At Devereux, “you have massive advantages to the overlap in the core areas” – tax, employment and personal injury law.
Devereux pupillage review 2024
Demonstrating your commercial awareness is a must if you want to be a serious contender when you apply for pupillage. For Devereux specifically, “the pandemic affected the employment market,” saysCyrus Biggs, deputy director of clerking at the set. "The introduction of the furlough scheme was one factor that contributed to this area growing." He goes on to tell us that although personal injury and clinical negligence saw something of a dip, “that has really come back to the fore now. Following the pandemic, we have seen growth across all of chambers core areas.”
Other more recent world events – notably the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis – have also contributed to developments, most strikingly in the insurance practice, but Biggs stresses the set has no intention to grow drastically. “It’s nice to grow, but we need to grow in the right way” he explains. “We are focused on internal development and building on our excellent reputation.”
“As you progress in seniority, there is room to pursue new areas.”
While “initially the practices look quite siloed off from each other, the truth is that they’re not,” a junior explains. “You have massive advantages to the overlap in the core areas because as you progress in seniority, there is room to pursue new areas.” Amongst the “wide spectrum” of work on offer sits telecoms, insurance, professional negligence and litigation – “and a number of offshoots stem from our core areas, allowing members to practice across a variety of areas," says Biggs. Employment and tax are ranked highly in Chambers UK Bar,as is personal injury and telecommunications.
So let’s look at a snapshot of some recent cases. In summer 2023 Robert Weir KC was in the Supreme Court on a significant personal injury case about consent, in which a patient who passed away hadn't been offered treatment that would have saved their life. On the clinical negligence side, Weir represented a family who witnessed the death of their family member in a case at the Supreme Court to determine whether they were entitled to a claim as secondary victims.
Biggs also tells us that several tax practitioners have been in the Supreme Court this year. Members actually represented both sides of Professional Game Match Officials v HMRC, debating the employment status and tax treatment of professional football referees. Members also acted on both sides in Gary Lineker’s high-profile appeal over £4.9 million – Georgia Hicks was led by James Rivett KC of Pump Court Tax Chambers for Lineker as the appellant, while Akash Nawbatt KC, Christopher Stone, and Ishaani Shrivastava were instructed by HMRC.
Finally, in another high-profile case on the employmentand industrial relations side, Biggs highlights Andrew Burns KC and Marianne Tutin’s appearance before the parliamentary joint select committees, where they gave evidence on P&O Ferries’ obligations as an employer when proposing making mass redundancies at short notice.
The Application Process
Pupillage Gateway is the first stage for applications. Head of pupillage Kate Balmer outlines that the initial selection is split into two rounds of ‘paper sifts,’ the first of which “is typically done on the basis of academic qualifications where we would normally look for a minimum of a 2:1 qualification, however adjustments can be made where a candidate's result has been affected by a disability or exceptional circumstances." They then do a second more focused sift which awards certain points for certain aptitudes. “We’re trying to create a fair and objective recruitment process, to avoid a situation where you have an individual barrister looking at someone’s form and saying, ‘I went to school to that school or university” Balmer explains, so “we have detailed marking criteria which allocate a certain number of points for a 2:1 or 1st degree or a postgraduate qualification. That marking system removes the element of discretion – a qualification from a university is worth the same, irrespective of the course provider.”
“I felt comfortable asking those questions without being nervous!”
Between 30 and 40 applicants are then invited to the first interview where they discuss their CV, explain their reasons for applying to the Bar and Devereux specifically, and answer a problem question. “Two members of chambers interviewed me,” one pupil recalled, but they noted that the experience wasn’t too daunting. “Twice I asked questions about the problem questions, and I felt comfortable asking those without being nervous! I didn’t feel like I was being put on the spot – that was the standout feature.”
After this, 12 to 15 are then selected for a final interview. Prior to this, the final candidates are invited to drinks at the chambers, which is attended by the current pupils, clerks and available barristers, which allows members to test their interpersonal skills. At the interview, the candidates are given half an hour to think about a slightly more detailed problem question, before they are grilled by the interviewees. “They really explore how you get to an answer and how willing you are to explore other perspectives,” said insiders. “They also ask some questions relating to you and your background, and some competency questions.”
The Pupillage Experience
Pupillage usually follows the set’s core practices, at least for the first three seats. Pupils start with tax, followed by employment and personal injury. Balmer stresses that Devereux “is a strong mixed civil set with a number of different practice areas, so we will absolutely work with candidates who have an interest in some or all of those areas of law or could build a practice which complements our client offering.” One pupil we spoke with felt this was reflected in their pupillage, underscoring that, “if you’re interested in commercial work, telecommunications, or regulation, for example, here you get an opportunity to build your practice in the way you want to.”
This was felt most notably in the final seat where the set asks pupils if they have a preference in the kind of work they want to take on. “It could be a seat you have previously done and that you want to gain more experience in,” a junior explained, “or another area of law that a member is working in – if you want something that you haven’t touched on in your previous seats, you can do that as well.”
“I got to accompany a leading silk in three Supreme Court cases!”
Across employment and tax, much of the work is drafting advice and writing skeletons for tribunals, while personal injury is generally claimant-based on high-value matters. On the tax side there tends to be an even split between private client and regulatory work for both HMRC and taxpayers (typically “large companies and corporations”).Employment is usually work on the employer side. One pupil shared a highlight with us: “In one of my seats I got to accompany a leading silk in three Supreme Court cases in just three months!” – suffice to say insiders felt satisfied with the set’s approach to supervision.
Pupils are assessed throughout their pupillage, but Balmer tells us “they get a settling in period” before Christmas, and they don’t start formal assessments until after the first seat. That being said, “the first nine months are the assessed part of the pupillage,” so from the outset, supervisors are checking in and giving regular feedback to be included in the end-of-seat report. “I got feedback for every piece of work and sometimes they would take hours out of their day to help me improve!” one praised.
The tenancy decision is partially based on these appraisals, but is weighted most heavily on the five formal written assessments and two oral advocacy assessments. Written assessments take place every month from January to May, and they each cover a core practice area (tax, employment and personal injury) – the final two cover the wider commercial practice. “They try to keep them quite diverse,” and, for example “you could be getting a set of papers and writing an advice or pleading.”
One oral advocacy assessment happens just after Christmas, with the second reserved for the start of summer. Pupils submit a skeleton argument which they then argue in front of a former member of chambers who is now a judge, and two current members. Balmer explains that after this, “the tenancy committee produces a formal report on each candidate based on their assessed work, supervisor reports and the pupil’s comments, and that committee makes a recommendation to chambers as to whether the pupil should be kept on as a tenant.” In 2023, both pupils gained tenancy.
Throughout pupillage “you spend a lot of time being led,” one junior told us, “so the work you’re doing is often very high-quality work in the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, High Court, and tribunals. As a junior tenant, you can still have that aspect to your practice, but you also have your own work – there’s scope for how much you want to work by yourself.”
“It can be quite a lonely profession,” one mused, “but chambers is friendly and supportive – I think they do a good job of managing it!” On the social side, the set has your typical chambers drinks, bi-monthly dinners, and when the mood takes, “we’re opposite a good pub.” However, insiders wanted to stress that, “you can’t reduce the social side at Devereux to ‘going for a drink’– I think it’s wider than that. Breaking the culture down to a particular USP is difficult – people are just very open and welcoming.”
Finally, Balmer informs us that the set regularly hosts speakers – “we have someone coming in to talk about stress at the Bar” – and draws attention to Devereux’s women’s forum where, “we’re really focused on supporting our junior members because the retention and promotion of underrepresented groups, including women, is a big issue at the Bar.”
Queen Elizabeth Buildings,
Devereux is a leading set with 54 barristers, including 12 silks, offering a wealth of expertise in commercial litigation, insurance, reinsurance; professional negligence; IT and telecoms; contentious and non-contentious tax; employment and industrial relations; clinical negligence and personal injury. We are a multi-specialist set known for combining legal excellence with a collaborative approach. Our barristers offer clear, robust legal advice and outstanding advocacy while remaining approachable. They are supported by an excellent team of experienced practice managers and business services staff.
Employment and Industrial Relations
Insurance and Reinsurance
IT & Telecoms
4x3 month seats: 3 assessed seats, with seats normally in employment, personal injury and tax, but can be adjusted by agreement dependent on circumstances. The final seat occurs after the tenancy decisions have been made. This seat is flexible and allows the pupil to explore a further practice area or gain further experience in one of the assessed areas.
Devereux considers all applications on an equal basis and does not discriminate on grounds of gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief, or age. Devereux participates in the Pegasus Access Scheme, COMBAR Social Mobility Scheme, Bridging the Bar and the 10,000 Black Interns programme.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Bar, 2023
- Clinical Negligence (Band 4)
- Employment (Band 2)
- Personal Injury (Band 2)
- Tax (Band 2)
- Tax: Private Client (Band 2)
- Telecommunications (Band 2)
- Travel: International Personal Injury (Band 3)