Covering every corner of property law, pupils flock to Falcon to spread their wings.
Falcon Chambers pupillage review 2024
When the Tate Modern put in its viewing gallery, little did it know it was going to be such a nuisance. For nuisance was precisely what the owners of four flats in the Neo Bankside development claimed was occurring, arguing that the Tate’s gallery allowed its visitors, illegally, to look into their homes. Soaring high above it all was Falcon Chambers, the UK’s premier real estate litigation set, which swooped down to defend the Tate. According to senior clerk John Stannard, Falcon focuses on six core property-related areas: commercial property, residential property, agriculture, natural resources, development and telecoms. For pupils and juniors who realised that a specialism in property law was what they were interested in, “Falcon was the obvious choice. It’s the leading set in this field.” Case in point, Falcon is the only set to have been awarded a top-tier ranking for this work by Chambers UK Bar. It’s also considered to be cream of the crop for agriculture and rural affairs, and has added a feather to its cap for telecommunications.
Where rural affairs are concerned, members of the set do a wide range of work related to estates. Caroline Shea KC, for example, represented the claimant against defendants who illegally started construction on a piece of land neighbouring the client’s rural estate. Its telecommunications work also has a real-estate flavour, with Stephanie Tozer KC representing EE in a dispute related to a mast site on private land used for military training. Stannard explained that the set doesn’t rely on London-based clients: “Our clients are spread across the country, ranging from Newcastle, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, London, Cardiff, the West Country and East Anglia."
In addition to its practice areas, Falcon’s culture was another selling point: “Everyone is so friendly and the atmosphere is fairly casual.” So, ahem, no ruffled feathers, then. Jokes aside, senior clerk Jonathan Stannard says, “I’ve worked at other sets and this is by far most enjoyable place I ever worked. Everyone is incredibly supportive and gets on fantastically well.” Stannard explained that a lot of work throughout the past couple of years has been COVID-related, with rent arrears matters at the forefront: “We are the only chambers that is an approved arbitration body arbitrators to deal with COVID rent arrears arbitration,” he added. With a recession on the horizon and massive cost of living increases likely to have a serious impact on individuals and businesses, expect the set’s rent arrears arbitration panel to be busy over the next few years.
The Pupillage Experience
Pupils sit with four supervisors during pupillage, rotating every three months: “I’ve been exposed to the full range of work that Falcon does, which is really helpful.” According to head of the pupillage committee Adam Rosenthal KC, serendipity rather than design is the reason. “Most supervisors don’t just specialise in one area of property-related law,” he explains. “Most of us, from the very junior to the most senior, deal with all property issues, so it won't be difficult for pupils to get a broad exposure to all areas.”
With a broad range of work available, pupils work more on live cases than archived matters. Pupils we spoke to had done everything from commercial landlord and tenant work, to work that had a more public law flavour. Like? “Like acting for government departments, which was really interesting.” Other areas included mortgage matters and a decent amount of insolvency work which it touches on property, and trusts and equity work. Tasks include researching case law drafting skeletons arguments alongside their supervisors: “Essentially you shadow your supervisor so whatever’s in their diary you do it with them,” a pupil explained. “We will work on it in parallel then once it’s done the supervisor will give you feedback and I can see what they’ve done, which is great.”
“The difference between sixes is not as stark as might be at sets where you’re on your feet from day one of your second six.”
As fledgling barristers move into their second six, they don’t immediately fly the nest. As one pupil put it, “the difference between sixes is not as stark as might be at sets where you’re on your feet from day one of your second six. The main difference is that the pace quickens as you get more used to doing things.” Juniors explained that as you progress, the “biggest difference is the quantity of work. As a pupil you’re usually only on one case at a time and there’s no real time pressure. I was often told as a pupil to take as long as I needed on a piece of work, with a few exceptions obviously.” Once you’re a tenant, expect to have “multiple cases floating around at same time.”
As far as assessments go, Rosenthal says pupils “have very few formal tests. We put a lot of weight on the view of supervisors who spend the most time with our pupils.” There are, however, “a couple of advocacy exercises, where the emphasis is more on training. We want our pupils to enjoy pupillage,” Rosenthal says. In June of each year, the set as a whole makes the tenancy decision based on reports by the pupillage committee.
The Application Process
Rosenthal notes that Falcon is now part of Pupillage Gateway. The change, he thinks, "means it’s easier for applicants to apply to the sets they want to apply to which makes for a fairer system." The committee sifts through the applications before inviting successful candidates in for a 20-minute interview with three members. Candidates are given time to consider a judgment which the panel then questions them on. “After that, they asked me some questions about my interest in the Bar, especially the Property Bar,” explained an interviewee. The aim, confirms Rosenthal, “is to gain a better understanding of a candidate’s desire to practise in our field.”
Those that make it through the first round are invited to a second-round interview, which is around 40 minutes long and in front of a panel of five members of chambers. This is “more in depth,” says Rosenthal, “with a greater emphasis on analytical questions.” Pupils are again given time to look at a set of facts and a fictitious statute, then answer questions on the application of said statute: “You pretend you’ve been instructed in a matter, so you outline what your arguments would be.”
As with the first interview, says Rosenthal, “we’re not looking for legal knowledge, just the ability to analyse and express views, for example on the meaning of an ambiguous clause in an agreement, or to present one or the other side of an argument (not necessarily on a legal topic.)" The set is cognisant of the fact that “some people have spent many years doing legal study, while others are only a couple months into the GDL.”
Birds of a feather… Members flock together “to eat lunch in the library,” a pupil told us. “We don’t usually talk about law.”
Type of work undertaken
Few of our applicants will have studied our speciality in any depth, and therefore we provide an intensive course in landlord and tenant law at Falcon Chambers, usually held in the last week of September.
Chambers accepts applications through Pupillage Gateway. Details of the application timetable for spring 20224 are available on the Gateway website. Our interview dates are yet to be confirmed but will be between March and mid-April 2024 (first and second round).
Successful pupils who become junior tenants are usually fully employed doing their own work shortly after being taken on.
Chambers’ Equality & Diversity and Wellbeing committees are well-established and take the lead in mainstreaming best practice in diversity, inclusion and wellbeing across all aspects of Chambers life. Wellbeing training has recently involved a series of external-led seminars on mental health best practice, effective communication and constructive feedback. All members of Chambers were recently offered Bar Council-approved advanced training on how to avoid and deal with allegations of discrimination or harassment, and take-up was very high. Members of Chambers involved in recruitment also undergo advanced E&D training prior to joining the committee.
On a more informal note, we operate an internal mentoring scheme, providing opportunities for mentoring at and between all levels of seniority (KC, junior, pupil). During the Covid lockdown period, Chambers produced a couple of short videos for external audiences highlighting Chambers’ support for Pride month and Mental Health Awareness Week 2020.
The Recruitment committee, meanwhile, pursues its own initiatives and is committed to attracting pupillage applications from talented students irrespective of background. For instance, Chambers has hosted an open evening which was specifically targeted at GDL students from widening participation backgrounds or on part-time or distance-learning GDL programmes. Chambers was also one of the first sets (if not the first set) to offer a ‘virtual mini-pupillage’ Zoominar for prospective applicants during the lock-down period, in recognition of the difficulties faced by prospective applicants in securing mini-pupillages at this time (particularly applicants from underrepresented groups). The take-up in both instances was enthusiastic. Falcon Chambers also joins with a group of other sets in a mentoring scheme aimed at encouraging under-represented groups at the Bar to consider becoming barristers, with an aim of helping to diversifying the intake to the Bar.
This Firm's Rankings in
UK Bar, 2023
- Agriculture & Rural Affairs (Band 1)
- Real Estate Litigation (Band 1)
- Telecommunications (Band 2)