Crown Office Chambers holds court over a medley of civil and commercial matters.
Crown Office Chambers pupillage review 2024
“The hallmark of Crown Office Chambers is variety. This is a set with origins in civil and commercial law and one of the very sets that has continued, in my view, to be equally good in both areas – and at a very high level.” This wasthe answer our pupil interviewee gave when asked why they chose to join Crown Office. One of the set’s junior tenants elaborated on the draw of Crown Office: “I was indecisive and didn’t know what area I wanted to practice in, and it is increasingly hard to find chambers that have very high-quality work across a broad range of practice areas.” Luckily for this lawyer, “Here, you can get experience in different practice areas and then decide what you actually like.”
Senior clerk Andy Flanagan gave us further insight into the set’s work: “If I were to give a breakdown practices, I’d say that insurance, professional indemnity, property damage and construction equates to about 40-45%, then 30% would be personal injury, clinical negligence and occupational disease,” surmised Flanagan. “The rest would be made up of product liability, health and safety, environmental, sports law and other general commercial, chancery work – such as insolvency, fraud and directors duties.” Quite the range then!
“There have been great strides in the far east, Hong Kong and South Korea in particular, and infrastructure and governmental building projects in Africa.”
All this work is reflected in the set’s Chambers UK Bar rankings: health and safety, product damage and personal injury (industrial disease) earn the set top-tier accolades. The construction practice has earned a number of accolades – including construction-related international arbitration – and the set has earned itself a spot in the Chambers Global guide for its work in the arena. The main source of this work comes from the Middle East: “so Dubai, Doha, and increasingly Saudi Arabia,but there have been great strides in the far east, Hong Kong and South Korea in particular, and infrastructure and governmental building projects in Africa.”
In terms of strategy, “there has been a specific push and focus on private work to get a better balance with our insurance work,” we heard, “although a large proportion of our work remains insurer-backed, supported by all the big insurers and their panel firms.” Inclusive of the likes of “DWF, DAC Beachcroft, Weightmans, Kennedys, Clyde and Co.” A recent example of such insurance work, one for the history buffs, is that Isabel Hitching KC argued that World War II bomb damage is excluded from coverage. For the eagle-eyed sports fans, it might be of some interest to know that Michael Kent KC was successful in defending Manchester City Football Club against claims the club was liable for sexual abuse committed by coach Barry Bennell. Undoubtedly, Crown Office wears many hats – or crowns.
The Pupillage Experience
Pupils complete the first and second six across three seats, spending each stint with a different supervisor and their practice. Speaking with one pupil “the first seat was focused on commercial and insurance work. My second was a big contrast because I was with two civil practitioners, both of whom have very varied court-based practices.” Matters that this pupil was involved in or assisted with ranged from, “complex commercial issues concerning business and insurance, through to the usual tripping, slipping and accidents. I didn’t expect the set to work on some of the areas it does: niche areas – there have been cases about a surgical stapler, a legionella outbreak, tallegedly negligent solicitors – the list goes on!” So what did this look like day to day? “I was drafting documents involving personal injury, clinical negligence, that kind of thing.”
In preparation for the second six, pupils complete four oral and three written advocacy assessments. These reflect the work conducted in the county court, so tasks include applications and cross examinations of a live witness in front of a panel of judges. These assessments are “a fairly natural link between the way advocacy is assessed on the bar course, and the way advocacy is done in practice, so it steered us on the right path from being students to becoming practitioners.” This occurs alongside the work that pupils complete for their supervisors, for which each piece feedback is guaranteed.
“You’ll most likely be in court two or three times a week.”
The second six is practicing, so there’s an emphasis on advocacy. At this point, “you’ll be taking on your own work, usually small person injury matters, applications, and sometimes small contractual matters. You’ll most likely be in court two or three times a week.” One source was keen to tell us: I’ve had well over twenty hearings of my own in the county court and that is of course an absolutely invaluable experience.”
Mentorship takes the form of an uncle and aunt system, which comprises of previous years pupils who confidentially advise. As declared by a junior tenant, “the best is you can ask them any stupid question you want as they’re not involved in the eventual tenancy decision.” Sources found advice on “practical and procedural things. They’ve just been doing small claims in the county court, so they know a lot of useful tips about how to survive! They also gave us a series of seminars before we started in the county court – that was enormously helpful.”
Support could also be found during social events. In the first couple of weeks of pupillage, the aunts and uncles take pupils out for a curry: “entering pupillage can be very daunting, so sitting down with people who have no involvement in the tenancy and just talking to them like normal people is a great pressure-release.” Towards the end of the year, the uncles and aunts sit down with pupils over a glass of wine and discuss all of the usual cases they will see in their second-six.
“There is no one you cannot talk to.”
It's not just the pupils that get in on the action: “us juniors try to hold a social evening with the junior clerks every year. We went bowling last year, and it was a really nice way to get to know them.” This junior was also pleased to report: “Everyone’s on a first-name basis. Just like there is an open-door policy to chambers, there is an open-door policy to the clerks room. They have a large office on the ground floor, and we all go in every morning and talk to them. There is no one you cannot talk to.”
A pupil remarked that, “the pupillage team were absolutely fair about the working hours and supportive when some of us had personal or family issues that meant we had to be a bit more flexible at certain parts of the year. At no point did I feel that I was working unreasonably hard.” We’re glad to hear it! Pupils must keep on their toes as “supervisors will give a review to the head of pupillage at the end of the seat. All of that gets added up at the end of the year, along with work you do for other members of chambers, and will go factor the eventual decision.” Speaking of which, the tenancy decision is normally made mid-June: “it’s a competition against yourself, but not against anybody else.” At the start of the pupillage, there is ‘a six week-ish grace period, where they expect lots of mistakes to be made. That’s part of the learning process.” The number of pupillages available is reflective of the number of tenancies up for grabs. Pupils need to “reach a certain standard, and in fact this year all three pupils reached that standard, which shows it is not a competition.” All three pupils were offered tenancy in the last round.
The Application Process
For those eager applicants, some words of advice from a current pupil are, “one of the easiest ways of filtering candidates is by getting rid of those who make little mistakes, and of course little mistakes matter at the bar – accuracy is very important.” So double and triple check. Additionally, a junior tenant offered some crucial advice, “the biggest tip I can give is research chambers as much as possible, to really understand what makes it tick.” Don’t make the fatal mistake of sending copy and pasted applications, the takeaway is do take time and care.
To address diversity and inclusion, Crown Office has implemented Rare Recruitment from this year onwards: “we’re not looking for people like us, we’re for the best people for the work. We encourage applications from a variety of different people and our process tries to ensure that we are actually selecting people who are a best fit.” So, follow Flangan’s advice, “be yourself, don’t try and be something you think we are looking for.”
Applications are taken through the Pupillage Gateway. The first step in the recruitment process is the written application. Pupillages are notoriously hard to secure, so it should be no surprise that at this point, only 30 of roughly 125 applicants are invited to the interview stage. This usually lasts 25 minutes: “it’s focused on the application, focus on interest in chambers and the practice areas we do, interest in being a barrister, and understanding what being a barrister is actually like, and assessing part of that conversation how do they communicate,” explained pupillage committee member Hamish Fraser.
"... their potential to deal with situations on their feet.”
From those 40, around 20 will go to the last round, a second interview. Candidates get an hour (before the interview) to complete a written exercise, then spend 10 or 15 minutes presenting a point of law to the panel. From there, candidates are asked more competency-based questions. Fraser told us: “we are not trying to assess legal knowledge, because we feel knowledge can be learnt. What we are trying to assess is capability.” The focus is on the candidates’ “problem-solving capability, and understanding of how the law works and their potential as an advocate, particularly their potential to deal with situations on their feet.” Pupillage is offered to three candidates.
Escape to the country
“This is the sort of place where you’re invited to people’s homes. We just had a summer party with a huge lunch at one of the KC’s houses in the countryside.”
Crown Office Chambers
2 Crown Office Row,
Crown Office Chambers is a leading set within numerous practice areas, principally with a civil or commercial focus. There are some 100 tenants in Chambers including 24 QCs. Members of Chambers feature regularly in leading cases across all our specialisms.
We are inviting applications for pupillage from outstanding law and non-law graduates. We particularly encourage applications from underrepresented groups including women, those from black or other ethnic minority backgrounds, those with disabilities, LGBTQ+ people, and those from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. Applications for pupillage are assessed and determined solely on merit.
Crown Office Chambers offers up to three pupillages, each with an award of £75,000 plus earnings retained from second six. A drawdown of up to £20,000 from the pupillage award is available in advance.
Crown Office Chambers is a member of the Pupillage Gateway. Please refer to the Pupillage Gateway website for further information including the recruitment timetable.
We are ranked consistently by the directories in practice areas including: commercial litigation; professional negligence; insurance and reinsurance; construction and energy; international arbitration; personal injury; clinical negligence; health & safety; inquests & public inquiries.
Our members appear regularly across the full spectrum of courts and tribunals, both in UK-based litigation and international arbitration.
We offer up to three pupillages each year. All pupillages are offered with a view to tenancy and we emphasise that pupils are not in competition with one another. All pupils who meet the standards for tenancy will be offered it. During First Six, pupils will sit with two different supervisors each for a three-month period. During Second Six, pupils will sit with a third supervisor for six months and will be receiving regular instructions in their own right throughout that period.
Advocacy is a key focus of Chambers’ expertise, and therefore all pupils will obtain substantial advocacy experience during Second Six by attending County Court and other hearings up to 3-4 times per week.
There will be an opportunity to experience work in all core areas of Chambers’ practice. This is intended to facilitate a varied and interesting pupillage whilst also to provide a firm foundation for tenancy.The current pupillage award is £75,000, paid in equal monthly instalments. In addition, pupils will retain all earnings from Second Six which – given the frequency of instructions – can add significantly to the overall remuneration from pupillage.
A drawdown of up to £20,000 from the pupillage award is available in advance. There are also generous concessions on Chambers’ expenses in the early years of tenancy.
We assess applicants for pupillage by reference to the following objective criteria:
• Intellectual ability / analytical skills
• Advocacy potential (oral and written skills including clarity and persuasiveness)
• Potential to be a successful barrister (including: determination, organisational skills, interpersonal skills, sound judgement)
• Interest in Chambers
Crown Office Chambers is committed to equality of opportunity, and to diversity amongst its staff, members, pupils and mini-pupils. Chambers maintains and follows a written statement on Equality & Diversity and reasonable adjustments. For more information please see the Diversity Policy & Data page.
The members of Crown Office Chambers are committed to the furtherance of equality and diversity, and to the promotion of access to the legal profession including the Bar in particular. For further information on the initiatives supported by members of Chambers in this respect, please see the Chambers Social Responsibility page.We hope that this page, along with other pages on our website, answers any questions you may have about pupillage with us. If you have any further questions please contact the Pupillage Secretary at email@example.com.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Bar, 2023
- Personal Injury: Industrial Disease (Band 1)
- Clinical Negligence (Band 3)
- Construction (Band 3)
- Health & Safety (Band 1)
- Inquests & Public Inquiries (Band 3)
- Insurance (Band 3)
- International Arbitration: Construction/Engineering (Band 3)
- Personal Injury (Band 1)
- Product Liability (Band 2)
- Professional Negligence (Band 3)
- Professional Negligence: Technology & Construction (Band 2)
- Property Damage (Band 1)