second six (which is practising), pupils have just one supervisor: “You have total control over your time come second six – you can decide what work to take on and when." Road traffic accident and PPI hearings are common at this stage: “They’re really good practice for witness handling.” Pupils were grateful for their supervisors’ guidance on these matters: “When I’m doing written work, my supervisor will read my draft and provide advice on how to present the case on paper.” Supervisors are also there to discuss strategy and analysis: “They’re invaluable!” gushed our source. It’s worth noting that baby juniors and pupils do similar types of work: “Juniors are always willing to help. They’re an important source of support.”
Another invaluable source of mentorship is the clerking team. Most sets have one clerking team, but 4PC divides its team into groups of three, with each member being assigned to one team. Pupils and juniors five years’ call and under get a clerk mentor, which is the most senior clerk in the team: “You have regular meetings with your clerk mentor to discuss where your practice is going and what type of cases you want to help you build your practice.” One junior elaborated: “I’m interested in shipping cases, so my clerk has introduced me to those solicitors and has brought in lower-value cases that I can do on my own.”
Proving that 4PC isn’t all work and no play, the set runs a biweekly lyrics competition where members of chambers enjoy a fill-in-the-missing-song-lyric competition before heading down the pub. Several members also have lunch together in Middle or Inner Temple Hall, whilst client events are equally common.
When it comes to making the tenancy decision, 4PC puts together a committee comprising a cross-section of chambers, from silks to more junior barristers, including the pupil supervisors. James Hatt, a member of the pupillage committee, explains: “The committee looks at the reports from pupil supervisors and others, and makes its recommendation to the two joint heads of chambers, who formally make the decision.” Hatt adds that while the heads “are unlikely to disagree, but they may ask us more questions, so it isn’t just a rubber-stamping process.” The firm did not disclose its 2023 retention figure, but in 2022, both pupils were taken on.
The Application Process
4PC isn’t on Pupillage Gateway. “We have our own application form and obviously follow the same timetable, but we like to do things our own way.” That seems to be a common theme. Pupils recalled that the application form was reasonably lengthy, “which may seem daunting, but I enjoyed putting my form together because there’s so much space to provide detail on why you’re suited to being a pupil here and show your written advocacy skills.” One person’s chore is another’s opportunity.
After the committee has narrowed the application pool down, there are two interviews. “The first involves a legal problem – you’re given half an hour to review it before the interview. Then you debate the question and after that you’ll have a more general conversation around your CV.” Those who do well in the first interview are “selected for the second round, which is with the same four members who interviewed you in the first round, plus two other members.” That interview, Hatt explains, involves an oral-advocacy exercise – candidates are given submissions to prepare a few days before the interview, then present their arguments in front of the panel (which acts as a tribunal). “The second half of that interview is a more general conversation about things like your motivations and past experience,” explained an insider.
“The written application is an opportunity to show how you can persuade people on paper, which is an important part of being a commercial barrister.”
“The main thing, which applies both to the written application and the interviews, is to treat both as an opportunity to show off your advocacy skills,” a helpful pupil advised. “People don’t realise that the paper form isn’t just a place to put your qualifications and experience down,” they continued, “it’s an opportunity to show how you can persuade people on paper, which is an important part of being a commercial barrister.” And, said our sagacious student, “the same thing applies to the interview. So, even when it’s not an advocacy task, it’s an opportunity to make an oral pitch for them to take you on as a pupil.” Wise words indeed.
4 all of you: 4PC recently joined several other leading commercial chambers to launch a mentoring programme designed to increase diversity at the Commercial Bar.
4 Pump Court
4 Pump Court,
Types of work undertaken
The work of chambers covers virtually every aspect of commercial law. We have particular expertise in commercial dispute resolution, professional negligence, technology and telecoms, energy, shipping and shipbuilding, construction and engineering, and insurance and reinsurance.
We are committed to equal opportunities and diversity. We select candidates for pupillage and tenancy on merit, and with a tie-break in favour of Black candidates.
We require a minimum of 2:1 in your degree, but we do not require a law degree.
We want you to feel welcome and relaxed, and will therefore do our best to make you feel fully integrated in chambers’ life. We want to encourage you to develop your skills and to contribute fresh ideas.
Your pupillage will be for 12 months and during that time you will have three different pupil supervisors. We try to allocate our pupils so that you have the opportunity to experience as broad a range of work as possible. In your second six months, you can expect to undertake a significant case load of your own. We place great emphasis on the development of advocacy skills and we are committed to giving our pupils as much experience in court as we can.
We will be recruiting one pupil to commence pupillage in October 2023 and 2 pupils to commence in 2024
Limited places available throughout the year upon application by completing the application form available to download from our website.
We are outside the Pupillage Gateway but follow the same application timetable.
Applications for pupillage must be made on our standard application form, which can be downloaded from our website.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Bar, 2023
- Commercial Dispute Resolution (Band 4)
- Construction (Band 2)
- Energy & Natural Resources (Band 2)
- Financial Services (Band 3)
- Information Technology (Band 1)
- Insurance (Band 3)
- International Arbitration: Construction/Engineering (Band 2)
- Professional Negligence (Band 2)
- Professional Negligence: Technology & Construction (Band 1)
- Property Damage (Band 2)
- Shipping & Commodities (Band 2)