There’s strength in diversity, as this set with multiple specialisms continues to prove.
Devereux pupillage review
“Despite the challenges of a global pandemic, we’re looking at a record year for Devereux in 2020,” chambers director Vince Plant tells us. Given how turbulent this year has been, that’s no mean feat. A secret to this set’s success is “specialism in four areas: tax, employment, personal injury and commercial law,” as outlined by Marika Lemos. “Chambers’ work has remained buoyant during the lockdown period. The current crisis is generating a lot of employment, insurance and PI work; tax is one of life’s certainties and tax work too has not diminished.” According to Chambers UK, Devereux shines brightest in the employment, personal injury, tax and telecommunications fields; it also scores rankings for insurance and clinical negligence.
“In the ten years I’ve been here, the set’s tax practice has really grown,” Plant notes.This required lateral recruitment – “chambers needed more hands on deck very quickly” according to Lemos, who herself joined Devereux alongside a handful of key tax practitioners including Good Law Project founder and director Jolyon Maugham QC. Members were recently instructed by HMRC during the first challenge to the Diverted Profits Tax, linked to allegations that profits made in the UK were diverted to group companies in Switzerland. Individual members of the tax team are on the A, B, and C Attorney General’s panel of junior counsel.
“Stuffiness just isn’t a feature here. Equality, diversity and opportunity of access matter.”
Devereux members were involved in some of the leading personal injury cases in 2019, with Robert Weir QC representing the claimant in a case following a series of road traffic accidents, raising questions of medical causation and road traffic insurance. Junior member Bruce Silvester acted for a client rendered tetraplegic following a severe spinal cord injury sustained in an unloading accident at a construction site in London. Notable employment matters included Bruce Carr QC’s instruction on a case involving a lecturer dismissed for not declaring a sexual relationship with a student; and Andrew Burns QC acting on Court of Appeal test cases on whether it’s discriminatory to pay a man on shared parental leave a lower rate than a woman on maternity leave.
“Stuffiness just isn’t a feature here,” Lemos notes, “equality, diversity and opportunity of access matter.” Plant concurs: “This is a business and that comes with some extreme pressures, but it's quite a fun place to work.” Pupils also came to a similar conclusion: “It’s collegiate, supportive, open, and friendly,” one said. “Everyone I’ve met has been absolutely lovely.”
The Application Process
Devereux accepts applications through the Pupillage Gateway: a written application precedes two rounds of interviews. Insiders told us: “There’s a real focus on practicality and how you would answer real-world problems, rather than just abstract conversation about law.” Marika Lemos says the interview questions aim to “get people to demonstrate their thought processes, it’s the first chance to see the candidate’s legal reasoning.” Though the first round typically has a silk on the panel, there’s reportedly a “more rigorous approach in the second,” withfour members presiding. Round two is also longer and “more complex,” with a “proper problem to go through. Once you’ve prepared an argument, the panel asks you follow-up questions.”
Devereux hosts an interim drinks event between the two interviews. One interviewee described this as “a great way to make you feel more at home and relaxed,” and another who was unsuccessful after round one the first time they interviewed described this as their primary motivation for applying a second time. “A number of our current tenants have been through the application process more than once,” according to Lemos. “We’re very openminded. When it comes to reapplying, it’s nice to see people’s perseverance and continued desire to join chambers.”
“The key is to demonstrate a real motivation for wanting to join.”
Lemos also tells us: “Everyone on the panel will have read each applicant’s CV, so the interview is about getting a glimpse of the candidate’s personality. That doesn’t mean a constructed reality TV personality of course, the key is to demonstrate a real motivation for wanting to join.” Beyond academics, Lemos says Devereux looks for the practical qualities necessary at the Bar: “We want candidates to demonstrate they understand being a barrister is about building a practice, showing business acumen and understanding you’ll have to be a self-starter.” Beyond that, Lemos highlights the importance of focus: “It’s really key that applicants understand the chambers they’re applying to. For example, people sometimes say that they are applying to do ‘commercial’ work. But they don’t really focus on what that means, and which part of ‘commercial’ work members of chambers practise in. Applicants should ask themselves, which part of ‘commercial law’ really interests them? Do they regard employment and tax as part of that? Are they just interested in insurance work? It doesn’t matter what the answer is, but we do want to see that they have thought about it."
The Pupillage Experience
Pupillage at Devereux is “really carefully structured and you know where you are at each stage of the process,” sources found.Each pupil does three seats of three months each in the set’s core practice areas: employment, tax and personal injury. “Some real heavyweights” of the Bar act as pupil supervisors. The tenancy decision comes around the nine-month mark and the final three months of pupillage act “as a transition into practice,” during which pupils can take on their own cases.
In each seat, the pupil tends to follow what their supervisor is up to. “While you’re with the tax team,” for example, “you knuckle down and get involved with the basics of tax law and how disputes work. You don’t find yourself doing much work for others in that period.” During their personal injury and employment seats our sources were more likely to take work from other members. “At one point I did a task for a silk that ended up being used in the Supreme Court,” one shared. Pupils were happy to largely stay in their supervisor’s lane: “It’s quite nice being protected as it means you’ll never get a request from left field.”
“At one point I did a task for a silk that ended up being used in the Supreme Court.”
Our sources were surprised and impressed with their responsibilities in each seat. “I did a skeleton for a case in the Court of Appeal five weeks into pupillage, which I couldn’t ever have imagined doing,” one beamed. The tax seat comes with a “heavy” advisory flavour alongside “lots of appellate work,” but it’s not all poring through documents; a pupil recently went abroad for a trial with their supervisor. Personal injury is mainly claimant-based: “We do some defendant work, but the majority of instructions are claimants dealing with multimillion-pound cases.” Drafting advice, schedules of loss, counter-schedules and “millions of skeletons for preliminary hearings” were common assignments for pupils across the seats. “On my first day I was going into a settlement meeting in a multimillion-pound clinical negligence claim,” an interviewee recalled.
Pupils described the set’s assessment process as “extremely rigorous.” They’re not wrong: pupils complete five assessed written pieces and two oral advocacy assessments over their first nine months. An initial grace period to “find your feet” means only one assessment before Christmas; it’s then roughly “one a month” until the tenancy decision.
“If you’ve done something wrong they’re honest, clear, and not frightening at all.”
Written assessments emulate a pleading or an opinion the pupil might see in practice; they get one day of the working week set aside to complete the assessment. A junior walked us through their experience: “I had to complete an opinion that required interpretation of a joint venture contract for oil and gas exploration; a senior practitioner had worked on the case previously. The feedback I got covered the differences between our approaches, which was fascinating.” Oral advocacy assessments also replicate real practice and are conducted in front of chambers members and former judges. “I was more nervous than I’ve ever been in my whole for that first advocacy assessment,” an insider admitted. Pupils receive “comprehensive written feedback” based on objective marking criteria provided in advance. “Everyone’s lovely and if you’ve done something wrong they’re honest, clear, and not frightening at all,” we heard.
Assessment feedback and supervisor reports mean pupils can track their progress across the year. “If you address any issues when they crop up, you’re going to meet the objective markers. Chambers makes it very clear where you stand throughout the process and you’ll be offered help to improve if you need it.” The final tenancy decision is influenced by written and oral assessments, reports from supervisors and other feedback from members; the pupillage committee produces a summary report before a full chambers vote. In 2020, Devereux granted tenancy to both its two pupils.
Same name, very different game: Chambers is conveniently located opposite The Devereux pub. “I was sat at my desk apparently not looking that busy,” one pupil laughed. “Someone saw me from the pub through my window and called me to invite me over!”
- QCs: 12
- Juniors: 46
- Total pupils: 2
- UK offices: London
- Application criteria
- Training contracts pa: 2
- Minimum required degree grade: 2:1 or equivalent and an impressive all-round CV
- Dates and deadlines
- Training contract applications open: As per Pupillage Gateway
- Pupillage Award: £60,000 (£20,000 BPTC) advance
- International and regional
- Offices with training contracts: London, Temple
Devereux is a leading set with more than 50 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.
Main areas of work
• Commercial Litigation
• Insurance and Reinsurance
• Professional Negligence
• IT & Telecoms
• Employment and Industrial Relations
• Clinical Negligence
• Personal Injury
4x3 months, with seats in Tax, Commercial, Employment, Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence. University law career fairs 2020 Legal Cheek virtual fair 2020.
Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing:
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 and agree to take three work experience placements per year. Inner Temple launched the unique scheme in 2011 and provides work experience for university students with the aim of encouraging diversity and social mobility at the Bar.