“An emphasis on training” meets “forceful and impactful cases” at a “punchy set” with more to it than employment prowess.
Littleton Chambers pupillage review
Don’t be fooled by the name – Littleton is a big deal, especially when it comes to the Employment Bar. The set has been one of the leading outfits in the field for years, but “commercial work is very much a growth area for chambers now,” senior clerk Jason Drakeford tells us. “We have plans to grow through lateral hires in the next twelve months.” Looking back at the set’s 80% employment practice as of 2015, Drakeford suggests Littleton could see a “50:50” commercial and employment split in future. “As much as we’re growing the commercial side, we’re still very focused on our top-tier employment offering,” he assures us.
“It’s a punchy and impactful set; the work is cutting-edge and very interesting.”
Littleton is among the best in the Employment Bar and Chambers UK Bar ranks it accordingly. In 2019 alone, members were instructed in 19 appellate cases in the Employment Appeals Tribunal, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. Members have recently acted on litigation brought against Harvey Weinstein and a “landmark” appeal on diplomatic immunity in Saudi Arabia; the House of Lords Commission appointed Naomi Ellenbogen QC to conduct an independent inquiry into bullying and harassment in the House. Chambers UK Bar also recognises Littleton for partnerships, sport and commercial dispute resolution. Charles Samek QC acted in a multimillion-pound dispute between Allergy Therapeutics and Inflamax Research over potential data manipulation resulting in the failure of an anti-allergy drug trial; in another recent case, David Lascelles counselled the defendants in a £1.5 billion claim alleging breach of a deal to sell the UK’s most expensive residential property.
“Where partnerships traditionally used to be chancery law, they’re now run out of LLP agreements, which plays to our employment strengths,” Drakeford notes. It’s a similar story in sports, which will be “a big focus area for growth” in future. Littleton’s expansion beyond pure employment has already yielded results and 2019 was the set’s best financial year yet. The diversified spread of practices has also proven a “compelling draw” for potential pupils: “There are now significant opportunities to do broad, cutting-edge commercial work, alongside a robust employment offering,” a baby junior happily noted.
The Application Process
Littleton accepts applicants through the Pupillage Gateway and aims to offer two fully funded pupillages a year. “We’re not a chambers just looking at Oxbridge applicants,” Drakeford suggests, “we want to promote socioeconomic diversity.” That hasn’t always worked out – 12 of the set’s 15 members under ten years’ call have attended Oxbridge at some point – but the set has recently refreshed its process. As of 2020, Littleton will be one of the few sets to use the Rare Contextual Recruitment System, designed to weight applications by their socioeconomic backgrounds. “Rare is an investment,” a source said, “and a very good step forward” as part of a larger long-term strategy for improving diversity at the Bar. Littleton also offers “a good scheme through which senior female barristers mentor more junior women coming through.” Check out our recent survey results for a full account of the set’s diversity and how it compares to the market.
“The process is quite technical and there’s an emphasis on legal analysis. They really put you through your paces.”
Beyond “academic excellence,” Littleton’s application process assesses soft skills and other qualities across three stages. The set invites around 20% of initial applicants for an initial interview: they’re then given a legal exercise and have the chance to discuss two competing judgments related to contract or tort law. Duty of care, remoteness and causation may come into play. Following this, the best performers will progress to a three-day mini-pupillage involving written and oral exercises, before a final interview conducted by four members of chambers.
“Unlike at some sets, the process is focused on technical skills and there’s a legal problem question in each round,” a junior told us – clarity of expression and legal reasoning are two key skills required of applicants. “The process is quite technical and there’s an emphasis on legal analysis. They really put you through your paces,” we heard. Head of pupillage Dale Martin QC adds that “the process is rigorous and time-consuming, but we find it’s a system that works and allows pupillage applicants to see how we operate.”
The Pupillage Experience
Pupils rotate between four supervisors during pupillage. “They hit the ground running,” Jason Drakeford says. “Pupils are in court during their second six, gaining lots of advocacy experience early on – that makes our juniors very strong.” The senior clerk adds “you can see the strengths of this approach four and five years down the line, when our juniors are holding their own against silks.” Dale Martin QC explains the Littleton approach to pupillage: “We like pupils to have a wide spread of experience and try to achieve a balance not only in the practices they see, but in written and advocacy experience.” Our sources appreciated sticking to live cases. “I saw how my first draft of a skeleton argument was refined as it went to trial,” one recalled. “It’s a very engaging way to learn and see how to make judgement calls.”
During their year of training, pupils complete four formal advocacy assessments and two writing exercises. “On top of that,” a source said, “you do assessed pieces of work for other members of chambers.” All of these assessments get scored and returned “with very detailed feedback.” It’s not all just scoring for scoring’s sake, as members “are genuinely interested in pupils’ development,” we heard. “Even when you receive a good score, you’ll also be told what specific areas you could improve in. The granularity of feedback is really amazing.”
“The quality of both oral and written training has been very high.”
Pupils were unanimously impressed with Littleton’s approach to training: “It’s worth applying for that alone,” one suggested. “The quality of both oral and written training has been very high. Through a continual emphasis on punchy advocacy, I not only became a better advocate but a better writer too.” Dale Martin summarises the approach supervisors should take: “Not only is it our job to work out if pupils are good enough, but we must also tell them where they’re getting anything wrong, so they can develop.” He takes the key skill of witness handling as an example: “No matter how good you are, you need experience,” Martin explains. “We give specific training on witness handling, pupils never go in blind.”
Supervisors compile written reports to go with the assessed pieces of work for other members, advocacy and written assessments – all of them feed into the tenancy decision, taken by all members. “Everything is put before the members in a meeting and voted on,” Martin says. To avoid any unpleasant surprises, “we give substantial feedback as the year goes on so pupils have a chance to address any shortfalls. We never hoard information or hide their progress: everything’s transparent.” In 2020, Littleton did not have any 12-month pupils; the set granted tenancy to both pupils in 2019.
“The days of stuffy barristers are behind us… the days of ivory towers are long gone.”
“Chambers is a very supportive environment,” a Littleton baby junior said. “I’ve found my time here excellent.” Senior clerk Jason Drakeford has a similar view: “I’ve worked in several sets and it’s not stuffy at all here. Everyone’s on first name terms.” Surveying the Bar as a whole, he feels “the days of stuffy barristers seem to be behind us. Solicitors want to instruct barristers who are team players and able to connect with clients: the days of ivory towers are long gone.” Outside of the courtroom, hierarchy isn’t strict. “I was invited for dinner at a member’s house,” a pupil revealed. “The boundaries between colleagues and friends do blur.”
Interviewees described a “pretty good social life” on the whole. On top of chambers tea, business development events and seasonal parties, members meet for informal drinks after work and sporty socials like table tennis and go-karting. “Genuinely humane” hours leave plenty of time for such frivolities. 9am to 6pm is the norm: “The expectations are realistic, and supervisors are careful to make sure pupils are not overworked. There were a couple of pinch points in my second six, with one supervisor working on a big High Court case calling for slightly longer hours, but it was certainly nothing crazy or unreasonable.”
Littleton mix Make no mistake, pupillage is a rigorous process that requires hard work and dedication. Dale Martin QC suggests “Littleton’s people take their work seriously, but not themselves.”
3 King's Bench Walk North,
- No of silks 13
- No of juniors 39
- No of pupils 0 (currently)
- Contact Felicity Schneider, administration director
- Method of application Pupillage Gateway
- Pupillages (pa) Two 12-month pupillages
- Required degree level 2:1 (law or non-law)
- Income £67,500 award (earnings not included)
Type of work undertaken
During your 12-month pupillage you will have the benefit of three pupil supervisors in succession. Your pupil supervisors will provide support and guidance to you throughout your pupillage, ensuring that you understand not only the nuts and bolts of a barrister’s work, but also the ethical constraints which are such a distinctive feature of chambers’ professional life.
After six months, you will be entitled to take on your own work. Typically, pupils in Littleton Chambers have been briefed once or twice a week. Your pupil supervisor will provide assistance in the preparation of these briefs to ensure that your client receives the best possible service from you.