Gatehouse Chambers - True Picture

Gatehouse Chambers is making a name for itself as a progressive set, offering up experience in construction, property, insurance, and commercial litigation.

Gatehouse Chambers pupillage review 2024

The Chambers

“We’re a modern set of chambers, who synergize quite well with solicitors who have a similar outlook in terms of what they’re looking to do in their business and in particular, corporate social responsibility,” Gatehouse practice director James Duncan-Hartill proudly tells us. Indeed, following an overhaul of their branding over the past couple of years, Gatehouse has continued to build on its reputation as a progressive set.

“We’re all singing from the same hymn sheet, and we want to see changes to society as a whole.”

This is very much the initial impression we get when we step into the trendy and modern office space in Gray’s Inn, greeted by the modern architecture and funky artwork on the walls. Gatehouse also “have a once-a-month regular Wednesday hangout and if it's sunny, we have it on the roof terrace so that people can socialise together, and it fosters a really good atmosphere” pupillage coordinator Aileen McErlean notes. This is all designed to distance itself from any stuffy stereotypes that may or may not come with a barrister’s chambers. Duncan-Hartill adds that, “we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet, and we want to see changes to society as a whole. Making the decision to change was unanimous and easily made.”

What didn’t need sprucing up, however, was the quality of the work the set produces. A junior barrister tells us that the work focus is “split evenly between construction, property, insurance, commercial litigation.”Chambers UK Bar can vouch for this, as Gatehouse excels in commercial dispute resolution, construction, professional negligence in tech and construction and real estate litigation. This broad array is open to all pupils, as Gatehouse allows everyone joining the set to try their hand at a variety of departments, which is exactly what one pupil did: “I could do one piece of work on something specific and go ‘It's not what I want to do in the long run, but now I have an understanding of how it works’, so if it comes up in a case I can do it, but equally I could have done it and gone ‘this is amazing.’”

As Gatehouse continues to grow and expand, the work they’re involved with also reaches new public heights. Most recently, Emma Zeb was one of the counsel team instructed on behalf of the Cabinet Office for the Covid-19 inquiry. Additionally, one of the sets leading silks, Brie Stevens-Hoare, was instructed to advise and act in relation to an application by Blacks Outdoor Retail for permission to appeal to the Supreme Court in a case that concerned a dispute of service charges. The set is driven to foster home-grown talent and they’re clearly doing something right as a junior tenant tells us that “the service they offer to clients is very good and the quality of it is so high. I have exactly the kind of practice I wanted to at this stage in my career, if not better.”

The Pupillage Experience

Gatehouse recently adapted its pupillage structure, and there are now five ‘wingers’ for the entirety of the pupillage. The set’s junior tenant explained that “it’s far easier to tell if there’s an upward progression rather than different wingers assessing you at different points of the year. It’s completely invaluable, I don’t know anywhere else that does that.” The five wingers are selected based on the areas of work you have an interest in practicing, allowing for a more catered pupillage experience and pupils do three pieces of work for each.

In your first six, it’s common for pupils to do a mixture of live and dead cases, focusing on drafting skeleton arguments and advices in a variety of sectors. A current pupil explained that they were “effectively being used as a junior for a trial and the practice is quite broad, so things like charity law disputes, chancery disputes involving trusts. Insurance disputes. I also worked on a case in the court of appeal.” A junior barrister told us that generally they got involved with research tasks and assisting with whatever their supervisor wanted.

"You know how to handle witnesses and also judges. "

In the second six, we were told by one pupil that “you continue doing that kind of work as well as practising.” During this time, they also outlined that “you can learn on the job on smaller cases. You’re better at advocacy, you learn key things. There’s less pressure and it’s a really valuable experience.” The junior tenant agreed, citing that they “really valued it because you feel comfortable. You know how to handle witnesses and also judges. The practice team are sensitive to ensuring you’re not overburdened but still getting enough work, balancing your workload.” And if you noticed the reference to the practice team instead of clerks, at Gatehouse that’s the general rule rather than an exception in an effort to highlight the ‘symbiotic relationship’ between the practice team and barristers. Equality amongst all members of chambers is one of the set’s main driving attempts at pushing Gatehouse forward in an ambitious way. Duncan-Hartill talked about the broader initiative in that “there’s something to be said when you get on our website and it’s not a sea of white old men.”

When it comes to the tenancy decision, McErlean notes that this is “typically in the middle of July, and is a competency based decision. As long as they meet the standard, both will be taken on.” There is regular feedback from the wingers and supervisors, who prepare a report which the management committee review and make a decision.

The Application Process

All Gatehouse Chambers’ applications begin with the Pupillage Gateway. “There are the standard gateway questions and then chambers has the option to select five questions of its own that are particular to the chambers. We adopt a competencies-based assessment criteria against those,” explains Pupillage Coordinator Aileen McErlean. This year is the first time Gatehouse is implementing the rare recruitment criteria in its application process. Rare is a system designed to enrich the diversity of your recruits’ backgrounds by giving supplemental points for those who received free school meals or first-generation university students. These would be added to the scores of their questionnaires (a maximum of five.)

For those who reach the interview stage, they will answer five questions over a 30-minute period in front of a panel of five. If the candidate is then lucky enough to land a second stage interview, there will also be some kind of advocacy style question. “They will then be given a question or an advocacy exercise to sort of prepare while they're waiting, and that can be things like an application before the court or it can be an example of conducting a conference or to present on a particular point,” McErlean tells us. Gatehouse also adheres to the guidance of the Judicial Appointments Committee, which ensures unbiased and fair marking of applications.

“If you have skills you perhaps developed not through meeting or debating but from experience in customer service or in waitressing, we're interested in the skill.”

McErlean also stressed that when assessing applications, Gatehouse is looking for talent over legal experience: “If you have skills you perhaps developed not through meeting or debating but from experience in customer service or in waitressing, we're interested in the skill. Not so much about how you’ve acquired the skill, so feel like you can talk authentically about what skills and interests you have and why you have them.”

Some traditions are worth keeping...

Be sure not to miss out on Gatehouse’s Fish & Chips Society every other Friday lunch time for some battered cod and fried mackerel! 


Gatehouse Chambers

1 Lady Hale Gate,
Gray's Inn,

Firm profile
Gatehouse Chambers is a successful, innovative and award-winning commercial barristers chambers with a reputation for high quality legal expertise, excellent administration and an approachable, business-focused style. This is consistently recognised in Chambers & Partners and Legal 500. It is recognised as a leading chambers for training and won the Legal Cheek Best Chambers for Facilities Award 2022. It is also a market leader in promoting equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and CSR/pro bono and again has won awards for its work in these areas. 

Main Areas of Work
• Commercial Dispute Resolution
• Construction
• Insolvency
• Insurance
• Personal Injury & Clinical Negligence
• Private Client
• Professional Liability
• Property

Training Opportunities
We offer up to two 12-month pupillages each year both with a view to membership. Our policy is therefore to only offer pupillage to candidates whom we consider have the potential to become members of Chambers. We look for pupils with exceptional intellectual ability, excellent communication skills and a genuine interest in our areas of work. You will need to be confident and able to work both on your own and with others, and to demonstrate not only outstanding legal and analytical ability, but sound commercial good sense as well.

At Gatehouse Chambers, we put a great deal of effort into providing you with the on-going support and training that is required to succeed in what is an extremely competitive environment. From day one, you will be treated as part of our team and included in Chambers events and receive introductions to clients. We have a strong open-door policy and ensure that our pupils feel they are able to approach any member of chambers for guidance and advice.

Our 12-month pupillages are split into three periods of four months. During each period, you will be assigned a pupil supervisor and other members of chambers with whom you will work. You will share the daily professional life of your pupil supervisor, producing pleadings and opinions on their cases, attending conferences and court hearings, and benefit from regular feedback.

Advocacy is a key component of a Gatehouse Chambers pupillage. We will provide you with in-house advocacy training, supervised by our members, many of whom are advocacy trainers at the Inns and/or part-time judges. During your second six months, you can expect to find yourself in court two to three days a week.

Salary and Benefits
£70,000 pupillage award split as an award of £55,000 and guaranteed earnings of £15,000. 

Vacation Scheme
We are a founder member of the Bridging the Bar scheme which offers a mini-pupillage scheme, take part in Legal Cheek’s Virtual Vacation Scheme and also offer our own mini-pupillages. Please visit Gatehouse’s website for closing dates and details about eligibility as regards our internal scheme. Details of the Bridging the Bar and Legal Cheek schemes can be found on those organisations’ websites.

Up to £15,000 of the pupillage award may be drawn down during your BPTC year. 

Other Benefits

• We will fund your attendance at the Bar Council’s compulsory courses.
• We operate guaranteed earnings schemes for our first and second year members, that offer financial security to those just starting out. These are currently £40,000 for the first year in practice and £50,000 for the second year.

Open Days and First-Year Opportunities
We organise various events to provide us with the opportunity to meet potential pupils - and to afford potential pupils the opportunity to meet us. We also offer mini-pupillages. Details of all such opportunities appear on the pupillage pages of our website. 

International and Regional
All training is in London. Client secondments are possible if pupils are given tenancy at the end of pupillage.

University Law Careers Fairs
Gatehouse Chambers attends the Bar Council Pupillage Fair. We also support various Legal Cheek events including pupillage fairs run in conjunction with Legal Cheek and Ulaw.

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Bar, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Commercial Dispute Resolution (Band 5)
    • Construction (Band 3)
    • Professional Negligence (Band 4)
    • Professional Negligence: Technology & Construction (Band 3)
    • Property Damage (Band 2)
    • Real Estate Litigation (Band 2)
    • Social Housing (Band 4)